Project WordPress, Part 1: Install, Setup, Optimization
Project WordPress is a series of in-depth tutorials on creating a custom blog - step by step, and from scratch. Read about how to tweak WordPress to your liking, about useful and must-be plugins, working with PHP and CSS, and using Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator professionally to create beautiful results: your very own, brand new WordPress Theme.
Part 1: WordPress Install, Setup, and Basic Optimization
In this first step of creating a whole new blog, we’ll take a look at wonderful WordPress and how we can set it up do do what we want. The standard install of WordPress is rather rudimentary, thus requires us to do a couple of adjustments, which, in our opinion, are crucial to creating a professional WordPress blog.
If you’ve never heard of WordPress before, read about it here. In essence, it’s a Content Management System (CMS) made especially, but not exclusively, for blogs. We love WordPress, and if you know it, so do you, right?
On a side note, we’re using the self-hosted version of WordPress (which is free as well), so you’ll want to sign up with a web hoster and register a domain name for your new blog. From the hundreds of available web hosters, we have a few of our affiliates for you: the Omnis Network offers quality webhosting from $5.95, including a domain. Click here to check them out.
You can also compare hosting plans at EasyCGI or give GoDaddy a shot (from $3.65, plus domain fee).
When you have a hosted domain name, you’re ready to start with the first step in the Project WordPress.
Step 1: Download, Setup & Install WordPress
Let’s go to wordpress.org and download the newest release of WordPress. Right now, that’s Version 2.5. Unzip the file, and open up the folder: We’ve got three folders and a couple of files. That’s WordPress, and it’s all we need.
Follow WordPress’ Famous 5-Minute Install on setting up the file wp-config.php to connect your new blog to a database on your server. Setting up a database is easy and usually only takes a few clicks, after which you get the necessary data - such as the database name and password - to write in the wp-config.php. Your web hoster will provide you with any info on that.
To work with source files such as PHP, you can use any text editor (no, Word is not a text editor). We like to use the free CoffeeCup HTML Editor.
Once you set up wp-config.php, you’ll need to upload all of WordPress’ files and folders on your server, preferrably via FTP. We’re working with FireFTP, a fantastic Firefox plugin, which is a perfect FTP client that you can have as a tab in Firefox. Give it a shot if you don’t know it yet. If you still use Internet Explorer - sorry, but we can’t help you… Only Firefox can.
Drag all of the WordPress files from your hard drive into the server file associated with your domain. Once everything is uploaded, call up http://YOURDOMAIN.com/wp-admin/install.php and follow the instructions on the screen. Write down your password, advance to the WordPress login page and log in to your brand new WordPress blog.
Step 2: Customize your Admin
We’ll now be using WordPress’ User and Settings options. You can find them in the top right corner of the WordPress backend:
Currently, you’re registered with WordPress as the administrator. This means that for every post you write, the author’s name will appear as “admin”. Unless you like it that way (we don’t), we should change this to a more personal designation.
So now, on our fresh WordPress Dashboard, before we do anything else, we click on Users to the upper right, then go to Your Profile.
We can leave the Personal Options the way they are. We want the visual editor, and we like the Fresh Admin Color Scheme. This is how your Backend looks - it’s where we are right now, as opposed to our blog’s Frontend.
Under Name, we don’t need to fill in our first and last name right now, but we’ll pick a new Nickname. This will be the author name of the posts we write on the blog. You can use your full name for that, just your first name or even a pseudonym.
Under Contact Info, we don’t need to do any changes right now. Also the Biographical Info under About Yourself can be left blank. But we should consider changing the Password, as we might have to log in from somewhere else and we don’t want to remember the generic password that WordPress has given us during the installation. So we change the password and click Update Profile. Voilà!
That’s already it for setting up our Admin, one more step to go:
Step 3: Optimize your WordPress Settings
WordPress is preset and ready-to-use as soon as you install it on your server. For it to run, you don’t need to follow these instructions, but we want it to do more than just run. We want it to run perfectly!
So what we’re going to do is make a few changes that might not seem like much, but are very important if we want to create a blog the right way.
In the upper right corner of our Backend, we click on Settings. We’ll go through each option one by one.
We can see the Blog Title we wrote there during the installation. Now, we need to take care of the Tagline. In most WordPress themes, the tagline appears somewhere in the header.
For branding reasons, it’s very important to write your own unique tagline - the very nature of the default line is contra productive! You don’t want your blog to be “Just another WordPress weblog”, but rather “Design Vibr8ions by the Bros.” - well, that applies for our blog only, not for yours, so be sure to pick your tagline carefully, describing what your new blog is all about.
Save the changes at the bottom of the page and go to the next entry:
Set the Size of the post box to 25 (that’s what works best for us, on our 1280×800 pixel monitor. Try this setting and change it later if you need to). The rest is in order, except for the last part: for Update Services, we should fill in more than just the standard pinging services. This WordPress option notifies pinging services, used by various websites and search engines, about new posts. So generally, we can say: the more, the better. And because we’re the Vibr8 Bros., we’ll provide you with the essential services right here! Copy and paste this complete list…
…into that field (overwriting the existing entry, it’s included). Now save the changes we made, for we’re moving on to…
For Blog pages show at most, change the value to 7. This is the amount of posts showing per page before you have to click “Older Entries” at the bottom of the page. On Vibr8bros.com, we have 5 posts showing, but for the blog we’re going to create, we’re using 7.
For Default article settings, check all three boxes. Yes, we want to ping the blogs we link to in our posts, even if it slows down publishing by a few seconds. When writing a post, we can also write trackbacks manually, but this option should still be checked. Trackbacks are important for traffic - if you want to know more about this, watch this short, but very insightful video on trackbacks.
For E-Mail me whenever, un-check Anyone posts a comment. You’ll get annoyed by this otherwise, trust us.
For Before a comment appears, leave everything the same. You don’t want to approve every single comment, but you do want to at least create a small barrier for comment spam, which is why we leave the other two options checked.
The last option, Comment author must have a previously approved comment, requires our attention: It means that the very first comment of every new visitor of your blog (identified by email and/or cookies) will not be published automatically, but go into moderation. That means that you’ll have to approve it before it’s being published. We leave this on for a few reasons:
- it gives you more control over what comments are being published,
- it helps prevent spammers, and
- it helps lead the commenter back to your site later in hopes that her comment has been published in the meantime, requiring at least a bookmark, if not even a subscription to your RSS feed.
It’s really quite simple: People comment on a post because they want to communicate their opinion. Of course, they’ll want to see their comment “live”, and see if anyone reacted to what they have to say. By leaving this option checked, we raise the likelihood of turning a one-time commenter into a loyal, returning reader.
For Comment Moderation and Comment Blacklist, we don’t change anything at this time.
For Avatars, we chose not to display Avatars on the blog we’re creating. This is because of the nature of the real-life blog, which will be revealed by the end of the series.
Yes, we definitely want out blog to be visible to everyone!
We will do a major change here which will improve our blog and post visibility and recognition value. For Common settings, with the default option, your posts will look something like this: http://YOURDOMAIN.com/?p=123. So if another blog wants to link to your amazing post, or someone wants to send their friend an e-mail containing the link, it will look that way, which is obviously not exactly helping your branding efforts. If you look at your browser’s address bar right now, you’ll see this link address:
The structure is domain, category, post. This looks a lot better than a cryptic code like the default.
So pick Custom Structure, then copy and paste the following in the empty field:
This will set the permalinks to your posts the way we want them to be.
The Optional section is in order, we don’t need to change that. So the only remaining settings are under…
For Store uploads in this folder, we leave the default setting as is. This is for images, videos and other media that we embed in our posts. It’s not necessary to change this if you’re setting up a WordPress blog that can be disclosed as such. If you’re creating a corporate site for a client though, you might want to change this to something like “files” or “content“.
The remaining options are in order as well. We’ll look at the Thumbnail sizes later on in the Project WordPress series, when we’ll take care of the blog styling with CSS.
Okaaaaay, ready to move on!
And this is it for setting up WordPress! We now have created the foundation for the next part of Project WordPress, in which we will discuss, install and setup absolutely essential and highly recommended WordPress Plugins. They are the same plugins we install for every new blog for one of our clients so be sure to check back for the next part soon.
Also, if you’re already familiar with WordPress, and what we just discussed is something you knew about for ages, then we’re sure that you’re gonna like the next part more than this one. Naturally, we’re starting on earth level before we crest the creamy top of Project WordPress.
So tell us, do you find this first part useful, or is it an old hat to you so far?