My standard changes to a free blog

Every time I set up a new blog I make the same changes before I even start thinking about writing a post.  The following is really just a crib sheet for myself, but someone may find it useful.

A couple of notes first:

  • There’s no single ‘right way’ to set up a blog.  If you do things differently then great – who wants homogenity?
  • This is for the free, not the self-hosted version of WP
  • I’m posting this in Nov 08.  Sorry if the layout and features have changed
  • I’ve assumed that you’ve signed up and got yourself a blog

Ok, on with it…

Quick list of changes

  • About page – update content and disallow comments and pings
  • Delete ‘Hello World’ post
  • Links – delete and and add a couple of my own (if relevant)
  • Change blog tagline
  • Add Stumbleupon, Delicious, Digg and Reddit icons to posts
  • Free up comment publication
  • Disable Snap Shots
  • Hide ‘related links’
  • Update profile details
  • Choose a theme and some sidebar widgets

Making the changes

I’ve ordered this part as per the tabs at the top of the WordPress dashboard, only I’ve gone right to left (NB – no need to change anything under ‘Comments’). There’s method to my madness though.


  • Click ‘Your Profile’ (just above where ‘Manage Users’ is in big letters)
  • Enter your name (unless you want to be anonymous) and nickname.  Choose what you want your name to be displayed as (at the bottom of posts and in comments) from the drop down menu.
  • Click on ‘Update Profile’ at the bottom of the page


  • General – delete the existing tagline that says ‘Just another WordPress blog’ and replace it with something more suitable (or just leave it blank)
  • Reading – tick the boxes to add Stumbleupon, Delicious, Digg and Reddit icons to posts
  • Discussion – untick the box that says ‘Comment author must have a previously approved comment’

Remember to click ‘Save Changes’ at the bottom of each page where you alter settings.


Themes and widgets are really a matter of personal preference, although I’d always recommend getting rid of Snap Shots (the link previews that pop up when you hover a cursor over some anchor text) and ‘related posts’ (the rarely relevant list of posts on other blogs). They’re both irritating.

  • Themes – scroll through and pick something you like.  Click on it to preview it and click ‘Activate theme’ in the top right of the preview window to, well, activate it.  The look of your blog will change straight away.
  • Widgets – these will be dictated by personal preference and the particular aims of your blog.  As a basic layout I’d suggest (from top to bottom) Pages, Text (with a brief explanation of what the blog is about), Recent Comments (apparently placing this high up encourages commenting), Categories, Links and Search
  • Extras – untick ‘Enable snap shots on this blog’, tick to ‘Hide related posts on this blog’


  • Posts – tick the box next to ‘Hello World’ and click delete
  • Pages – click on ‘About’ and change the text to something more relevant. Also scroll down, click on ‘Comments & Pings’ and untick both boxes to disallow them both
  • Links, tick the boxes next to the two existing links to WordPress websites and click delete.  Then click on ‘Add link’ to insert a link of your own


  • Pages – add any extra static pages that are needed
  • Posts – finally, time to write that first post.

Published by Chris Unitt

I work at One Further, doing digital projects with cultural organisations. Follow @ChrisUnitt or find me on LinkedIn.

27 replies on “My standard changes to a free blog”

  1. This is really good stuff Chris, thanks for putting the list together. I’ve done a recheck of the Observatory’s hosted site, Observations, and all the settings tally with your list except for one:

    “Discussion – untick the box that says ‘Comment author must have a previously approved comment’”

    Could you explain what’s to gain by switching this off – is it because Akismet does a great job of snaffling comment spam anyway? (I might be being over-cautious.)

  2. Cheers Gavin. Yeah, I tend to find that Akismet does a good enough job.

    I also think it might be off-putting to someone commenting for the first time on your blog if they don’t see their comment go straight up – better to be welcoming and have to delete the odd comment than to treat everyone suspiciously I reckon.

  3. Damn useful Chris,

    I’d add installing the new Plugin Manager which is the most useful thing ever for WordPress- means you can add new plugins with one click and no downloading / uploading – essential.

    So next question, would it be useful to provide people with “mod”ed Wordpres installations that will give them all of the above straight off? Or is it different for each person..

    I’ve been thinking about this very thing today..

  4. Worth adding that Plugin Manager is for self-hosted WP, not the free one (actually I was looking for that today and didn’t know the name, so ta v much. Link –

    As for your question, I think it depends on the amount of handholding you want/need to do for someone. I like the idea of giving people the instructions and letting them find their way about. On the other hand, doing the basic mods for them removes a few barriers for getting stuck in and involved straight away.

    So yeah, I reckon it depends (the ever-useful conclusion!)

  5. Hello!
    Just a favour Chris, if you’d be so kind!

    How can I get my tweets on my page? I tried putting the html into a text widget on the wordpress dashboardy bit but it won’t display?


  6. Hi

    I found this really useful, but not being very technically minded how do you place a homepage on your blog. Also I’ve being having trouble putting a ‘subscribe to RSS feed’ on for my blog, which sounds really lame doesn’t it!!!


  7. thanks for the useful info, Chris. I was trying to get a useful “contact me” and a box at the top of the page telling people who I am etc (touting for work!). Is the only way I can achieve that through the CSS stuff? I read the site’s stuff on it and because I’m not tecchy, it really didn’t make sense to me …

  8. Hi Candice – in the dashboard section click on ‘Settings’ and then ‘Reading’. You’ll see the options for selecting a static front page there.

    If you still plan to have a blog on the site you’ll need to make a page called ‘Blog’ or ‘News’ or something (which you can leave blank) and select that as your ‘posts page’

    Hey Jane – if you look in the ‘Widgets’ bit under ‘Design’ you should be able to add a text box (in the list on the left hand side). Once it’s added to the right of the screen youcan drag it up/down to place it where you want. Click ‘edit’ on the text box to put some blurb in.

    Hope that helps

  9. I would also add to the list to sign up for the webmaster tools on MSN, Google and Yahoo and add your RSS feed. Works wonders!

    If you are looking for some free professional help in getting your wordpress blog up and running on you own hosting, feed free to drop a line at

  10. Hello!
    Very Interesting post! Thank you for such interesting resource!
    PS: Sorry for my bad english, I’v just started to learn this language 😉
    See you!
    Your, Raiul Baztepo

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