6 Common WordPress “Gotchas” To Avoid

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6 common WordPress Problems to avoid

I teach people on a daily basis how to use WordPress, from the ground up. A few face-smackingly simple issues come up time and again.

1) Pasting from Word will make your posts look funky

Anytime you copy and paste directly into the WordPress editor, from Microsoft Word, another website, or any other outside source, you run the risk of it looking, well,  a bit funky ,when you publish it. This is because other applications, especially Word, have their own set of formatting that gets carried over when you copy/paste. Usually this ends up conflicting with the formatting and styling of your theme. You may not realize there is an issue until you publish the post and something looks off – the fonts don’t quite match, or the spacing is strange. 9 times out of 10 in these cases, it’s because you copied/pasted from Word. To avoid such issues, simply use the 2 clipboard buttons on the second line of the post editing toolbar with the T and the W on them.

Wait, you only have a single toolbar? Make sure to click the “Kitchen Sink” button – the last button on the right of the toolbar.

Ok, now in the middle of the brand new toolbar you will see the 2 clipboard buttons I am talking about:

WordPress Toolbar - Kitchen Sink, Paste From Word, Paste as Plain Text

The “Paste from Word” button (clipboard with a W on it) will attempt to strip away any junk and leave you with clean text – it will generally retain basic formatting you may have done, such as bold, italics etc. If you still have problems when using this, then try the Paste as Plain Text option (clipboard with a T on it). This will strip away all formatting from the source, so you will need to re-format your text using the WordPress editor.

2) “How do I make a line break dangit?”

When you are typing in the WordPress editor and you hit the Enter key, WordPress will create a Paragraph break (the equivalent of <p> in HTML), which means it will leave an empty line between the place where you hit Enter, and the new cursor position. Sometimes this is infuriating when you just want the cursor to go to the next line. This is a regular line break (<br> in HTML) rather than a paragraph break, and is easily accomplished by holding down Shift when you hit Enter.

3) “My homepage is a static page, so where do my blog posts go?!”

When you use a static page as your home/front page in WordPress, all you have to do is then create a new Page called Blog. Leave this blank – it basically just acts as a container in the WordPress system to indicate where your blog posts will be displayed. In the WordPress Reading settings (Settings > Reading) , choose this Blog page under the Posts page dropdown menu. Then add the Blog page into your menu bar. Magically, this will become your blog homepage and when you click on “Blog” WordPress will automatically display your blog posts.

How to set Blog page in WordPress when using static homepage
One caveat to this, is if you are using a Premium theme which has a special homepage layout, which you configure in the theme’s options panel. In the WordPress Reading settings, it will still show that your homepage is showing blog posts, even though it may not be, depending on the theme. In this case, the theme probably provides a Blog page template, so you would again create a Page called Blog, and make sure to select the Blog template under Page attributes.
WordPress - Blog Page Template

4) “I tried to install a theme I bought, but I’m getting an error message that the theme is broken”

The most common cause of this I have seen is that theme developers have hidden the actual theme folder within another folder in the zip file you purchased. When you purchase a premium theme, you download a .zip file. If the theme developer is being user-friendly, you would simply upload this same zip file into your WordPress dashboard. However, what frequently happens is that, if you open up the zip you downloaded, you will find another zip within that main folder. THIS is the .zip you need to upload. WordPress cannot detect it if it’s hidden in this way. In the first image below you see the initial .zip file I downloaded upon purchase. If I uploaded this as-is, I would get an error message.

Error when installing WordPress theme

In this second image, you see why. I unzipped this folder and you see that there are several other files in there, including another zip called ‘striking’ (the name of the theme) – this contains the actual theme files and is what you would need to upload.

Error when installing WordPress theme

 

5) “How do I turn on/off the comments for a certain page/post?”

In one of the recent versions of WordPress, they decided to clean up the writing interface. In reality, what happened is that they hid a bunch of stuff under the obscure label “Screen Options” at the top right of your screen. The ability to turn on or off comments for a particular page/post, stumped newbies and experts alike for a while – where did that control go? So if you are missing this feature, try clicking Screen Options and then check the box for Discussion. This will reveal the box to control comments. Note that the box called Comments, doesn’t provide access to control the ability to comment – it only shows what comments if any, exist for that post/page.

WordPress Screen Options - Turn Comments On/Off

 

6) “There are things showing up in my footer/sidebar but I can’t find when to change them!”

If you seeing what appear to be widgets in your footer, sidebar or any other widget area – ie. Category lists, Recent posts etc, but when you go to Appearance > Widgets, those sidebar areas appear to be empty, you are most likely seeing default fallback widgets set by your theme. Some themes are set up so that if you have not added any widgets, it will automatically display a Category list or some other default content. All you have to do is add a widget to that section, and it will override the default, and you will only see the widget you have set.

Are there any other apparently simple but infuriating WordPress issues you have come across?

*header image courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/striatic/2192192956/

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