Need help setting up a free blog on WordPress? This post will help.
I’m creating this post primarily for my blogging students. I teach a course for Gotham Writers’ Workshop – an overview of blogging for absolute beginners.
In this particular class students are encouraged to try setting up a practice blog using the platform of their choice. However, some get frustrated with the trial-and-error approach of learning how to use blogging tools like WordPress.
While the class syllabus doesn’t include technical how-to for any particular platform, I’m providing this post to help my students (and anyone else) who might be struggling with the basic functions of WordPress.
Gotham Writers’ Workshop is not responsible for these instructions.
NOTE: These instructions are based on WordPress.com as it appeared on February 18, 2019. WordPress may change its interface from time to time. That means these instructions may not match exactly what you see on WordPress today, but you may still find them useful.
Basic Set-Up for a Totally Free Blog
- Go to wordpress.com
- Click the Get Started button
- Enter your email address, a user name, and a password, then click the Create Your Account button
- On the page that says, “Start with a site type”, click the radio button next to “Blog”. Then click the Continue button.
- On the page that says, “Tell us about your blog”, type the word “blogging” into the white field, then press the Continue button.
- On the page that says, “What would you like to call your blog?”, enter the title you’ve chosen for your blog, then click the Continue button.
- On the page titled “Give your site an address”, you will create a URL (web address). This is the address a person will type into a browser to get to your blog. In the big white rectangle near the top of the page, type your blog name without spaces (see sample addresses below), then press the Enter key on your keyboard. If your blog name is long, consider shortening it for your address.
Blog Name: Nancy’s World of Cookie Recipes
Blog Name: Chaos in Calfornia
- Next, WordPress will show you a list of possible web addresses (or “domains”) for your blog. If you want a free address, you’ll find one near the top of the list. You’ll see your chosen address followed by a period and “wordpress.com”. You’ll also see the word “Free” to the far right. To select this free address, click the Select button to the right of “Free”. You will see other domains in the list, but you will have to pay for those. You can choose one of them and learn more about pricing by clicking the Select button to the right of your address of choice.
- The next screen will say “Pick a plan that’s right for you”. WordPress will show you different pricing plans for different levels of features. You can have a WordPress blog for free. To choose a free blog, click on the Start with Free button.
- On this page, you’ll notice a menu down the left side. Slide the menu down until you see Customize. Click on the Themes button to the right of Customize.
- The next page will show you different “themes” (or styles) of blog to choose from. For this demonstration, we’ll be using the theme Twenty Nineteen. Click on Twenty Nineteen.
- At this screen, click on the Activate this design
- At this screen, click on the Customize site button.
- At this screen, read the text inside the black box, then click on the button that says Thanks, got it!
- At this screen, read the information at the bottom of the page about cookies. I recommend clicking on the Close and accept button.
Entering Title and Subtitle (also called “Tagline”)
- At the top of the page, you’ll see that WordPress has inserted the name of your blog and whatever name you used for yourself when you signed up. This is what people will read first when they visit your blog. If you want to change what it says, first click on the blue circle to the left of the blog title. (If you don’t want to change this section or add a subtitle to your blog name, skip ahead to step 22.)
- Look at the side bar on the left side of your screen. Look for “Site Identity”. Click on the right-facing arrow next to “Site Identity”. Inside the Site Title box, you’ll see the title that’s currently on your blog. Click inside this box to change the text. To make the change permanent, click on the Publish button at the top of the page. When the Publish button says Draft Saved, it’s safe to move on.
- If you want to, you can also add a tagline, also known as a subtitle. The tagline/subtitle is a good idea when your blog name doesn’t make it obvious what your blog is about. You can use the tagline/subtitle to help clarify. Here are some examples of blog names and taglines:
Blog Name: Woof on Waves
Tagline: Stories from Max the Poodle’s trip around the world on a sailboat
Blog Name: Luscious!
Tagline: We’re all about lipstick reviews
Blog Name: Jeff & Jenny’s Windy World
Tagline: Tips on Chicago living, from cooking to décor, entertainment and more
- If you want to use a tagline/subtitle, type it into the Tagline box. To make the change permanent, click on the Publish button at the top of the page. When the Publish button says Draft Saved, it’s safe to move on.
Your First Blog Post: Replacing the WordPress Sample Post
- You’ll notice that WordPress has placed an example blog post on the page. The post’s title is The Journey Begins. You’ll see that it also has two photos. Scroll down just to see what it looks like. Next, you’ll want to replace this example post with your own first blog post. First, go to the menu on the left side of the page and click on the X in the upper left corner.
- At this page, go to the menu down the left side of the screen and click on the words Blog Posts.
- You’ll see a rectangle with the blog title The Journey Begins inside. Click on the three tiny dots on the right side of the rectangle.
- A menu will appear under the three dots. Click on Edit.
- On this page, click on the Convert to Blocks button.
- On this page, click your cursor at the beginning of the title The Journey Begins. You’ll notice a rectangle forming around the title. Inside this rectangle, delete The Journey Begins and type in the title of your first blog post.
- Next, click your cursor at the beginning of the phrase “Thanks for joining me!” You’ll notice a rectangle forming around the words. Inside the rectangle, delete the existing text and replace it with the text of your first blog post.
- Next, you’ll notice a gray rectangle. This is a quote box. You can use it to call attention to special text. You don’t have to use it. For the purpose of these instructions, we’re going to delete the quote box. Click your cursor at the beginning of the quote “Good company in a journey…”. You’ll notice a bar appearing just above the box with various icons inside of it. Click on the three tiny dots on the far right of the bar. A menu will appear. Click on Remove Block at the bottom of the menu.
- Next, you’ll want to remove the picture. Click on the picture.
- A bar will appear immediately above the picture with several icons inside of it. Click on the three tiny dots at the far right of the bar.
- A menu will appear. Click on Remove Block at the bottom of the menu.
Inserting Images into Your Blog Post
- If you would like to insert your own picture, click on your blog post right where you want the picture to appear. A bar will appear with several icons inside of it. Click on the three tiny dots at the far right of the bar.
- A menu will appear. Click on Insert Before.
- You’ll notice WordPress has inserted a space. On the right side of the space, you’ll see three icons. The first one looks like a square with two tiny triangles inside of it. Click on the square icon.
- A gray box will appear. Click on the Upload button inside the gray box. This will open a window where you can find any photo you’ve saved on your computer. Find the photo you want to insert into your blog post and double-click on it.
- You’ll notice your picture has now been inserted into your blog post. Click on the blue Update button in the upper right-hand corner of your screen to save the picture to your post.
Don’t Forget to Activate Your New Blog By Email
- Go to your email. You will see an email from WordPress. Follow the directions in the email to activate your website.
- To return to your dashboard, click on the button in the upper left-hand corner of your screen with the left-facing arrow.
Creating a Brand New Blog Post
Start from your dashboard. Go to the menu down the left-side of your screen. Find where it says “Blog Posts” in the list. Click on the Add button next to “Blog Posts”.
Type the title of your blog post in the box that says “Add title”.
Start typing your blog post where it says “Write your story”.
To insert a photo, follow instructions above.
Click the blue Publish button in the upper right-hand corner of the screen to save your work.