I’ve installed WordPress. Now what?

So, you’re the proud owner of a shiny new WordPress installation! Whether you did a one-click install with your host or tried out the famous five-minute install yourself, congratulations are in order for being the newest member of this growing community.

But Now what?

I’ve lost count of WordPress installations, but suffice to say I’ve done it enough to develop a routine. For every site, regardless of type, I like to set them up a certain way. I can’t claim they’re best practices (what does that mean, anyway?), but it’s how I set up WordPress and I’d like to share it with you.

From here on out, I’ll assume you’re logged into your WordPress admin dashboard.


WordPress Settings Menu

The Settings > General page is where you specify the Site Title and Description. Even if you gave these details during your install, you can change them here, if needed. And for the love of Pete, please change the default Just Another WordPress Site description. 🙂

I skip the Settings > Writing section for now.

The Settings > Reading section houses a VIP (that’s a very important preference)! There’s a check box option to discourage search engines from indexing your site. It doesn’t guarantee robots won’t come creeping, but it certainly decreases the odds (I’ll tell you how to keep your site 100% private later in this post). Leave that box checked until you’re ready to reveal your site to the world!

I skip both the Settings > Discussion and Settings > Media sections at this stage, too. I like the default selections.

Settings > Permalinks. Let’s stop and say that second word together, just because. PUR-MAH-LINKS. When we’re finally ready for those robots to come crawling, the permalink settings for your site play a VIR (that’s a very important role).

My personal preference for Permalink Common Settings is to go with a custom structure, including only the post name and the post ID. Like this:

permalink setings

For the Optional Settings, I like to include a custom category base that doubles as a good keyword. If you leave that line blank, it’ll default to using “category” in your URL (i.e. https://carriedils.com/category/this-n-that/32). Might as well take that opportunity to use a keyword relevant to your site (but don’t go crazy).

I recommend you spend some time researching the best way to set up your permalinks (here’s a great article from Yoast to get started). Don’t worry, as long as your site is in development mode, there’s no harm playing with these options a bit, but once your site’s live, don’t go messing with your permalinks.


Have you ever gone to the store looking for toilet paper, only to be confronted with an ENTIRE AISLE dedicated to the dryness of your backside? It’s overwhelming! Do you need two-ply, comfort plus, or a double roll? Will your bathroom holder even accommodate a double roll? All these decisions to make when the only thing you’re certain of is your need to…well, you know.

So it is with choosing a WordPress Theme. The options are seemingly limitless – do you pick by design, do you pick by features, do you pick by price?

I’ve made it easy on myself. I start off every single install with a copy of the Genesis Framework. It’s a small investment that comes with a terrific support community and some of the best code in the WordPress world, hands down (not to mention I can re-use it on multiple sites at no extra cost). Depending on the project, I either build out a custom theme on top of the Genesis Framework or select one of the ready-made child themes from the StudioPress marketplace.


Before a project is said and done, I’ll probably install some highly-specific plugins, but for the beginnings, the list is short. Here we go:

  1. A backup plugin. You can read my detailed run-down or just skim the Cliff notes: use BackWPup (free) or BackupBuddy (premium).
  2. An SEO plugin. Look no further than WordPress SEO by Yoast.
  3. A contact form plugin. Jetpack. It comes installed with WordPress and includes a contact form (along with a virtual jackpot of other functionality, like social sharing and email subscriptions). If you need a more robust contact form to integrate with newsletter software or payment gateways, go with Gravity Forms. That’s a purchase I’ve never regretted.
  4. A spam plugin. If you have comments enabled on your site, spam is inevitable. Use Akismet. It comes as part of a standard WordPress installation. It’s free for personal use, but you’ll need to throw out some bones for business use.
  5. A Coming Soon or Maintenance Mode plugin. This is the secret to keeping your site 100% safe from prying eyes (or robots). There are tons of free and premium plugins out there, but I start with the Ultimate Coming Soon Page.

See? Told ya it was a short list.


I like to create a few placeholder, or dummy, pages just to start. I create an About page, Contact page, and Services page. Just give it a title and save it – don’t worry about any other page options for now. You can go fill them in later. If you just *have* to visualize some content, head over to the Lorem Ipsum generator (or the Samuel L Ipsum generator, if you’re feeling tough).


WordPress comes with a default, Hello World! post. I’ll usually add just one more dummy post to the mix. Like the page setup, I don’t worry about any options when creating the post other than to give it a title, a little dummy text, and a featured image.


The main purpose of setting up a few pages is so I can create a menu. Head over to Appearance > Menu, enter a title for the menu and CREATE!

WordPress MenuWordPress Menu

From the column on the left, I drag over my handful of pages along with the nice Home page that WordPress is kind enough to automatically include.

WordPress Theme LocatioDepending on the WordPress Theme chosen, there will be different Theme Locations available for my menu.

I select a location to display the menu and save everything.

A menu will not show up unless you select a location for your menu to appear!

Where to go from here?

So far, we’ve been working behind the scenes in the dashboard. Now it’s time to take a look at your site and see how things are taking shape. What happens next is a process of filling in details, tweaking out customizations, and taking care to follow good SEO practices along the way.

Keep Learning

There are some great WordPress communities on Twitter, Google+, and really all over the web. Get involved and meet other people working with and learning WordPress – you’ll be challenged, you’ll grow, and you’ll meet some fantastic people in the process. If you’d like any pointed to a specific community, leave a comment below!

19 thoughts on “I’ve installed WordPress. Now what?”

  1. I would very much like to know how to use WordPress plugins after I’ve activated them. Most of them don’t show up on the dashboard, so where where are they – e.g. the Mammoth docx plugin or the NextGen Gallery plugin?
    Thank you

    1. Many plugins will add menu items in your admin area. For instance, I believe NextGen Gallery adds a menu item (left side of admin screen, probably toward the bottom of the list). I’d stick to only using plugins that come with good documentation on how to use them.

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