WordPress is a content management system (CMS), ideal for those who have no time to learn html, CSS or complex programming languages to build a website. This is one of the fastest growing CMS and really easy to start with and maintain. For advanced users, WordPress can be as easy as installing it on web server and start creating web pages or blogs. However, if you are a beginner with very little or no knowledge in website development, installing WordPress and customizing it can be overwhelming. But rest assured, once you have installed it correctly, everything will be taken care by WordPress. You just have to focus on writing the articles and creating contents!
In this wordpress tutorial, we will cover the basics of WordPress – Getting WordPress installed and running, customization, plug-ins and about useful techniques and best practices.
Maintaining a website with WordPress is really easy and it does not require any knowledge of web programming or development. This is one of the main reasons for wordpress being so popular. WordPress websites are search engine friendly also; that is why you see so many of them appearing on the top positions of search results. Using WordPress saves you from manually creating web pages and allowing you to focus on content building and other useful activities.
WordPress is completely freely available for download. With WordPress, you can create any type of website. It may be a personal website, a business website or even a shopping cart. But WordPress is mostly used as a blogging platform. With WordPress you get full control over the customization, content and even source codes.
What makes WordPress so popular is support of themes and plug-ins. With themes, you can change the entire look of your website effortlessly with just a few clicks without changing the content and settings. Plug-in is a small program which adds to the functionality of WordPress. In fact there are thousands of plugins freely available and you can find one for all your requirements. But who creates so many themes and plugins? Actually these are all created by various designers, bloggers and developers who wish to help other community members.
There are two ways of creating a website with WordPress.
- With wordpress.com you can immediately start a blog for free. Here, you get free hosting and do not require domain registration.
- You download WordPress from wordpress.org and install on server space you rent from your web host.
Going with free hosting (first option) has some limitations – You are restricted to a few themes and plug-ins and can’t change the source code as per your need. You cannot modify the stylesheet (otherwise you have to pay for it) and can’t display any ads or affiliate links. Here, we will discuss about the second option where you need to have your hosting account and domain name ready.
Many of the popular web hosting plans today comes with an option to install WordPress automatically. If your web host provides you with this option, you are just a few clicks away from installation. A few web hosting companies has special WordPress hosting plans. You need to log in to your web hosting account to see if it has WordPress auto installer available. If you don’t find this option in your hosting account, you need to follow these steps. But before doing that just make sure that your web hosting account has PHP and MySQL support (which is normally available with almost all web hosts these days).
- Go to wordpress.org and download the latest version of WordPress. The installation files are available in zip folder; unzip it into your hard drive.
- Login to your web hosting account and look for MySql section or phpMyAdmin. Create a new database and a MySQL user with all the permission to modify it. If you’re not sure how to create the database you may contact your hosting provider for help.
- Open the WordPress folder and look for wp-config-sample.php. Rename wp-config-sample.php to wp-config.php and open it in any text editor.
- Fill in MySQL database details in the wp-config.php file and save it. You will get the hints inside the file itself.
- Upload the WordPress files in the desired location on your web server:
- If you want to integrate WordPress into the root of your domain (e.g. http://myownsite.com/), move or upload all contents of the unzipped WordPress directory into the root directory of your web server.
- If you want to have your WordPress installation in its own subdirectory on your web site (e.g.http://myownsite.com/blog/), create the blog directory in root directory of your server and upload WordPress to the directory via FTP.
- Now, run the WordPress installation script by accessing wp-admin/install.php in a web browser like following
- http://myownsite.com/wp-admin/install.php (for root directory)
- http://myownsite.com/blog/wp-admin/install.php (for subdirectory)
If you do everything correctly, your WordPress should be installed now. After installation you will be given a login and randomly generated password to the admin area. Test run your newly installed WordPress site by accessing with your domain name (followed by ‘/blog’ if you installed WordPress in ‘blog’ subdirectory).
The WordPress installation directory has three main folders (wp-admin, wp-content, and wp-includes). It also has a few other files in the root directory. The wp-content folder has two important subfolders: plugins and themes. When you upload a plugin or theme to these folders using FTP, the plugin or theme is available for activation inside your WordPress admin panel. Also, any images or multimedia file you upload when creating a post or page in WordPress are stored in the wp-content/uploads folder.
Accessing your WordPress Admin area
To login to the website admin area, go to www.myownsite.com/wp-admin/ and use login and password you have received during installation.
After logging in, you’ll see the admin panel that you use to write posts and modify your WordPress. Spend sometime to explore the various options available here. Don’t get overwhelmed by the number of buttons, links and other options, soon you’ll get used to it. The main management menu is located on the left and there are lots of settings to play around with. Some of the main menu:
- Posts tab: write or manage posts for your blog.
- Media tab: Add or manage pictures and multimedia files
- Links tab: Add or manage links to your website
- Pages tab: Write or manage Web Pages
- Appearance tab: install/change your theme, configure your sidebar, and see the code of your theme’s files.
- Comments tab: see and manage the latest comments on your site.
- Plugins tab: Install or manage the plug-ins
- Users Tab: Control the users and authorizations
- Settings Tab: To do various settings in the website
There is nothing which can’t be undone, so explore and research to the full extent which will also help you to get accustomed with WordPress dashboard.
WordPress General Configuration
You should configure some basic settings in your website at the beginning, such as the website title, tagline, time zone, and your personal information. Click the Settings tab on the far right, and then browse through the available subtabs – General, Writing, Reading, Discussion, Privacy, Permalinks, and Miscellaneous. You have a lot of options available with you. Play around and set as per your wish. Just one suggestion: Enable permalinks to make your URLs intelligible names that reflect the title of your post, rather than something like ?p=123. Comments also need configuration. By default, comments must be approved before they appear on your site, let it remain unchanged.
Just ensure the following before you leave settings:
- Set the blog title and tagline by going to Settings > General. Usually the blog title and tagline automatically appear in your website header.
- Set the correct time zone by going to Settings > General and selecting the appropriate UTC number in the Timezone section.
Install a new design theme
The WordPress is installed with the default theme which you may like to change. As mentioned earlier, there are thousands of free and paid WordPress themes available online. Search and find a free theme which you find useful and eye catching. There are lots of websites online, and you just have to google it. One of the resources to WordPress themes is http://wordpress.org/showcase/ which is reliable and has user recommendations and notes. There’s a list of categories available and you can also search by tags like white, clean, orange, minimal etc. Once you find the theme you like download it to your computer and unzip the files. Upload the folder with the theme to ‘wp-content/themes’ directory and it will be available in the admin panel of your WordPress. Log in to your admin panel and go to Appearance > Themes.
Optionally, you can search and install themes from your WordPress admin panel. Just go to Appearance > Themes > Install themes and find out the theme of your choice from collection.
Before actually applying it, preview how the new theme looks on your site with various web browsers like Firefox, Chrome and IE. After selecting a new theme, you may configure the header, sidebar and page navigation.
Creating a Post
Posts are nothing but the blog entries you write. Go to Posts > Add new for creating a new blog. Put the title and contents, do the formatting as per your need, select or create a category, and then click the Publish button. Writing posts is the most common activity you’ll do if you are going to primarily use your website as a blogging site. When you write blog posts, keep your paragraphs short, use subheadings, include images, and make the contents interesting. Create and/or select appropriate categories and tags for your post.
Creating a Page
Unlike posts, pages are used to create static contents of your website. Just like posts, go to Pages > Add New to make a new page for your website. Here also you have to put a page tile and content. Once your content and formatting is ready, you can preview and publish it. In case of pages, you do not need to select categories and tags.
What are categories?
Categories help you to organize the hundreds of posts that you’ll be writing. By assigning the posts into different categories, you allow visitors to browse archives of only that category. To create a category, click the +Add New Category link in the Categories section in the right side of the post you’re writing. You can select multiple categories for the same posts. To manage your categories, go to Posts > Categories.
What are tags?
Tags are the index keywords for your posts which help your readers to broadly understand the contents of your post. If you click a tag name below your post, it will show all posts with the same tag, helping you find similar content in your website. You can add tags to your posts by typing the tag names in the Tags section in the right side of the post. You can also manage your tags by going to Posts > Tags. You can see them below the published post, if tags are enabled in your theme.
This is it for the beginners! If you have followed this WordPress Tutorial, by now you are already knowledgeable to get your WordPress website up and running. You can define the appearance of your website by installing themes and do fine tuning by adjusting header, sidebar and page navigation. And most importantly, you can create the unlimited contents for your website and put them in various categories and tags.
In the next section of WordPress guide, we will learn to make changes for customization, know about the must have plug-ins, setting up the author’s information and best practices. Till then have fun with your newly built website with WordPress!