So you’re ready to start a new WordPress website, and you want to install it on your own web hosting account. Perhaps you need a little help getting from A to B. We’ve put together a quick summary of the installation process, with a few tips on plugins and optimisation to get you off to the best start.
Before You Begin
WordPress (the organisation) runs two sites which are entirely separate from each other.
- WordPress.com provides free WordPress blogs hosted on WordPress’ own server. It’s a convenient (but limited) way of creating a new blog.
- WordPress.org is a massive resource site for people who are setting up WordPress on their own server. This is the site we’re referring to in this guide.
Quick & Easy: The One-Click Route
One-click installs are by far the quickest way to get up-and-running with WordPress. Your host might offer a specific WordPress hosting package, or they might provide shared hosting customers with a one-click option, allowing you to install WordPress through a script installer like Softaculous.
If they do, simply head to the one-click installer in your hosting control panel and follow the instructions. Your site will be ready to go within a couple of minutes.
The Manual Install Route
If your host doesn’t provide a one-click install, you’ll need to set aside an hour to set WordPress up yourself. Manual installs aren’t necessarily difficult, but you need to follow the instructions to the letter.
You’ll also need to be familiar with FTP, phpMyAdmin and your control panel (often cPanel or Plesk). If you’re not familiar with those tools, you should set aside some extra time.
To get started, grab the latest WordPress zip file from WordPress.org. You’ll see a download link on the home page.
I won’t write a detailed guide to the manual install process, because WordPress have already done a fantastic guide. Head to http://codex.wordpress.org/Installing_WordPress#Famous_5-Minute_Install for instructions on setting up your databases and uploading your files.
Tip: It’s normal to slip up the first time you install WordPress. If you make any mistakes at this early stage, it’s perfectly safe to delete your files and database, re-download the zip file and start again, armed with your new expertise. If you have content on your site already, don’t delete the database if you get stuck. For tips with common issues, visit http://codex.wordpress.org/Installing_WordPress#Common_Installation_Problems.
Refining Your New WordPress Blog
Now WordPress is installed, you’ll need to customise it.
Choosing the right theme is essential. Luckily, you have plenty of options. Try out a few live demos and find a theme that suits the purpose of your site.
- Choose a free theme from WordPress or WPMU Dev (signup is required to access WPMU Dev’s freebies).
- Pay for a theme from Theme Forest, WPMU Dev, Woo Themes or Elegant Themes.
The default WordPress link structure is cryptic and not very user-friendly. It’s also not good for SEO. Change the settings before you start adding content – it makes WordPress a lot easier to navigate and understand.
- From the WordPress dashboard, head to Settings -> Permalinks. Choose any of the first four options.
If you forgot to do this don’t worry. Change your Permalinks setting at any time – it won’t break your site.
WordPress themes require customisation, so set aside some time to deal with that. Generally speaking, simpler themes are easier to customise, although you might still need some professional help.
While you’re playing around with your site, you may wish to hide it from prying eyes until you’re ready to launch. If so, install Ultimate Maintenance Mode or WP Maintenance Mode. These handy plugin allows blog administrators access to the site while hiding it from other visitors.
- From the WordPress dashboard, head to Plugins -> Add New and search for your preferred plugin.
In its default state, WordPress comes with two plugins: Akismet and Hello Dolly. Enable and activate Akismet now. It’s a set-and-forget plugin which automatically deals with spam comments, so getting this out of the way now will save you a lot of time later.
If you don’t need any more plugins at this stage, it’s best not to add any. However, there’s a good chance you’ll need a few basics.
- A contact form. Contact Form 7 is free; Gravity Forms is more capable, but you’ll have to pay for it.
- Social bookmarking tools. These plugins allow you to automatically embed social sharing links. Take a look at AddThis, Social Media Icons and Digg Digg.
- Cookie notifications. In the UK, it’s a legal requirement to notify your visitors that they’re being tracked with cookies. Luckily the WP Cookie Law plugin allows you to quickly add a disclaimer.
Fancy extending your blog even further?
- Disqus is a commenting system used by several large websites. Once a user’s registered on Disqus, they can comment on any blog with Disqus installed without having to create a new account. It can be installed in a few minutes and seamlessly replaces your blog’s native commenting system.
- SEO is important. Consider the All In One SEO Pack, Platinum SEO Pack or Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin. All are free, but you can donate or upgrade if you like them.
- Consider redirecting your WordPress feed URL to Feedburner. Feedburner provides statistics about your follower count and makes your feed much more user-friendly. Try the TentBlogger FeedBurner RSS Redirect plugin.
- Monitoring 404 errors can improve your user experience. Use the Redirection plugin to capture any requests for missing content.
We hope this guide will help you set up a fantastic new WordPress website. If you have any questions, feel free to comment!