I love WordPress. It’s easy to use and configure, there’s lots of design options and with the help of plugins you can pretty much get it to do anything you want in terms of displaying your website content. Plus, WordPress does a pretty good SEO job generally. And I know I’m not alone in loving it – at the last count about 26% of the websites on the planet are running on WordPress.
So, what is WordPress?
WordPress is a content management system (CMS) for creating websites. It uses a standardised management interface to allow multiple users to create, modify and manage websites. It utilises PHP code, HTML and CSS (style sheets) to interface with a MySQL database to create and manage the look and feel of the website.
The websites are designed using a template interface. Bespoke templates can be created from scratch (by anyone who understands PHP, HTML and CSS), downloaded for free from WordPress, upgraded to ‘Pro’ versions for about $50 or bought from WordPress theme developers.
The theme will give the look and feel of the website including its colour scheme and layout structure, and with additional plugins additional functionality can be added.
You can find out more about WordPress on Wikipedia
WordPress.com or wordpress.org?
There are two ways to create a WordPress website.
Automattic, the owners of WordPress, run their own WordPress hosting platform via wordpress.com, but they also provide the WordPress software via wordpress.org so that it can be installed on your own web server.
Which one you choose will depend on your requirements. Generally speaking though if you’re creating a business website you’ll be better off going down the wordpress.org route as your site will be totally configurable and what options you use are up to you – with wordpress.com you’re limited to what you can do (although you can pay a premium to add more features), plus by default your web address will have wordpress.com in it (e.g. http://mybusiness.wordpress.com rather than http://www.mybusiness.co.uk); the downside to a wordpress.org site is you’ll need somewhere to host the site, and the set up is totally up to you.
Whilst I can work with WordPress.com hosted sites (and have done in the past) I generally use wordpress.org installations to give the flexibility my clients need. So, this “How to” guide is a quick guide on how to set up a wordpress.org website.
10 Steps to setting up WordPress ready to build your website
1. Decide where you are going to host your website
This generally means you will need to rent some web server space that allows MySQL, from an internet service provider and if you look carefully you’ll find a provider that will also install the WordPress software for you. I use 1&1 for my server hosting and they have an installation function that allows me to set up new WordPress installs – other providers offer similar services, e.g. GoDaddy and 123 Reg. So depending on your hosting provider you might be able to skip the next couple of steps… You’ll also need to make sure your web server space is using your domain name (e.g. mybusiness.com) or at least that you know what the web address of the server space is.
2. Install the WordPress software
How you do this will depend on your hosting provider, so check with them on how best to do it. If they offer a service to install the software for you already, then use this, otherwise if you’ve just got some web space to use you’ll need to download the latest version of the WordPress software, upload it to the server using FTP (WP Beginner has a great guide on how to do this) and setup and configure the MySQL database (again how you do that will depend on your web hosting company).
3. Set up the WordPress software
This is the next step, but will depend on how it was installed. If you went down the service provider installation route then WordPress will be set up for you already, and you should be able to login to your WordPress account using http://your-domain/wp-admin (e.g. http://mybusiness.com/wp-admin) and you can jump to the next step. If you’re installing manually then you’ll need to visit your website address and follow the on screen configuration prompts. This may all seem daunting but actually WordPress make it very easy to set up, so don’t worry, it is really straight forward to set everything up.
4. Log into the WordPress dashboard
So, you’ve now got WordPress successfully installed the next step is to login to the WordPress dashboard which is where you set everything up. Visitors to your website won’t see the dashboard unless they’re a user configured to access the site. To login go to http://your-domain/wp-admin and you should see a login box similar to this:
5. Clear out the default stuff
By default WordPress may have installed with some default themes, default plugins, some test posts and pages and default configuration, so before you start building your website it is useful to:
- Delete the test post (Dashboard>Posts)
- Delete the test page (Dashboard>Pages)
- Make sure the right default timezone is set correctly to your timezone and you have the right language selected (Dashboard>Settings>General)
6. Decide what commenting you’re going to allow
Decide whether you’re going to allow visitors to your site to comment on your blog posts (which generally is a good thing) and pages. If you are then you’ll need to invest in a comment-spam filter otherwise you’re site will be inundated with rubbish comments which will prove to be a pain. You can do this using Automattic’s own Akismet but you’ll need to buy a licence to use it. If you’re going to turn off comments, then you should do this before you forget (Dashboard>Settings>Discussion) and consider installing the Disable Comments plugin to deter comment spam via your media (images mainly).
7. Temporarily limit who can view the site
If you’re building a new site from scratch with a new domain it will take a while before Google stumbles across it and indexes it for search results, but if your site’s a work in progress then you should consider preventing search engine indexing (Dashboard>Settings>Reading) until you’re ready to go live (the other option is to install a password protection plugin (I sometimes use the Password Protected plugin).
8. Clear out any unwanted plugins
Have a look at the plugins (Dashboard>plugins) and remove any that you’re not going to use – in the long run it will mean you have less plugin updates to worry about.
9. Choose your theme
Choose a theme you want to use which you can do via Dashboard>Appearance>Themes or install one you’ve purchased (you should be able to install straight from the supplied zip file).
10. Get building
You’re then ready to configure the theme options (usually, but will depend on your theme, via Dashboard>Appearance), upload your content and get started with building your website.