Update 2013: New WordPress website setup guide here.
Just a few years ago only the most advanced Internet users knew what actually a blog is. Nowadays every kid hanging around seems to have a page on livejournal and you meet hundreds of websites hosted on Blogspot or say WordPress every other day in the search engine results or in the spam emails in your inbox. I would like to give you some insight into what actually a blog is and give a quick guide on starting a WordPress website.
Let’s get into work. First of all and when starting on a website, you should understand that WordPress is not just some place where you can post some kind of an updates. This is an amazing content management system that can be used to create any type of website of any complexity. What you usually see online is the 10% usage of the WordPress functionality and capabilities while most possibly you’ll be using only 5% if you just plan to post news from time to time.
The WordPress CMS is theme based which means that you can change designs any time you want while the content and the settings will remain the same in most cases. There are lots of free professional themes available online as well as template solutions by numerous companies. Apart from design changes, you can choose what functionality to have on your WordPress website. Thanks to various widgets and plugins you can create a real monster with the features that would cost tens of hundreds of dollars if ordered on a custom basis for a custom website.
There are lots of reasons why WordPress websites are so popular, I will list just a few why I personally like it so much.
1) For years and till now WordPress remains the cheapest solution to have a website built. It’s widely used by developers and web companies to create satellite websites (like the network of TemplateMonster websites devoted to different template categories) as well as by spammers (though as a rule they use free hosting or host at wordpress org). The system is free and there are lots of professional themes available online.
2) Creating a WordPress website is the quickest way to build an online presence for your company.
3) You will be able to manage your website in a convenient way on your own without paying the developer an hourly fee to carry out the updates.
4) WordPress system is SEO friendly by default (though of course there are enhancements that can be made). Google loves WordPress blogs.
5) You can change designs any time you’re up to. No additional fees and no special set-up.
6) WordPress capabilities are endless. There are thousands of free plugins available and you don’t need any special skills to use most of them.
When starting my first WordPress website I was feeling quite lost and could hardly understand what is all about. I found heaps of information in different places and was trying to put things together for hours. Now having a new WordPress website set-up takes me no longer than 30 minutes. This guide is made for beginners and those thinking of setting up their first WordPress blog. Don’t panic, there’s nothing you can’t do!
1. Registering Hosting and domain name.
You can either have your WordPress website set up on your server and thus show up for your domain name or host for free at WordPress and choose a website like “bestdesigns.wordpress.com”.I recommend setting up a separate domain name and hosting and this looks less spamy and more professional.
Most of the companies offer hosting and domain registration in one place. It may happen that you have a domain name registered in one place and the hosting account in the other. In this case all you have to do is ask your hosting provider to send you the so called name servers (ns) that you should email to your domain register.This will ensure your domain name is associated with your hosting and will show up the website you have uploaded to the server.
Now about hosting requirements. All you’ll need is PHP version 4.3 or greater and MySQL version 4.1.2 or greater running on the server. If you have no clue what is php and database, just send a following email to your hosting provider and see what they say:
“I’m interested in running the open-source WordPress blogging software and I was wondering if my account supported the following:
* PHP 4.3 or greater
* MySQL 4.1.2 or greater
* The mod_rewrite Apache module
2. Downloading the WordPress.
To have the website running on the WordPress CMS first of all you’ll have to download the WordPress software to your computer. It’s highly recommended to use the latest version of WordPress that can be found here http://wordpress.org/download/ Once saved to your hard drive, unzip the files.
3. Adding your information.
Open the folder with the WordPress files and look for wp-config-sample.php. Rename wp-config-sample.php to wp-config.php and open it in any text editor. This is the place where you have to fill in your database details. Login to your hosting panel and look for MySql section. Create a new database and save the info on file. If you’re not sure how to created the database you may contact your hosting provider for help.
Fill in database details in the wp-config.php file, save it and close it. Now we are ready to move forward.
4. Uploading files to your server.
If you have never uploaded files to a server earlier you may find it a bit tricky, but it’s easy once you understand how it works. Uploading files to the server is almost the same as copying files from one folder on your computer to the other. The only difference is that you are copying the files to the remote computer and thus need the login and password to get access to it.
Login to your hosting panel and look for something like FTP accounts. Create a new user and put down the information: FTP name, user and password. Go to http://www.coreftp.com/ and download the so called FTP client. Follow the installation instructions. Once complete, add a new account and connect to your server with your FTP info.
In most cases, WordPress files have to be uploaded to www or public_html folders depending on your server settings. If you are not sure where to upload, contact your hosting company for help.
Finally, upload the WordPress files to the server.
5. Installing the WordPress.
Once the upload is complete you have to install the WordPress. Open the browser and go to www.mywebsitename.com/wp-admin/install.php That’s it! WordPress should now be installed. After installation you will be given a login and randomly generated password to the admin area. Save them on file.
6. Choosing the design theme.
After the WordPress installation you should be able to see your website at www.mywebsitename.com. The WordPress is installed with the default theme you most likely would wish to change and here’s how to make it.
As I have mentioned in the very beginning of this post, there are hundreds if not thousands of professional free WordPress themes available online. There are also multiple companies where you can buy a WordPress theme but I wouldn’t recommend doing that. First of all why spend money if you can get cool stuff for free? Secondly, there are special support forums for almost all the free themes where you can have all your questions answered by the users as well as theme bugs fixed as apposed to the template option where you just get it as is and get almost zero support. As a rule, free themes have more advanced functionality as they are created by real developers and not by a group of people taught to code certain number of things.
So where you can get the free WordPress themes? While there are lots of websites online, I recommend http://wordpress.org/showcase/. This is a 200% reliable resource with user recommendations and notes. There’s a list of categories available and you can also search by tags like white, clean, orange, minimal etc. Once you find the theme you like download it to your computer and unzip the files. Connect to the server as described above and upload the folder with the theme to ‘wp-content/themes’ directory.
7. Accessing your blog admin area.
To login to the website admin area go here www.mywebsitename.com/wp-admin/ and enter login and password you have received after installation. You’re in.
Once you login you will be prompted to the main page of the WordPress content management system. You might be overwhelmed by the number of buttons, links and other options but pretty soon you’ll get used to it. The main management menu is located on the left and there are lots of settings to play around with. You can hardly spoil anything, so let the researcher inside you do this exciting job for you.
8. Setting your theme and updating general settings.
To activate the theme you have uploaded in point 9 go to Appearance >>Themes in the left panel menu. You should see the list of themes available. Click on the theme you’d like to use and confirm your choice.
To set your website title and some of the main settings go to Settings>>General.
That’s it for today. By now you have your new WordPress website up and running online. You can play around with the admin area to see how to add new posts and create new text pages. In our next post we will tell you about some necessary and useful plugins as well as the settings that will make your blog both user and search-engine friendly.