WordPress is the leading “blog-publishing” CMS application, used by millions of websites. But, if you’re new to the game, it’s not exactly clear or intuitive how this wonderful software goes from sitting on a server to running your next great website, at least not without some simple directions.
Therefore, here are some simple directions.
You may already know that WordPress is a free Open Source application that comes in two flavors, the version they host (WordPress.com) for you and the version you host (WordPress.org) on a server of your choice (e.g., BlueHost, MediaTemple, HostGator, etc.). These directions assume you’re opting for the latter and therefore want to figure out how to get WordPress onto your host.
The answer is that nowadays, most hosts already have WordPress waiting to be installed. So, the question becomes How do I install WordPress.
Given what I said above, this step assumes that you have a hosting account with an ISP (yet another hame for a host), perhaps one of the aforementioned.
Log into your Hosting Account and look for a “one-click” installation feature or service provided for you by your host. Some hosts use Simple Scripts, which are tools for installing a variety of software, that their customers can use instead of installing applications by hand (using an FTP client, figuring out which thing gets installed first, what settings have to be edited, etc.).
Locate the Simple Script for WordPress and follow its instructions.
This will install WordPress in a folder or directory of your choice, on your server (or host) and then it will give you the login information to your new site (it will email it to you too).
The process tends to ask you what you want to call your new WordPress site. This becomes the title the site uses throughout and what search engines will index as the name of your site, which is distinct from your URL or your site’s address.
Depending on how you’re going to be using your WordPress-based website, as your main site or as a blogging appendage or even a product-category appendage, you’ll either want or not want to create a folder for the installation. If you do not create a folder for the installation, you’ll be installing WordPress in the root directory or in the main folder of your server, at the top, as it were. If you install it in its own folder, you’re placing it in a “subdirectory.” This can be useful for keeping things isolated and neat, but I’ve never used this approach.
Log Into WordPress
Now that you’ve installed WordPress on your server, and now that you have your login information (Login link, Username, Password), you’ll want to actually log into your new site.
Upon first arriving at your site (http://www.addressformynewsite.com) you’ll see WordPress 3.2.+’s current default Theme in use, Twenty Eleven. It will have a welcome message and a sample Page, Post, Comment and a few other things that may catch you off guard since you haven’t added any content to your site yet. As I said, these are samples. You can edit them for your own use, but it’s better to simply create new ones (Add New Page, Add New Post, etc.) to keep the paths to each item clear and making sense.
Even though you may have named your site during the installation process, this is the step at which you may want to change the site title or add a slogan or description to your site, so as to remove the default “Yet Another WordPress Blog” slogan that populates the description field in your general settings with any new WordPress installation.
So, to change this, you’ll have to log into the administrative side of your site. The login link you’ll be emailed and provided by your SimpleScript installation will take you to this side of your site. Yes, your new WordPress site is basically two sites, the admin tool that allows you to edit and manage your site and the public or front-facing side that is what you’ll recognize as “your website.”
Once you’ve logged into the admin of your new site, you’ll see a vertical toolbar or navbar on the left with all of the basic settings panels for your site. Towards the bottom you’ll find Settings and within the expanding box there you’ll find General Settings. This is where you can change your site’s title and the description to something more suitable.
The rest of the settings panels are relatively self-explanatory. Feel free to explore them now or later.
Figure Out What You Want to Do with WordPress
This step could take a long time or a short time, depending on what your objectives are and how much you know about WordPress to begin with. Since WordPress is so easy to use to publish content, if you don’t know what your specific goal is with your site, I recommend simply moving forward and adding content, such as some text on your Homepage, an About page, a Contact page, and so forth. Once you’ve begun this process, your understanding of what is possible with your new site will grow exponentially and you’ll be better suited to figure out what you want to accomplish with your new site.
If you don’t like the way your new WordPress site looks, you can change it on-the-fly if your installation has other WordPress Themes installed. This is how WordPress sites manage the look or design of the public side of your new site, through Themes (with a capital “T”). If you only have the two current default WordPress Themes, Twentyten and Twentyeleven, and want more, the Themes settings (or editing) panel found in the left-hand navbar column also has a tab labeled Install Themes. This tab allows you to search through the more than 1200 free WordPress Themes available for your use and modification. Another place and perhaps an easier way to find these and review them is at the WordPress.org Themes gallery. If you find something you like here, you can download it and then upload it to your site (using an FTP client). However, that’s a hassle you can avoid by simply doing a search for the name of whatever Theme you’ve found, through your site’s Install Themes panel, and then you can install that Theme with one click.
To make your site use that new Theme, all you do is activate it, either just after installing it or at any time by visiting your installed Themes under Appearance, Themes in the admin side of your site.
As powerful as WordPress is “right out of the box,” so to speak, there’s a universe of additional functionality you can capitalize on through the addition of plugins. Plugins are software written by third parties, some of which realize that not everyone is a brainiac computer user and some who don’t. Also, plugin developers are all over the world and therefore may or may not have a grasp of English as we mangle it here in the United States. So, you may find perfectly great plugins to use that have horrible or no documentation. This can be a frustrating process of trying plugins out and muddling along as you learn how they do what they claim to do.
Nonetheless, the end result is an amazing and seemingly exponential expansion of the power of your new dynamically-generated website.
If the last two steps haven’t covered what you want or need to do to your site to have it look or behave a certain way, you’ll then have to resort to tinkering with the CSS that controls your site’s Theme. The best way to do this is not to edit the CSS stylesheet file that your Theme uses, but rather to create a copy of your Theme (sort of) and edit the stylesheet in that one. This practice is referred to as using Child Themes and it has the benefit of allowing your installed Themes to be upgraded without risking losing all the hard work you may have put into editing your Theme to look the way you want.
The main way to alter the look of your site, and perhaps the most important, is to add content. Content can be text you’ve written, photos or images of whatever you area of interest is, and or other content or tools even that contribute to making your site a real destination.
WordPress therefore has two basic building blocks in terms of what kinds of content you can add to your site. If you’re familiar with blog entries, you’ve seen Posts. Posts are pages of text (with or without images, etc.) that are archived on your site based on when they were written. If you’re writing or blogging about kittens, any entries you’ve made about kittens will be stored according to several variables, the creation date and the category within which your Posts fit most logically.
Which brings put notion of Categories. Categories are a powerful way of managing your Post content and as you become more familiar with your new WordPress site and plugins you’ll learn how categories can really turn your new blog into a bona fide CMS or Content Management System.
If you have taken all of these steps and added your content, or at least begun to, you now have a working and very powerful new WordPress-powered website. As you can probably surmise, making it more powerful and more effective, particularly as a marketing tool for a business simply calls for identifying what you need and want it to do and finding whatever tools, plugins, feeds or other sites will help you accomplish this.
Blog on a Regular Basis
From a Search-Engine-Optimization or SEO point of view, the very best thing you can do, other than having your website be a dynamically-generated website such as your new WordPress site, is to add fresh and relevant or useful content on a relatively consistent basis.
Integrate your WordPress Site
Integrating your WordPress site simply means connecting it to the rest of the Web 2.0 world, which immediately means connecting it to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and anything else that would help your content, mission or business to get more attention. Again, plugins are here to help you connect to these various sources.
These basic steps should easily take you from zero to sixty on the racetrack of WordPress usage. Where you take it from there is up to you. If you have any questions, feel free to come back here and ask, either by commenting here or by sending a message via the Contact page.
Good luck and have fun.