In this article I’m going to help you get started on your first WordPress Website. Before we do that, let me explain what WordPress can do for you… If you don’t know what a content management system is (CMS), it is the ability to manage your own content without the need of editing files. Quite simply, it’s the best thing to ever happen to the way we manage our content. There are hundreds of thousands of websites on the web using WordPress as its content management system, and after I get done with you, you’ll have your very own too.
Let’s first get past the whole idea of hiring a web designer, because you don’t need one for this! The best things in life are free, as they say; knowledge is free and lucky for you, WordPress is free too. The first things you need to do are to visit WordPress’s website, and download the latest version of WordPress. The download will be a ZIP archive; it will most likely be around two megabytes in size. Remember, it doesn’t install on your computer; it installs on your web host, and I’ll explain next what a web host is, so for now all you want to do is download it.
Next you will need to get hosting for your website. I would recommend something from Godaddy or 1and1 because they have good customer service and give you a free domain or free hosting with the purchase of one or the other. Make sure you get PHP Linux shared hosting, because WordPress is written in a scripting language known as PHP. Once you have your hosting, and they’ve told you how to upload your files (FTP), then you should proceed to setting up a MySQL database, so WordPress can store all of your content.
You will need your MySQL login details. Your login to your MySQL database will be provided to you from your host (user, pass, server, database name). You’re on your way to starting your very own WordPress Website. Fun times! Go ahead and unzip the contents of your WordPress ZIP (the one you downloaded from the WordPress.org website), and begin uploading the files through an FTP software (your host can help you with that). After you’ve gotten your files onto your site, you now need to configure your WordPress installation. And when I say configure, I mean WordPress will do almost all of the work for you.
WordPress makes it too easy to setup. When you go to access your website through a web browser, WordPress will immediately detect if it has been installed, and give you instructions on how to proceed. It will ask you for the MySQL database login, the title of your new website (blog title), and some other minor details. If you had trouble installing, just back track to make sure you did everything right (and make sure you uploaded to the right folders!)
Now you have WordPress installed! Excellent work! It’s time to get a little more technical, because if you made it this far, I have faith that you can get a theme installed.
The best place to go for WordPress themes would be smashingmagazine.com. Their site may seem overwhelming at first, but you’ll get over it. Look on the right sidebar which has a bunch of links, and scroll down to the end looking for WordPress Themes. Click the number “1” next to “WordPress themes” to view their first Free Top Rated WordPress Themes. Browse through their themes, until you find the one you really like. All you need to do now is download their theme from the download link (to your hard drive), and then get your FTP software loaded again, because it’s time to upload your theme!
In the FTP on your website you will see a folder that says “wp-content”. Go ahead and open that folder, then open “themes”, and then you will see 2 folders (default and classic). Go ahead and upload your theme’s folder into the “themes” folder, so your newly downloaded theme shows up next to the other folders. Once the theme is uploaded, all we have to do now is activate it in WordPress. Open your WordPress Admin and login. On the left navigation you will see lots of stuff, like Posts, Pages, Tools, etc. Go ahead and click the “Appearance” button. Do you notice anything in here that looks familiar: Perhaps the theme you downloaded? Click the “activate” link underneath the thumbnail of the template you uploaded, which will then turn on your new WordPress theme. If everything went right, you should now be able to see your new theme on your website!
Alright! So far you’ve learned how to download WordPress, and install it…
It’s time to put some content into your theme!
WordPress makes it too easy to add content. Let’s add a new page, called ‘Services’. In the WordPress admin, click the “Pages” button. A new list will unfold under the Pages button, click “Add New”. Type in the title box: Services. And in the big box below it, type in some services you offer. You can put any type of details you want. Once you finish typing in the page information, you should now publish your post so it can be seen on your website. Click the “Publish” button, and WordPress will display a nice little box above your Title box saying that it has successfully saved your page. Too Easy.
Before we continue, let me explain the differences between Posts, Pages and Categories… Posts are generally used to accumulate articles on your website. If you were to add a new article to your site each day, which people would add comments to, then posts would be the right section to use. Pages are the more general “static” information on your site, such as your home page, about, contact, services, FAQ, etc. Categories are used to organize your posts. Basically, you can setup “Bob’s Blog” category or “Mary’s Blog Spot” category, etc, and store posts in those categories. It’s extremely useful for keeping track of all your content, so I would highly recommend you learn how to use Categories.
It’s easy, let me explain…
To add “Categories”, click the “Posts” button in your admin. In the unfolding menu below that button, you will see the Categories link. Click on it, and then you will see some more boxes asking you to input information. By default WordPress comes with some test categories, posts and pages; and oddly enough you can’t delete the categories, so the best thing to do is just edit the first category item “uncategorized”. Once you’ve created your new category, just go back to the post you want to put in a category and on the right hand side where the Publish button is, look below and you will see some Check boxes of Categories for you to assign your post. I think you can figure out how to save, add and edit things at this point.
Let’s talk about making your new WordPress website a bit more Search Engine Friendly…
The first thing I do when I install WordPress is turn on Permalinks. If you’re unsure what that is, it’s a tool WordPress includes to make your URL’s friendlier.
To turn on “Permalinks”, click the “Settings” button in the admin. You will see “Permalinks” show up in the unfolded menu; go ahead and click it. Where it says “Custom Structure”, put this in that box: /%postname%/ — If you think you’re more advanced, you can view the other predefined structures it has as well, but this is the one I like to use the most, because it’s simple.
So what’s next? There’s a very big collection of WordPress information out there for you to research. If you want to learn about extending your WordPress, visit the WordPress Community on WordPress.org, and browse around the user contributed plug-ins. Words of advice though, remember to ALWAYS back up your database and site FTP files before you add extensions to WordPress. The author of the extension will warn you as well. Sometimes things just go wrong! Some helpful plug-ins can be found at smashingmagazine.com, the same way you found the themes. They have excellent content and articles!
To the success of your new WordPress website!