You’ve chosen a great web host, secured an awesome domain name, and installed WordPress. The hard stuff is done — time to start designing your new artist web portfolio!
The Big Picture
While WordPress is really simple to use in general, it’s got a ton of features and options that may seem a bit daunting at first. Here’s a basic rundown of what you need to know to get started…
WordPress has two sides: functionality and looks.
The “functionality” side is covered by the core WordPress software (which you should never touch unless you really know what you’re doing!) and/or by plugins, and the “looks” side is covered by your WordPress theme. More on both of those down the page a bit.
Front page layout is really important.
While some themes have very customized front page options, you generally have two options for your front page: a list of blog posts, or what’s called a static page with a set layout. If you go to Settings –> Reading in your dashboard, you’ll have the option to set which of these you want to display on your home page. Here’s some more info about that. Again, some themes will have special front page templates (which is probably one of the things that attracted you to a particular theme), so do check your theme documentation if you’re not sure how to set up your front page.
Menu items are how visitors will find their way around.
Think about your the different reasons people will have for visiting your site. Did they just hear about your work and want to explore further? Are they looking to find learn specifics regarding your past experience because they’re considering hiring you? Be sure your menu items help each of these visitors get what they need quickly. Also, don’t imagine that visitors will dig through your site to find your best work — be sure to there’s always a clear path to your showcase.
To adjust the menu in the WordPress, visit Appearance –> Menus to edit which pages/links you want to appear, and in what order. Again, your choice of theme can affect how this works, so be sure to check out your theme documentation if you can’t figure it out.
Dealing with media.
Media is obviously one of the most important concerns for an artist webiste. In WordPress, the Media library holds your images, audio, or video. Recent improvements to the image functionality in WordPress have made it really fantastic for working with images — you can now crop, resize, drag directly into your posts, etc. It actually handles audio and video really well too, but we don’t recommend that you host audio/video yourself.
YouTube, Vimeo, SoundCloud, and others have millions invested in infrastructure for that — let them do it! Whenever possible, embed these third-party media players. Besides, hosting your media on these services is a great way to build a cloud-based artist portfolio!
Getting Your Hands Dirty With WordPress
I find that the best way to learn about this stuff is to dive in and get your hands dirty. Just go into the dashboard and start making posts and pages! Look at it this way: if you mess things up too badly, you can just reinstall WordPress and start over! (Of course, you don’t want to do this if you’ve gotten very far, but right at the beginning, it can be an attractive option.)
Google is your friend.
One of the biggest benefits to using a heavily-adopted system like WordPress is that there’s almost always someone out there who’s done what you want to do and written about it. If you have a question, Google (or Bing, or DuckDuckGo) it up! If you don’t find something right away, try rephrasing the question.
The WordPress Codex is your friend.
The Codex is the repository of all of the WordPress documentation, and if you really read through it and understand everything, you’ll be able to perform magic feats with WordPress. Fortunately, you probably won’t need to go that far, but it’s a great reference document. In fact, they’ve got a Where to Start document that’s a great extension of this tutorial.
Lists of tutorials are (sometimes) your friend.
A list like this one can be really helpful when you’re starting out — they can help show you what you don’t know you don’t know.
You’re on your way to developing your own WordPress-powered artist portfolio website! Next time in Part 4, we’ll be getting you acquainted with the power of WordPress themes.