Choosing the Right Options and Settings for Your WordPress Blog

Do you want your blog to be indexed by search engines or you simply want to keep it as a private affair? Wanna add www to your site or rather prefer to use a non-www version? Well, the requirements and preferences of all of us vary and a self-hosted WordPress blog gives you plenty of options to fine-tune your site as per your choices. But at times, especially for a beginner, these options can be quite overwhelming and you may find yourself scratching your head trying to figure out the right setting for your blog. So, if you are wondering if you are choosing the right settings for your WordPress blog and how they impact your site, this guide will help you…

Search Engine Visibility

Ok, first things first. By default, your blog is set to be found and indexed by search engines. After all, that’s what most of the bloggers want: to be found and read by others. But in case you don’t want search engines to index your site (e.g. if yours is an invite only, paid membership, or any other type of blog with restricted access) then you should change the search engine visibility settings of your site. To do this:

  • Go to Settings > Reading
  • Check the checkbox for Discourage search engines from indexing this site
  • Save Changes

search-engine-visibility

Though this will put up a request before search engines to leave alone your site, you can’t completely rely on it; it depends upon to what extent the search engines honor your request.

www. in the Blog URL

Having www. in your site URL or steering away from it is just a matter of choice. There does not seem to be any particular reason attached to it other than your personal preference. But once you choose one over the other, make sure you stick to it. Here is how you can make these changes:

www-site-url

  • Go to Settings > General
  • Add or remove (as you want) www. from WordPress Address (URL) and Site Address (URL) boxes
  • Save Changes

Permalinks or the Blog Post URL

Permalinks give you the flexibility to decide how the URLs of your blogposts look. This applies to all of the existing and future blogposts on your site. The default URL is based on the post ID (which is auto generated) and is probably the shortest among all. There are various other options that enable you to choose your URL structure based upon date, archive, and post name. Apart from these, you can also design your own custom structure. You can choose these by just selecting the appropriate radio button (and of course, saving your preference).

If your blog is based on events, news or other time sensitive posts, then you may want to go for date or archive based structure. And if you want to keep it short yet fancy, then the post name structure would make a good choice. If the categories are important and you want to include them too, you can do that using the custom structure. Just to give you an idea, here is how to make a structure based on category and post name:

  • Go to Settings > Permalinks > Common Settings > Custom Structure
  • Enter this in the box: /%category%/%postname%
  • Save Changes

permalink-settings

As per this custom structure, if you have a post named WordPress Setting Tips under the category Blogging, then your post URL would look something like this: http://www.xyz.com/blogging/wordpress-setting-tips

Again, while actually writing the post, you can further edit the post name part in the URL to anything of your choice. So, you can even make it to look like this: http://www.xyz.com/blogging/wordpress-setting

Category Slugs

If you want to have control over what name should appear in the URL of a particular category archive, then this where you ought to make the changes. For example, if a category name is social media marketing and you want to display only social media in the category URL, then you can simply edit the slug for that category.

  • Go to Posts > Categories
  • Hover over the category name you want to edit and click on Quick Edit
  • Just edit the slug and click on Update Category

category-slug

Now, wasn’t that simple?

Enable or Disable Comments?

WordPress comes with a built-in commenting system in order to promote interaction between the author and their readers. But there are situations when a blogger may not like to use it on their blog; for instance, when they use WordPress to create a non-blogging site, or when they prefer to use some external blogging system (like Facebook comments), etc. In addition to just enabling or disabling comments, there are a whole lot of options to manage them on your site. You can see them all under: Settings > Discussion

discussion-settings

After you set the universal discussion settings for your blog, you can still enable/disable comments on individual posts and pages.

Display Name of the Author

This is the name that you wish your readers to see as the author of the posts on your blog. You can choose to have it same as or different from your real name, user name or nickname:

  • Go to Users > Your Profile
  • Select the appropriate option from the drop down menu in the Display name publicly as box
  • Click on Update Profile at the bottom of the page

author-display-name

If you are not getting the desired name in the dropdown menu, check whether you have left blank any of the fields under the Name section.

Media Settings

Media settings may not be that important most of the times but they can really make your life easy if you run an image based blog, or your blog requires images of a standard size. You can set thumbnail, medium and large sizes for your images here: Settings > Media

If you need thumbnail images of exactly the same dimensions that you specify, then you should check the box for this, in the Thumbnail size section.

media-settings

Apart from the image sizes, you can also choose/change the folder to store the images. Also, your media uploads would be automatically organized into month and year based folders by default. I personally prefer to disable this feature by unchecking the relevant box, so that all my images are uploaded in a single folder. This provides for easy replacement of linked images whenever required.

Menu Structure

With the introduction of Menu in WordPress, it has become very convenient to include and exclude items from your navigation. It has also facilitated building of drop down menus. Now you can include pages, categories and individual links, and that means almost anything. You can also choose to automatically add new pages in the menu as and when you publish them; all you need to do is check the box for Auto add pages.

For creating a drop down menu:

  • place the items of the dropdown menu right under the main item you want them under
  • one by one, drag the drop down menu items towards little right, so that they are created as submenu of the main item
  • Click on Save Menu

menu-structure

But before you can start using the menu feature, you need to create a new menu, give it a name and assign it a theme location. Be it while creating a new menu or making any changes in an existing menu, don’t forget to save the Menu, else your changes will not take effect.

Theme Settings

Apart from the WordPress settings, you also need to set your theme settings right. What and how many options you get actually depends upon the theme you use. But almost all modern themes allow you to upload a header image, change the background color or upload a background image, edit your footer, choose which side you want to have the sidebar, etc.

Here is what the theme settings for the twenty fourteen default theme would look like:

twenty-fourteen-theme-settings

Right File Permissions for Security

This one is not typically a WordPress setting but given the importance it holds, it makes up to the list.  From the point of security, it is imperative that you check the file permission settings of some important files, especially wp-config.php and .htaccess files. But remember you won’t find them in your WordPress login; they would be there inside your web hosting control panel.

htaccess-file-permission

  • Login to your web hosting control panel
  • Click on the File Manager
  • Go to the public_html directory (or further down to your blog folder if it is not installed in the root domain).
  • Look out for the wp-config.php and .htaccess files.
  • To check the file permissions you’ve currently given them, right click on the file and click on Change Permissions in the pop-up menu that appears.
  • These two files should have read only permission under all the 3 modes: user, group and world. If there are more permissions assigned (Write or Execute), reduce them to read only, so that the digits in the Permission boxes read 444
  • Click on Change Permissions to save the changes.

So, these are some of the core settings of your WordPress site and choosing them right is just a one-time process. You need not, or rather should not, keep them changing every now and then; since that’ll have a negative impact on your site. Apart from these, you should also ensure that the settings of any plugin that you install are optimized for your site.

Why and How to Make Your WordPress Blog Mobile Friendly

There was a time when mobile phones were devices used for the sole purpose of making phone calls; that was all it was capable of. But that was then. Fast forward to today, every big website has a mobile version. If your website lacks a mobile friendly design, you are losing the ever growing community of mobile web users. It is estimated that the number of mobile internet users will overtake that of desktop users some time very soon. So, it’s high time you took care of your mobile visitors by providing a mobile friendly interface of your website for them. Ignoring mobile users is the worst thing you can do now as this is no more a matter of choice. The internet today is mobile friendly. Which is why it is essential to learn how to make your WordPress blog mobile friendly.

Why go mobile?

Almost everyone has a smartphone these days and more than for calling, they use it to access internet. If you don’t optimize your site for mobile devices, it will look cluttered and unreadable on a mobile phone’s screen which is much smaller than a desktop or a laptop. Having a mobile friendly design makes your site legible and clean to a mobile visitor. Another benefit is that people appreciate the fact that you cared enough to create a mobile optimized site for them and that adds to your authenticity. If your site is not mobile friendly, visitors that land on your site from mobile devices are more than likely to leave it right away seeing the cluttered interface. Having a mobile version simply makes those otherwise leaving visitors stick around just like the visitors from larger screens.

Even if some of your mobile visitors manage to read the content on your not-so-mobile-friendly site, they are more likely to miss your call to action. Every good website has a call to action, be it subscribe to the email newsletter, complete a form, buy a product or anything for that matter. By having a design that is optimized for mobile devices, you can ensure that your call to action gets seen by the mobile visitors too.

Having a mobile friendly version of your site has some SEO benefits too. The fact is Google wants every site to have a mobile friendly design in order to help Google serve it to searches made from smartphones. Google has already made mobile search a top priority as the number of searches made from smartphones is on the rise.

Different ways to make your blog design mobile friendly

There are several ways to make your website design suitable for viewing on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. However, we’ll look into the 3 most commonly followed methods here.

1. Use a responsive theme

responsive-themeUsing a responsive wordpress theme is the easiest way to optimize your site for mobile visitors. A responsive theme adjusts itself according to the device being used by the incoming visitor. So a visitor from desktop or laptop will see a wide interface whereas mobile visitor will get the interface that fits on his screen without any cluttering. Most of the times, all you need to make your site mobile friendly is just a responsive theme and it is the most popular method for making your site mobile friendly.But it has its drawbacks too, the responsive themes do not reduce the size of images being used and you would have to do this manually for your site to load faster on slow connections of mobile devices. However, having a mobile friendly layout itself is half the work done.

2. Use a plugin

We use wordpress plugins to solve most of our site related issues and there are plugins that can make your blog mobile friendly too. The perk of using a plugin is that you can install and start using it within a matter of minutes. It does not require you to have any knowledge on optimizing sites for mobile. Here are some popular plugins you can use for this:

WPtouch: WPtouch mobile plugin instantly makes your site a mobile optimized, touch friendly website that can be viewed perfectly on all mobile devices. It detects the device of your incoming visitor and provides them the suitable version of your site. You have more options to customize the design according to your taste. The premium version of WPtouch mobile offers even more exciting features like automatic video and photo scaling, support for retina and HD displays, etc.

WP Mobile Detector: WP Mobile Detector plugin can identify if the visitor is using an ordinary mobile phone or a smartphone and it displays a suitable version of your site layout differently for each of them. It can detect and support over 5000 different mobile devices. WP Mobile Detector also provides mobile statistics and comes with 7 built-in mobile friendly themes. The premium version lets you create custom themes and display ads for mobile devices.

Jetpack’s Mobile Theme: This plugin suite brings some features of wordpress.com to your self-hosted WordPress site. It comes with a mobile theme which is snappy and fast loading on mobile devices. The mobile theme will use the design elements from your desktop WordPress theme by default but you can customize it with some simple modifications on CSS.

3. Design a separate mobile version of your site

If you create separate mobile version of your website, you will have two separate websites, a desktop site and a mobile site. The mobile site is usually given an alias like m.yoursite.com and it helps people recognize that they are on the mobile version. When someone visits your site on a mobile device, they get redirected to the mobile site automatically. Having a separate site for mobile users can help you provide different content for mobile and desktop users. You can always control what the mobile visitor sees, and the content on desktop version of your site will not affect this. The only drawback is that you have to make the changes on desktop and mobile sites separately and this will consume more time. Designing a separate mobile version of your website used to require technical skills before, but now there are many services that would help you easily create and host one for free.

How to build the mobile version of your site

You can either hire a developer to get this done for you or follow this simple guide to build one with a free service called dudamobile.

1. Head over to http://my.dudamobile.com and sign up for a free account.

2. Once you create your free account you will be redirected to the dashboard. Click on “Create mobile site’ button over there.

3. In the new popup box, select ‘Use an existing website URL’ and enter your website URL, site nickname and choose the category your site belongs to.

4. Click on ‘Convert’ and you will be presented with the editor page where you can customize the looks of your mobile version. There is a preview panel to the right of the editor. Once you are done with customizations, click on ‘Next’.

5. You will be taken to the page editor where you can add different objects like social sharing buttons and other widgets. Once you have added required elements and everything looks fine, click on ‘Next’.

6. In the next page, you will be asked to select a plan for the service; premium plan has features like ad free site, custom subdomain like m.yoursite.com support and many more. We shall go with the free plan in this tutorial. Select free plan and click on “go live’.

7. As a final step, click on ‘Setup my mobile redirection’ and you will be provided with a JavaScript code which you will have to add on your site. Alternatively, you can search for ‘Mobile Website Builder for WordPress by DudaMobile’ in the WordPress Plugins repository and install the plugin. And voila! You have a separate mobile version of your site now.

To get your m.yoursite.com alias, you will have to upgrade to dudamobile premium.

Things to keep in mind

Using a responsive theme is the best option among all these as you will have less work to take care of. It has to be noted that using free plan of services like dudamobile can have a negative impact as the URL of your mobile site begins with their domain. If you have a blog, it is better to go with the responsive theme or wordpress plugin method rather than creating a separate mobile site. Creating a separate site with m.yoursite.com alias is better if you have a static website where new content is not added very frequently.

Please let us know in the comments below… Do you read a lot of websites on your mobile phone?