WordPress Basics

WordPress is a blogging tool that allows you to share thoughts, reflections, and other communications over the Internet.  WordPress blogs can be customized to look and feel the way you want and content can easily be added, removed, archived, or changed.

So you have a blog…

Once you’ve set up your blog, there are many ways to customize it to give it the look and functions you want. This guide gives an overview of the most important features of WordPress and their options.

Here are some different Bryn Mawr blogs to give you an idea of the range of appearance and features possible with WordPress:

NELI Jobs Blog
Student Government Association
Flexner Book Club

Basic Elements of WordPress:


While WordPress is known for its blogging capabilities, it is also easy to create a more static site with WordPress by using Pages. For blogs, pages are useful for displaying information you’d want to always be available to your readers– an “about the author/blog” page, or mission statement page (as the art club does ) , for example. The Solomon Asch Center site demonstrates extensive use of static pages in WordPress as well as the blog capabilities. The About, Activities, Summer Institute, etc. links across the top are all static pages.


Posts are blog posts. Normally, these appear in chronological order, but WordPress has additional features to allow you change a post’s date, or to schedule posts in advance. This is good for periodic meeting reminders, other content that can be prepared in advance and posted on a schedule, or for queuing up content to post during a blogger’s absence. The WordPress codex has instructions for writing posts.  Please also see our recommendations for composing WordPress posts.

Note: If you don’t see the full list of formatting options in the Post window, click the “kitchen sink” button to see them all.



WordPress makes it easy to add images, video, or audio content to posts or pages. You can add media via the media library or from the New Post or Page panel.



Themes determine the look and layout of your WordPress blog. Many departmental blogs have a theme that looks like the Bryn Mawr website; those wanting to use this theme must contact Web Services to have it configured correctly.

There are many themes ready for your use under “Appearance” and then “Themes” in the WordPress dashboard.


While Web Services cannot develop custom themes, there are several customizable themes available. The following themes can use custom image headers (the large image at the top of the page):

  • Atahualpa
  • Carrington
  • Tarski
  • Twenty Eleven
  • UnLimited 1.0
  • Yoko

The following themes offer some customizable font and/or color options:

  • Atahualpa
  • Carrington
  • Mandigo
  • Tarski
  • Twenty Eleven
  • Yoko

Some themes allow CSS customization, which allows a lot of flexibility for changing the layout and look of a blog, if a user is familiar with or wants to learn CSS . Atahualpa is one such highly customizable theme.

We also offer themes (Bryn Mawr Refresh and Bryn Mawr Refresh with Menu) that look like the College’s current website design, for use with official College and departmental blogs. Please contact Web Services via help@brynmawr.edu for assistance in implementing these themes.

Categories and Tags:

Categories allow you to organize your posts, and allow your readers to find content of interest to them. Categories, unlike tags (which also allow you to identify posts with particular content), can be hierarchical, thus allowing for further organization. One concise way of describing the difference between the tools is that categories organize content, while tags identify it.

To see categories and tags in action, take a look at the TECH Bar blog , which uses categories to identify the main topics for documentation, and then uses tags to identify more specific topics. For example, there is an Adobe category, and then tags for particular pieces of Adobe software, such as Contribute and Illustrator. This could also be theoretically accomplished with categories (e.g. child categories could be created for Illustrator and Contribute, and then listed under the parent category of Adobe), but would likely make for an extremely long list of categories if there was one for every possible TECH Bar documentation topic.

Categories may also be used to create separate RSS feeds for content from a given category.

How to manage categories

Tags can also be utilized to form a Tag Cloud, which indicates which tags are used most often by making those tags larger. Here is a Bryn Mawr blog that uses a tag cloud in the left sidebar.
You can add a tag cloud to your blog using the Widgets panel.


Under “Appearance” next to themes.  Widgets go in the sidebar- they can add things to your blog like simple lists of pages, posts, archives, categories.  They also include extra add-ons – for example, Feedburner subscriptions. Many widgets are installed via plugins (see the Plugins section for details). See the WordPress codex for further descriptions of widgets.


Plugins extend the built-in functionality of WordPress.  They allow you to do things like automatically display a list of attached files, customize your menus or  allow users to receive blog posts via e-mail, reduce spam, and more. Plugins often appear as widgets for the sidebar. Plugins already available in Bryn Mawr’s WordPress installation can be found under Plugins (between Appearance and Users) in the WordPress Dashboard.


Those already activated for your particular blog will be listed under “Active” like this:



Links:  WordPress’ official help page.