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About HLSOrgs

HLSOrgs is a platform for hosting HLS student organization websites. It runs on WordPress, a system that makes it easy to launch, edit and customize your site. Right out of the box, your HLSOrgs website is great for posting static content, blog posts, announcements, photos and videos. It’s also easy to add functionality: twitter feeds, Facebook integration, image galleries…if you’ve seen it online before, chances are it can be integrated into your site.

This guide will cover the most-used WordPress functionality, but feel free to explore. You can also check out the WordPress Codex for official WordPress documentation and information. Additionally, the course WordPress Essential Training provides an excellent video tutorial on how to use WordPress. You can access your Harvard account here. If you have questions or need help setting up or editing your student organization website, please reach out to

Logging in and Using the Admin Panel

Once we create your site we will add you as a user, and you will receive an email from the site with your login credentials and the address of the admin login (which will be Go ahead and log in. What you see next is the Admin panel, where you will add and edit content and adjust the settings of your site. The menu is in the column on the left.

HLS Orgs WordPress Admin Dashboard

Changing Your Password

From the Dashboard, hover over your username in the upper righthand corner and click “Edit My Profile.” Scroll down to the password section to change your password.

Changing Your Site’s Theme

The site theme determines how the site looks and, to a limited extent, what functionality is implemented (you can also add functionality to your site using plugins). You can preview how a theme will look before applying it to your site by going to “Themes” under “Appearance” in the Admin panel. Click “Preview” under each theme’s thumbnail to see how the site would look with that theme. Click “Activate” to switch to this theme.

Some themes will add a section to the Admin menu that allows you to customize certain parts of that theme. They may add additional features to other parts of the site as well, for example, providing additional options when editing content.

Theme Options

In addition to adding functionality to parts of your site (the content editor, or additional widgets for your sidebar), most themes have an options menu in the Admin panel where you can set global options. This usually appears as a menu item with the theme’s name. There will probably be options here you don’t want to change, but take a look. If your theme includes a ‘slider’ (a slideshow on the front page) there will be settings for that. There will also likely be an option to change other settings, such as text color.

Posts and Pages


Posts are like blog posts, and are useful when publishing news stories, articles or announcements. Multiple posts are typically displayed at a time, with the most recent on top. You can create categories to organize them and use tags to add additional information. Posts can easily be displayed in archive pages by category or date.

How to Write a Post

To create a new post, click the arrow next to “Posts” in the Admin menu. The menu will expand to show admin pages related to Posts:

  • Click “Add New” to access the Post editing screen. The main part of this page is the editor in the center. This is where you write and edit content. The rows of buttons on top provide various options for formatting and inserting content. This visual editor will give you a general idea of how the content will look on the page, but is not an exact reproduction. Learn more about the features of the visual editor at the Official WordPress Codex.

The tabs in the upper right corner of the editor allow you to switch between the visual editor and the HTML editor. The latter allows you to edit the actual HTML that is behind the scenes. Those unfamiliar with HTML should stick with the visual editor. If you do want to edit the HTML, note that WordPress filters the code when it is saved and inserts/removes certain tags for purposes of safety and consistency.

Beneath the text editor are a handful of other options:

Excerpt – Some site themes will display an excerpt for a post. By default this is the first 55 words of the post’s content. If you write something in the Excerpt box for a post, the content you write will be displayed as the excerpt instead. This is generally a summary or teaser that makes someone want to read the post.

Discussion –  You can set global settings elsewhere for whether comments/pingbacks are allowed on your site, but here you can choose to enable/disable reader responses on a per-post basis.

Author – By default this is your user account. If there are multiple users on your site you may be able to select a different user account to credit for a post. On the site, the author name appears as a link that allows visitors to see all the posts by that author.

Other Options – Other options that appear here are “Send Trackbacks” and “Custom Fields.” You can probably  leave your trackbacks options the way they are. Custom Fields are a more advanced way of adding additional data to your posts.

Special Options – There may be options in the “Edit Post” screen that are specific to your site’s theme or to a plugin you are using. One common theme option, for example, allows you to upload an image that is automatically displayed as a thumbnail along with the post.

Post Tags – Tags add extra information about the post and generally describe the content. You might tag specific topics that are discussed in the post, or use a tag to mark a post as “featured.” Special theme options like animated sliders sometimes require post tags so they know what to display.

Categories – Here you can select which categories the post belongs to. You can also add new categories. Categories are not required but are a good way to organize and structure the posts on your site. WordPress makes it easy to display (and link to) lists of posts sorted by category.

Publish – The “Publish” box can do a number of things:

  • Save a draft of the post if it’s not ready to publish (WordPress automatically saves a draft every few minutes).
  • Preview the post, which will open a new window/tab showing you the full-page version of the article exactly as it will appear when published.
  • Set the post’s visibility. In most cases you’ll want it to be public, but can also choose to ‘stick’ it to the top of the page, even if there are newer posts that would ordinarily appear above it.
  • Edit the publish date/time. You can leave the publish date/time as “immediately” or you can specify the time and date the post is published.

Depending on your user account, you may not have a Publish button. In this case you submit your content and a site administrator will review it before publishing.


Pages are for content that should always be available on your site. Pages are typically linked in your site’s navigation menu. They are often used for “About Us” pages, conference information, board members, and more.

How to Write a Page

You’ll find the “Add New” link under the “Pages” header in the Admin menu, just as described with Posts above. This will load an Edit screen that looks identical to the Post edit screen except there’s no Excerpt box, and “Page Attributes” takes the place of Categories and Tags. Refer to the Posts section above for an overview of creating and publishing content.

Page Attributes  – This box allows you to specify a Parent if you want the page to be a sub-page of an existing page. Templates are preset page layouts that come with your theme. If you’re unfamiliar with a page template, select it and Preview to see what the page looks like. Order is what ‘order’ the page is in compared to your other pages. This comes into play if WordPress is automatically generating a list of pages, but since you’ll be making a custom navigation menu, you will probably never need to worry about Order.

Uploading Media

You can add photos, image galleries, video, audio and other media (such as PDFs) to your posts and pages by using the Media Library. Simply click the “Add Media” button above the visual editor on a post or page, or hover over “Media” on the left side of the dashboard and select “Library” or “Add new” to upload new media or select from existing media. Refer to the WordPress Codex for more details on how to add media to your posts and pages.

Categories and Tags

Categories and Tags provide ways of organizing your posts (not pages). Categories are for structure: you can have sub-categories and sub-sub-categories etc. You can easily make and link to archive pages that show your posts by category. Tags don’t provide as much organization, but are good for linking related content.


Categories are how you organize posts. These can be straighforward (e.g. different topics covered by your posts) or you can use them to divide up your content in other ways (e.g. one category for the blog, with subcategories; another for print articles, with its own subcategories). You can create new categories by clicking “Categories” under “Posts” in the Admin menu, or you can create them on the fly when writing a post. Note that you can make a category a sub-category of another to establish a hierarchy.  You can always change the categories to which you have assigned a post in the “Edit Post” screen. Most site themes will display a post’s category as a link. Clicking it will take you to an archive of all the posts in that category.


Tags are for making connections between posts that may or may not be related in other ways. For example, a post about underwater basket weaving could be posted in the category “DIY” while a post on basket production in developing nations might be posted in the category “International Development,” but both might be tagged “baskets.” You can add a new tag by clicking “Post Tags” under “Posts” in the Admin menu, or you can make new tags on the fly when you write a post. As with categories, site themes that display post tags typically make them links to an archive of all posts with that tag. Tagging your posts can offer your users an easy way of finding the content that interests them. Note that tags are not hierarchical and you cannot make sub-tags.

To edit the menu, go to Appearance -> Menus from the Admin panel. You’ll see the menu represented on the right. You can drag and drop the menu items to rearrange them. You can also “indent” a menu item to make it a sub-item of the one above it. Sub-items are displayed as a dropdown when a visitor hovers over the menu. You can also click the little arrow on the menu entry to change how it’s displayed, for example to edit the text shown in the menu to be different from the page name (useful if the page has a longer name).

Add a new Menu item:

To add a link to a page, select the page you want to add from the “Pages” box to the left and click “Add to Menu.” You can also select ‘Home’ here to add a link to the home page, but note that the site logo is also a link to your home page.

To add a link to a category archive (a list of all the posts in a certain category), select the category in the Categories box and click Add to Menu.

To specify the URL for a link, enter the address in the “Custom Links” box, enter the text that should appear in the menu in “Label,” and click “Add to Menu.”

When you’re done editing a menu click the “Save Menu” button.

To edit or change settings for the elements in your site’s sidebar, click “Widgets” under “Appearance” in the Admin menu.

Wordpress widgets screen

The site’s sidebar is a ‘widget area’: part of the site where you can display widgets. Widgets are different types of content. For example, there’s a widget that shows your categories, one that displays recent comments and one that lets you enter some text to be displayed. You can put as many widgets into your sidebar as you want, but be aware of how it looks to your visitors. Note that some themes may have additional widget areas besides the sidebar. Some, for example, allow you to place widgets in the site’s footer.

To add a widget to your sidebar, click and drag it into the sidebar box. It will immediately be added to the site’s sidebar (you don’t have to save or publish the sidebar itself). You can rearrange the widgets to change the order in which they appear. Click the little arrow on a widget to change its settings. When you’re done, click Save, and the new settings will take effect. To remove a widget, drag it into the “Available Widgets” area, or if you would like to save its current settings (in case you want to put it back in the sidebar another time) drag it down to the “Inactive Widgets” area.


Plugins add functionality to your site in much the same way as a theme. Plugins can change or add to almost any part of the WordPress system. Some provide new widgets for use in the sidebar, some add new features to the editor toolbar, some affect the site as a whole, tracking analytics or preventing spam comments.

To see what plugins are available, click “Plugins” from the Admin panel. The plugins page will show you all the installed plugins and which ones have been activated. Each plugin generally has a link to its website, where you can find documentation should you need it. Those plugins that need/allow configuration add menu items to the Admin panel. They either appear in the main Admin menu or in the Settings menu.