I made a regular post with some details about what WordPress is and how it works. This page will be more of a list of useful resources I’ve found.
There are a couple of choices to make if you want a WordPress blog. The WordPress universe is divided into two major camps including:
WordPress.com is a commercial enterprise which offers free hosting accounts to all comers, along with a variety of premium services. WordPress.com uses a version of the WordPress software which they have customised for their own use.
WordPress.org is the online home of the Open Source WordPress project and is where you go to download the software. It.includes a vast archive of support information including the Codex (documentation) and User Forums.
Full details of all the differences between the two options is here. The major differences are that:
WordPress.com offers free hosting, uncomplicated and quick setup and, for a small fee, you can even apply your own domain name to your site. It is the best solution for casual blogging but it does have some limitations, including the fact that you cannot have display adverts or use custom themes or plugins.
WordPress.org provides the software in an unlimited form but you have to find your own place on the web. There is a list of recommended hosts you can choose from, or you can install the package in the server space provided by most Web hosting companies, providing they use Microsoft or Unix servers which support recent versions of PHP and MYSQL. Some web hosts provide an automated setup for WordPress but you have to fiddle about under the bonnet in other cases.
I started out with a WordPress.com site which was a very valuable experience getting to know how WordPress works. After a couple of months, I decided that I wanted more complete control over my site. I did not find any South Africa-based web hosts, that I had ever heard of, who offered sites with WordPress pre-installed. I had used Hetzner.co.za before and, when I heard that their servers were perfectly compatible with WordPress, I decided to establish my site there.
I did not find these articles in time to save me from major hassles but I’d suggest you take a look at the following:
As things turned out, the process was very easy and involved the following steps:
- Log in to the website control panel and create a MYSQL database, making careful note of the database name, the username, password and the hostname for the database.
- Download the latest version of WordPress from WordPress.org, unzip it and upload all the files to the website in the location you want them.
- Run the WordPress 5-Minute install and enter the required database details when asked.
- Log into the admin module and customise the blog to your requirements by adding different themes and plugins.
- The full procedure for Hetzner.co.za is outlined on the Hetztner site and it should be pretty similar for other hosts, who do not have automated install.
WordPress comes with two built-in themes which you can use, but you can use the Themes section of the Dashboard to search for others.
Many themes are pretty simple and cannot readily be customised by people who don’t know their way around CSS code. You may be lucky and find one that suits you, but you may prefer to go for a theme that can be customised from the dashboard.
The most customisable-looking one that I’ve so far come across is Chris Person’s Thesis and will cost you $87 for a single site, or $164 for unlimited ones. There is a video on this page which will show you what can be done with it and, incidentally, give you an idea of customisable themes work in general.
Being a person who is careful with my money (darn Scots ancestors), I carried on looking and eventually came up with the free Basic Simplicity theme by Michael Janzen. It doesn’t have quite the features that Thesis does, but it offers an awful lot for the price.
Plugins can be installed from the Plugins sections of the Dashboard and you’ll have to suit yourself about the ones you need.
There are apparently issues with running too may plugins (it can slow the site down) but I reckon you’ll probably need at least
- WordPress.com Stats: to keep track of the visitors to your site.
- Akismet: A filter which filters out comments on your blog posts that it thinks are SPAM.
The easiest way of getting those plugins installed, is to go to WordPress.com and sign up for a free account. Make sure that the site works and then got to your own site and install the WordPress.com Stats and Akismet through the Add New option in the Plugins section of your dashboard. Along the way, for both plugins, you will need the WordPress.com API key you gained when you opened your WordPress.com account. The plugin installation processes will prompt you where to find your API Key.
Many WordPress templates are what is known as Widget-aware meaning that you can place items onto pages in various locations set by the Theme designer. To add a brief description of the site to each page, for example, you would add a text Widget to the sidebar area, and type text into that.
There are a quite a few widgets that come with WordPress including a listing of recent posts, a text widget, a search feature, and a number of others. Some plugins, such as the Advertising Manager, will add further a widget, which, in that example, you can use to place adverts on your pages.
You can place a widget anywhere where the Theme designer has made provision for it. Basic Simplicity, for example, lets you add widgets to the sidebar or to a number of other locations including the bottom of each post. The Basic Simplicity site has more details
- Installing a few WordPress blogs on a single website.
- Installing a huge number of WordPress blogs on a single website.
- WordPress.org Codex (documentation)
- WordPress.org User Forums
- Putting together a WordPress website in a weekend.
- There are a wealth of video tutorials here. Just be aware that some of the videos refer to WordPress.com blogs, although much of that is applicable to both.
- You could also do a search on YouTube for some videos.