Using WordPress for Blogging and More
This article provides some instructions for anyone who would like to set up a basic website for themselves, but who does not have much experience with HTML, CSS, PHP, etc.
Much to the chagrin of some designers and programmers, there’s a variety of easy-to-use software available that makes building and publishing a blog or website easy for anyone, regardless of experience, to do. With a few clicks, you can make your own attractive and easy-to-maintain website for personal or business use.
It’s a drag-'n-drop, cut-'n-paste WYSIWYG world, folks.
While everyone has a preference, this article will focus on WordPress.
WordPress is one of many blogging platforms available and it’s free, easy to install, has an intuitive interface and has a lot of extensibility with a growing number of design themes and plugins available. Many people use it for blogging, but it can be used to build a website that allows the site owner(s) a great deal of flexibility, as far as creating new sections, adding functionality and features (with the free plugins), and adding and editing content without having to update all the other pages in the site.
Start Me Up
To get started, you need to have a domain name on a server that supports PHP and MySQL. Before you sign up for a plan, ask your hosting company if you can install WordPress on their servers, just to make sure they can support it. Then choose a plan that specifies Linux (as opposed to Windows) for PHP support.
Some hosts, like GoDaddy , offer WordPress as part of a number of tools you can use with your account, and you can install with just a few steps right thru their site. If you plan on using WordPress as the ‘engine’ to run your site, you want to install it in the root (i.e. main) directory; if you plan on using it as a blog as an addition to your site which has its own separate HTML pages, you would install it into its own directory (e.g. www.yoursite.com/blog, where ‘blog’ is the directory where you install WordPress).
If you decide to install it on your own, but aren’t 100% sure if you’re doing it correctly, follow WordPress’s ‘Famous 5-Minute Install’ instructions and you should be up and running in… well, about 5 minutes. Or you could try and have someone install it for you.
Make It Look Cool
Your new site looks like a generic blog, but now you can look for a new design theme. You can choose from a variety of styles based on parameters you choose, like 1 column, 2 column, green, red, left sidebar, right sidebar, etc. You can even choose a few and download them if you want to change your theme after you’ve installed it.
If you don't have one already, you’ll need an FTP client to install and apply your theme. Depending on your computer platform, you can search a site like VersionTracker for the software. Some are free, some are commercial or shareware; you can choose based on your needs, rating, cost, etc. If you are using a program like Dreamweaver, you just create a new site and you can use the interface and FTP function to manage your files and uploads.
Login to your server and upload your theme (in its folder) to the folder ‘themes’ located inside the ‘wp-content’ folder. When you login to your Dashboard thru your browser, go to “Presentation” and you’ll see the theme(s) you’ve installed. Choose one and you’re all set… for now.
One of the keys to making the site more than just one page with entries on it is to create Pages. WordPress sums up pages best (of course!):
Pages in a Nutshell
What Pages Are
• Pages are for content that is less time-dependent than Posts.
• Pages can be organized into pages and SubPages.
• Pages can use different Page Templates which can include Template Files, Template Tags and other PHP code.
What Pages are Not
• Pages are not Posts nor are they excerpted from larger works of fiction. They do not cycle through your blog's main page, nor can they be associated with Categories.
• Pages are not files. They are stored in your database just like Posts are.
• Although you can put Template Tags and PHP code into a Page Template, you cannot put these into the content of a Page and expect them to run. (Note: You can achieve this by using a PHP evaluating Plugin such as RunPHP (http://dev.wp-plugins.org/wiki/RunPHP). See also the list of Posts Formatting Plugins.)
Basically, you create sections like “Who We Are” or “My Photography Portfolio” when you create pages. You add a post to a page that you’d like to be more static (as opposed to a page that will be constantly changing as new posts are added, like a news page).
If you want one of your pages (say, “What We Do”, for example) to always be your home page, but you’d like to add posts to another page (say, “News”) you set this up on the Dashboard > Options > Reading page in your admin area. Choose ‘Static Page’ where it says “Front Page Displays”, specify “What We Do” to be the front page and “News” to be the Posts page.
You can explore more areas of the Dashboard to customize your site more, and even edit the theme under Presentation > Theme Editor. Here you can change the color of the text, links, etc. A piece of advice, though: before you start messing with the code, copy and paste it to a text document so you have the original in case you need to start over.
Whew! So, that’s about it for basic setup. I know, I know… “simple” should be less wordy, right? But once you set up your hosting account, install WordPress correctly and upload your theme, you’ll get the hang of fine-tuning the site to make it look like exactly what you want.
Next time: some must-have plugins and adding your own search engine.