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How to Install WordPress
This is part four of the One Week Blog Challenge series.
WordPress is a powerful blogging platform that can be modified in countless ways, either with off the shelf solutions or with custom programming. Before all that customization can take place, or indeed any blogging can occur, one has to get WordPress up and running. If the idea of setting up WordPress sounds intimidating then go ahead and take a short break and count to ten while remembering to breathe in and breathe out regularly and repeat the following mantra: there are many easy ways to install WordPress, but WordPress does not have to be hard to install. With that being said, there are basically two routes to seriously consider: the five minute install and installation via the incredibly useful and time saving Fantastico, which is essentially an automated install process for popular software packages.
New Bloggers and Non-Gear Heads Should be Wary of the 5 Minute Install
In all honesty, the five minute install that many refer to as ‘famous’ around the web certainly works, but it may not be for everyone. To wit, installing WordPress via Fantastico in a typical cPanel-based hosting solution is almost always going to be a much more time effective solution unless one has very specific reasons for going down the FTP route. Gathering all the information required to establish an FTP connection, downloading an FTP client, and learning the basics of FTP together can take a lot more than 5 minutes.
The times when the 5 minute install is a good idea would probably be those in which the very latest WordPress release is unavailable via Fantastico. This happens from time to time, but the difference between one version and the next can sometimes be substantial and other times may only resolve minor issues with add-on modules that most site operators will never even hear of.
Taking the Fantastic(o) Journey
To get the ball rolling with Fantastico is surprisingly easy, and it typically involves only four steps. The first step is to log in to the cPanel for the hosting account, and the login information is typically provided in some sort of a welcome e-mail. Failing that, www.yoursite.com/cpanel is usually a great way to access the cPanel of any given site, but a username and password are still required. Again, the username and password are often included in a welcome e-mail sent by the hosting company. Step two involves locating the Fantastico option, which is usually prominently displayed and usually comes in the form of a blue smiley-faced icon.
Once Fantastico is launched, which is usually very quick, simply click on the WordPress option on the menu. The menu is typically located on the left, and is conveniently broken down in many categories for different needs. Once the Fantasico WordPress option is selected, information about the WordPress offerings are usually offered in another pane including an option to install WordPress and the version that is currently offered. This version is not always the latest version of WordPress, but it is rarely out of date with most top tier hosts.
From here a guided menu system will ask all of the pertinent questions, which are all really quite simple. That’s really all there is to it: log in, click the Fantastico icon, select WordPress and install. The entire process can take less than a minute, and the site is usually available immediately as long as there are no outstanding DNS issues that are common when one first registers a site. In that case, the site will typically be available in 24 to 72 hours, but good hosts will show customers how to access their site in the interim period so that they can get to work right away.
The 5-minute FTP Option
Again, it is worth stressing that the FTP route may not be worth investigating if Fantastico is an option. If Fantastico is unavailable, then FTP may be the next best option. Before using the FTP, one will typically have to create a MySQL database and user with access/modify privileges to that database. This step is usually handled via cPanel’s integrated MySQL management system. The database name as well as the database user ID and password will be necessary for the next step: editing the wp-config-sample.php file. This file is well remarked and tells users exactly what to do, but it may not be as intuitive as every aspiring blogger would like. There is an additional step that needs to be done online before saving and renaming the file to wp-config.php, however, and that step is getting a set of secret keys. Keys can be randomly generated by the WordPress secret key generator, and the number of secret keys required continues to increase. As of WordPress version 2.7, the required number of keys is four, but that number is likely to increase over time for security reasons. Once all the information is entered, make sure to use the ‘save as’ feature to ensure that the file is now referred to as wp-config.php.
The entire WordPress folder needs to be uploaded to the correct site with an FTP program. This process is usually very simple for those who know what they are doing and have all the information that they need handy. Once the upload is complete, the site should be ready for immediate use.
Cheat Sheet : What You’ll Need to Know if You Use the Five Minute Install Method
- A reliable FTP program
- Hosting information (user name, password, port, and any other relevant data)
- A copy of the latest version of WordPress on a local drive or network storage device
- A few minutes of free time and perhaps a little patience to troubleshoot basic hosting problems
- Your desired website address, name, and a user name and password to be used by WordPress
- A basic text editor, which most operating systems come with
Cheat Sheet: What You’ll Need to Know if You Use Fantastico
- Your cPanel login information (username/password)
- Your desired website address, name, and a user name and password to be used by WordPress
If your website ends with blogger.com or typepad.com you might as well have perforated business cards
Once you have your hosting covered, go ahead and install WordPress – it’s the best blogging system out there and every single professional I know uses it. If you are on Dreamhost, Nick does a great job showing you the process of installing it (video #2) via Dreamhost’s One-Click Installation Panel. If you are on VPS.net, ask their customer support to do it for you. If you are hosted elsewhere, just follow the instructions on the WordPress site.
Added: Be sure to set your website to have the www version 301 redirect to non-www. Brevity is important these days (esp with Twitter), so I recommend going with http://hotshotphoto.com/ and not http://www.hotshotphoto.com/. In Dreamhost you can set this when you’re setting up the site. For other installs, check out Stuntdubl’s guide or use a plugin.
After installing WordPress, login and make the following settings adjustments.
Change Permalink Structure
Permalinks are the URL’s or URI’s that your website uses in the address bar of the browser when you write new posts to the site (ex: hotshotphto.com/this-is-a-permalink/). There are two permalink structures that I recommend using. Most of the time, I would use the following structure
The advantage of this is that it makes your posts self-explanatory, it adds keywords to the URL which is great for search engines, and looks clean. To enable this structure, go to Settings > Permalinks > select “Custom Structure” and enter /%postname%/ into the field.
Another option that I have been using for some of my websites recently is using just the post number
The disadvantages with this structure are that you don’t have keywords in your URL to help search engines and it’s not self-explanatory what the post is about. The advantages are that it keeps your URL’s short and clean – so if you have a short domain name and someone tweets your post, your retain the URL rather than having it automatically shortened via bit.ly or tinyurl.com etc. (The other small advantage is that having a number in your URL is a requirement to get into Google News, but that’s probably not anything most people have to worry about). To enable this structure, go to Settings > Permalinks > select “Custom Structure” and enter /%post_id%/ into the field.
For hotshotphoto.com I am using the /%postname%/ structure.
I recommend changing these settings in the WordPress backend as well:
Under Settings > General
- Change your tagline to something that describes your blog
- Set the time zone and preferred date format
Under Settings > Writing
- Under writing settings – uncheck “Convert emoticons like
:-Pto graphics on display”
Under Settings > Discussion
- Other comment settings – check “Enable threaded (nested) comments 3 levels deep”
- Other comment settings – uncheck “Break comments into pages”
- Avatars – Default Gravatar – Enable “Gravatar Logo” (or you can go with MonsterID if you want the cartoons to show up next to people’s comments)
- Avatars – Change maximum rating to PG
Next up – Make your site look good!