Elliott C. Back: Internet & Technology

WordPress Customization Guide for Newbies

Posted in Blogging,How to Blog by Elliott Back on October 24th, 2004.

How do you take a spanking-new WordPress installation and turn it into your own, customized blog? How do you add plugins and templates to the blog? How can you brand your blog, make your WordPress stand out from the millions of others? It’s easier than it looks.

  1. Get Kubrick, a drop in template for WordPress, and install it. You literally copy several files into the WordPress directory and you have a beautiful default template. It’s XHTML compliant, clean, and simple–an excellent base to build off.
  2. Import your links. The fastest way to do this is to use OPML from your favorite RSS reader. It will have an “export to OPML” option somewhere, which you can use to save all the feed URLs to a file that you will import via WordPress->Links->Import Blogroll. Once you’ve imported your links, sort them into categories, and add code to your template to display them:

    <h2><?php _e(‘Blogs I Read’); ?></h2>
    <ul><?php wp_get_links(3); ?></ul>

    is an example, using the link_ID from the categories in WordPress->Links. Just add one list set per newly made link category.

  3. Help customize your site. Get some plugins, and modify them to suite your tastes. Asymptomatic, the WordPress Plugins.org, Kitty’s Plugins, and the Web Log Tools Collection are all good places to start. And what do you do when you install these plugins? Let me run down a few simple ideas:
    1. Insert a breadcrumb navigation on your page
    2. Add an Acronym Replacer so when your write AOL, it looks uber-stylish
    3. Turn on the built-in WordPress->Plugins->Search Hilite
    4. Get an automatic linkifier to create links for you, when you only have the URLs.
    5. Random file is another useful WordPress plugin. I use it to rotate the banner of my Kubrick by adding a folder for random images.

    The list goes on and on–and the more you customize, the more the blog acquires its own look and feel.

  4. Turn on pretty links. This is a two step process to turn wp/index.php?postid=12 into wp/date/postname, which is easier for users and search engines to read. To use it, go to WordPress->Options->Permalinks and select a permalink structure by pasting and modifying the default. Then, when you click the button, make sure to copy the code into a file named .htaccess and place it in your wp root directory. The .htaccess file will rewrite your links for you, from old and ugly to new and shiny.
  5. Ping some services. If you ping popular blog notification services, you’ll start getting traffic nearly immediately! Go to WordPress->Options->Writing and add at least the following:






















































These are just a few tips for getting started and customizing a new WordPress installation. Of course, with anything, there’s a thousand more things to do, but this is a start!

This entry was posted on Sunday, October 24th, 2004 at 8:39 am and is tagged with . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback.

67 Responses to “WordPress Customization Guide for Newbies”

  1. Jason says:

    Have you considered redoing this article for WordPress 3.0?

  2. Shiva says:

    Great help for the new bees in deed, great job..

  3. Smith says:

    how to start changing main code?

  4. indou says:

    nice article, thanks

  5. Thank you … looking forward to doing this…

  6. mrgjr says:

    I got the new widget working on all our blogs, but there is one problem. The comments are not showing up in the WP back-end as new comments, and they’re not going into the feed which populates our food site’s latest comments component. Anybody got any ideas. I like this feature, but not as much if it doesn’t integrate into the comment feed of WordPress.

  7. […] stumbled across this cool Guide for Newbies and wanted to pass along the info to other WordPress […]

  8. Brian says:

    Hi Elliott,

    Thanks for the ping list been looking for that list.

  9. Ronak Shah says:

    Hi Eric,

    I agree with your thougts that this is not for newbies like you.

    People like you may not know what a google feed reader is and what an OPML file is all about. Thus, I wish if Elliot can elaborate for those amateur newbies who really do not understand how can an OPML file be created.

    Eric: I think the link to kubrick does not work at all as the binary site is not functioning properly.

    Whatever the case it may be, I think Elliot deserves an applause for whatever he is doing. After all, he is doing a good job.

    Can you just elaborate on the PHP and CSS aspect of the wordpress customization module along with the image editing stuff?

    Ronak Shah.

  10. Eric says:

    Dear Mr. Back.,
    “WordPress Customization for Newbies” is not disigned for newbies as I am a newbie. Allow mr to quote you…

    “Import your links. The fastest way to do this is to use OPML from your favorite RSS reader. It will have an “export to OPML” option somewhere, which you can use to save all the feed URLs to a file that you will import via WordPress->Links->Import Blogroll. Once you’ve imported your links, sort them into categories, and add code to your template to display them”

    In my opinion, the word “Newbie” in your article is equivelent to that of a trigonometry student getting ready to go into a pre-caluclus class. Let me redifne, “Newbie” as I know it…

  11. […] WordPres Customization Guide for Newbies by Elliott C. Back – This is a great first article to read, has some basic information, including a great set of ping links that will help you get some hits on your blog. […]

  12. […] After installing WordPress, I was keen to customise it.  Whilst searching for information, I found the WordPress Customisation Guide by Elliot Back, which introduced me to the concept of permalink customisation.  Note that this is quite dated (October 2004) and the method described to set up permalinks has changed (WordPress now sets up .htaccess for you, rather than you needing to copy code to it). […]

  13. I was searching for guide for wordpress and found your site. Very interesting explaination for beginner to start learning on wordpress.

    Good list of ping servers. Thanks!

  14. David Ing says:

    I’ve written up a guide for new bloggers interested in the easiest way (using wordpress.com), but also my log of all of the steps involved for people who have a web host with Fantastico and cPanel.

    The latter may be enough to deter novices to try the former, first!

  15. Brian says:

    Nice one Elliott, nice and simple to understand

    hope you dont mind me adding my tech blog link

    my new tech blog www.britec.co.uk/techblog/


  16. […] There is also an excellent article on Elliott Back’s blog: WordPress Customization Guide for Newbies. […]

  17. […] You might start by looking at How to Customize WordPress, WordPress Customization Guide for Newbies and How to Use Widgets. __________________ Please do not Private Message me with support requests. […]

  18. […] I figured out the link problem, after the update I made a few changes according to this tutorial Word Press for Newbies by Elliot Back. Anyhow I used the code he talks about to activate pretty links, and for some reason all my links now gave me a 404 error, so I followed the instructions on this page instead. […]

  19. Paul says:

    Thank you very much for the ping list and the wordpress installation guide Elliot.

    I have been up all night reading it. Now I will try to apply my new found knowledge.

    Thanks again mate.

  20. Friedclyde says:

    thanks so much for the ping list buddy :) rocking article!

  21. vdbhrscxerct…

    One thing it got us thinking about was hippiedom and the extent to which remnants of that survive. One of our students grew up in a series of communes. Are there any communes still around?…

  22. […] I’ve found a great list of RPC and RPC2 services to ping at Elliot Back to be put at Options>Writing>Update Services. I don’t know whether this tip is effective to bring traffics to my site, but I will give it a try. Maybe pinging through pingoat.com is enough. Anyway here is the list. […]

  23. […] Elliot Back has written a really cool WordPress Customiation for Newbies guide that helps you convert a new WordPress installation into a customized blog in just a few steps. You should definately read his full article, but in a nutshell he suggests you start with the following tips (& he goes into far more detail on exactly how to implement them) […]

  24. Jon says:

    Thanks for your tips! Does using all of those ping services drastically slow down the time it takes to post? It seems the whole process has slowed down since I added all those. Does anyone have a smaller list which might include all the important ping services that might speed up posting times?

    Thanks in advance and wonderful article Elliot!

    Whoa and I just noticed the preview plugin below here. Where can I find that?


  25. Paul says:

    I just wanted to drop you a quick note Elliot…I actually used some of your tricks and created a spanking new WordPress Blog and I’m finally having fun with this. At first working with WordPress seemed difficult to me. But after I came across your blog I finally kicked myself in the butt and got the ball rolling. Keep up the good work buddy!

  26. BBD says:

    I still think that pinging pingomatic AND all the other services would be considered spamming, better to sort them out – does anyone have a “sorted” list?

  27. […] Today I came across this handy article by Elliot Back about setting up a WordPress blog. Included is a full list (56) of services to ping. Besides that, there are some very useful tips in the article. […]

  28. Le Bital says:

    This is cool, I was looking for all these ping services… :D Thanks a lot…

  29. […] Since everything is up and running smoothly, now comes the fun part — the design! This, I know, is going to be a bit of a challenge. Even so, I’m rolling up my sleeves and diving in. I have what I would consider to be a pretty good knowledge and understanding of (X)HTML and CSS, so I think I’ll be alright. I’ve already found some excellent resources to help me along the way. If you know of any more or have some of your own tips and/or suggestions, please feel free to post a comment and share them here. […]

  30. […] WordPress Customization Guide for Newbies – Elliott Back: An informative guide with plenty of tips to get started turning wordpress into a polished site for publishing your own content. A great place to link! (Several good plugins demonstrated on this site.)

  31. devang says:

    nice article, thanks

  32. tejas says:

    very good article for beginer


  33. Mahesh Babu says:

    Thanks, Elliott Back for these wonderful tips

    Mahesh Babu.R

  34. Laurie Meade says:

    Thanks for all the great tips. I keep finding more and more reasons why I like WordPress each and every day.

    Kindest regards,
    Laurie Meade

  35. […] that, wouldn’t you?) review by Jeremy Wright. Elliott Back has also written a very nice Newby Guide to Customizing WordPress.

  36. […] .org/ping/ www.lasermemory.com/lsrpc/ Related Customization Articles: Seo-Easy WordPress Customization Guide for Newbies If you’ […]

  37. neurox says:

    Oops, forgot to fill out my credentials.. ;-)

  38. Anonymous says:

    The “linkifier” link was dead, but if you’re looking for a neat plugin that helps you link to websites, searchengines, dictionaries etc., you should check out my plugin NeuroLinks. The configuration file explains the syntax! WordPress rocks! :-)

  39. Why I chose WordPress

    I installed WordPress and fell in love.

  40. John M says:

    I found lots of useful info here to fix up my dull wordpress blog.
    Thanks John M

  41. Mathilde says:

    I do not yet have a WordPress blog, but I seem to be unable to find the breadcrumbs link, can anyone help?

  42. carl says:

    I am new to blogging. I want to incorporate a blog into my existing site. how do i make my blog conform to my template?
    Could you give me a link to a tutorial?



  43. griffhome says:

    WordPress Customization Guide…
    WordPress Customization Guide for Newbies – Elliott Back:
    An informative guide with plenty of tips to get started turning wordpress into a polished site for publishing your own content.
    A great place to link! (Several good plugins demonstrated on thi…

  44. Breadcrumb Navigation 0.8.8 for WP 1.5
    I am proud to announce a new release of the highly anticipated Breadcrumb Navigation plugin for WordPress.

    To use the plugin:

    Download the zip, tar.gz, or the individual files. Hosted by wp-plugins.org, a service provided by the developers of…

  45. richard says:

    Just wanted to say thanks for the list of sites, I got some good hints in your post. I’ve only started blogging recently, so this was helpful.

  46. Personalize Your WordPress Install

    Do you have a blog? Is it running on WordPress? Do you want to configure it but don’t know how, or where, or why? Then these pages might have an answer for you:

    WordPress Documentation Links contains another list of links. All of them relate…

  47. sid says:

    I’m not really sure on the pinging services as I’m new to bloging but I will have to look into it. Thanks for the great script!

  48. Breadcrumb Plugin Information
    Update: the permalinks feature appear to be working correctly with the breadcrumb plugin with WordPress 1.5-alpha-6. It was tested on a Windows XP machine with the latest XAMPP installed. I have not tested it on any other setups, so please, if you g…

  49. B.A.R. says:

    Wait, so we just enter all those links into a pinging service and things should work out on it’s own? Or just leave Ping-omatic by itself?

    Thank you!

  50. Jason says:

    Elliot – kudos! This is a great WP primer, and I love that you recommend Kubrick. One question: I see that you recommend both breadcrumbs and “pretty links”. I can’t seem to get the breadcrumbs plugin to work on my site, and from what I’ve read it’s due to an incompatibility with pretty links. How did you get around that?

  51. Elliott Back says:

    The position of the Kubrick blog title/subtitle text is set via CSS in the file “index.php,” at least on my configuration. In the inline stylsheet, there’s an entry for:

    #headertext { margin-left: 445px; }

    Then, farther down, the header is defined with that div ID in the body:

    < ? // Begin Header ?>

    Adjust the style to suit your needs.

  52. brian says:

    Hi Elliott, Sorry to be a pain, but i am trying to move my Blog name (like you have with yours to the right) to the bottom left of the header. I have been playing with many different setting and cannot find the correct one. Can you help ?

    thank you very much

    hail hail !

  53. Elliott Back says:

    Multi-categories? It’s built into WP. Just go into the admin, and add some.

  54. brian says:

    Thanks Elliot. Just got them this morning ! installed in 1 min and really simple ! Cant wait to get a good looking blog.

    By-the-way what do you use for the multi-categorys ?


  55. Elliott Back says:


    That is because Michael just redid his blog–with a new structure. Try the new link above (binarybonsai.com/kubrick.php).

  56. brian says:

    Hi am setting up a wp site just now but cannt get the kubric download. Do you know another download location ?


    hail hail

  57. Thanks for this great guide! I’m going to be putting it to verry good use over the next day or so.

  58. How To Blog says:

    WordPress Customization for Newbies
    Elliot Black has written a really cool WordPress Customiation for Newbies guide that helps you convert a new WordPress installation into a customized blog in just a few steps.

  59. kpont.com says:

    WordPress setup help
    I make available the service of hosting websites to Churches, Ministries, friends and family and I usually install or highly recommend WordPress as a means for maintaining the content. I’ve collected here a few links to documentation and posts I made …

  60. Elliott Back says:

    It says it might ping some of those, but some are not included, don’t worry. It’s not an intersection.

  61. Olf says:

    Ref. 6: Doesn’t RPC.pingomatic.com ping all the other sites as well? Are they then really necessary to be included in the ping list?

  62. Zenith says:

    Ah, finally it works! Thank you!

  63. Elliott Back says:

    Get the random file plugin from here:


    and then change this in your Kubrick template:

    #header { background: url("< ?php echo random_file('/images/random', 'jpg gif png jpeg'); ?>") no-repeat bottom center; }

  64. Zenith says:

    Some very handy starting tips there, thanks!

    I’ve implemented a few of your suggestions. Can’t seem to figure out the coding on the random file for rotating headers yet but I’m sure I’ll get there after some trial and error.

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