WordPress is without doubt one of the most flexible platforms available for bloggers. I’ve recently setup a few installs of the package on Blacknight Solutions servers. It really is childs play to get up and going, assuming you know the basics required to get a website online. This tutorial will hopefully guide you through the basics, if you haven’t installed WordPress before.
Assuming you’ve managed to purchase both a domain, and hosting with Blacknight on a Linux package, the first step in setting up your site is to get all of your passwords ready.
Obtaining FTP details
You should have received an account logon and password for the Blacknight control panel, this enables you to get other passwords that you’ll need for the installation process – namely your FTP details and the database passwords. An FTP server is simply the computer your website files sits on, and in order to change the website sometimes you have to change the files.. It’s also worth noting down the location of your temporary website address. This is an address located on the Blacknight servers that gives instant access to your website, before your domain name is ready. Remember that the minute you purchase a domain, it isn’t instantly available. Your domain name provider (in this case Blacknight) takes care of this for you, and it takes normally 24 to 48 hours to appear live. Login to your control panel with you assigned username and password received in your welcome pack email.
Obtaining MySQL details
The next thing to get ready, is the MySql database. WordPress requires a database to hold your data, and your blog posts etc will all be held in this. Click on databases down the left hand side, and select Add New database. Change the type from MS SQL (Microsoft SQL Server) to MySQL version 5. Click next, and add a username and a password. Write these details down as well on another snippet of paper. This will be what WordPress uses to talk to the database.
Downloading an FTP Client
If you don’t already have one installed, you’ll need to download whats known as an FTP client. An FTP client is used for two machines to transfer files to each other securely on the web. It is what you’ll use to send the WordPress files from your desktop, up to your webserver. I personally would recommend FileZilla – it hasn’t let me down to date, and is very stable. Download a release of it here.
Ok so you’ve got your FTP client downloaded, and installed. The next thing to do is download a copy of WordPress from the website. WordPress.org will have the latest release available. Download to your desktop, and use something like Winzip to extract the files. If you are on a newer version of Windows you should be able to right click then extract.
The next stage is to rename and open one of the WordPress configuration files in a text editor. The file you should be looking for is titled wp-config-sample.php. You’ll need to open this in the text editor, and change the details. This is where you need to plug the database information you wrote down earlier.
/** MySQL database username */
define(‘DB_USER’, ‘username’); /*replace username with your username*/
/** MySQL database password */
define(‘DB_PASSWORD’, ‘password’);/*replace password with your password*/
/** MySQL hostname */
define(‘DB_HOST’, ‘insert db host’); /* this will be the database host name or ip address*/
Ok, so now you’ve got your config file saved, you need to rename it from wp-config-sample.php to wp-config.php. Careful you don’t lose the file extension. If it’s saved with your particular database, username and password information inside it, you can now upload to your webhost.
Uploading to your webhost
Open up FileZilla that you downloaded earlier. You’ll have to create what’s known as the site manager. Do so by going to File > Site Manager. Create a new site (call it whatever you want) – and plug in the details..as shown below, replacing the information with the FTP data that you have written down earlier.
To test that this is working, hit connect to connect to your ftp server. If you have logged in successfully – This should present you with your local file system to the left, and the remote machines file system to the right.
If you aren’t using blacknight as your host, you should consult them as to where to put your files. If you are using them, the main directory for wordpress files is located under webspace then httpdocs. Be careful not to confuse this with httpsdocs which commonly holds secure webpages. If this is a fresh and new purchase of a shared server, you can find three files under httpdocs. A php file, an html file and a WML file. These are holding pages, and can be safely deleted. To do so select them all by clicking on them and holding down the ctrl key. Press delete to remove them. A dialog box will ask you to confirm, to which you reply yes.
Now that you have navigated to the correct place on the server for your files, you should now navigate to the place you extracted the wordpress files. What we are going to do now is uploaded all of the files to the server. If you extracted to the desktop, find the directory you extracted them to and click into the wordpress directory.
Again select all of the files from top to bottom and transfer across into the httpdocs directory as shown in the video. You can do this by firstly selecting all then dragging across from the left hand window into the right. This may take a few moments to transfer but once complete the directory listing on the right hand side should look identical to the one on the left. This is a good visual test that you haven’t messed up. Hooray!
Getting WordPress Installed
Now that the files have transferred, you can begin to access the famous 5 minute WordPress installation procedure. Load up your temporary website address and visit the wordpress install page.
If you can visit this install page it will report if your database username and password are incorrect, or if there are any other problems. 9 times out of 10, assuming you’ve entered the details correctly in the wp-config.php – things will be fine. Enter a name for your blog, and a description – and you’ll be ready to roll. WordPress will ask for an email address to email your default admin password to. Once you’ve added the settings for WordPress, it’s a breeze from there on in.
There are a couple of things you can do with a default install of WordPress. I normally go straight to changing the admin password initially to something more memorable. Once you’ve logged in with ‘admin’ and the password which has been emailed – you can browse the users of wordpress from the left hand menu. Click on Users then ‘Authors and Users’ to edit the admin password. Feel free to add a bio here if you wish. Some themes support it, some don’t. Assuming you’ve correctly added the new password and it has passed the strength test, you may click on save to save the new password to the database. Well worth writing down, and storing somewhere safe at this point, as you have to do all sorts of jiggery pokery to fix otherwise.
The greatest thing about the WordPress platform is the relative ease that it provides to reskin it. There are a real wealth of themes out there that allow you to change the look and feel easily. Firstly you have to find them. There are three ways you can go about this.
1). You can either find a free theme available somewhere online – there are even dedicated websites set up to source free wordpress themes. (see finding free themes later on). As with anything that is free – there is the possibility that someone else will use the same design. However there are often ways to change a few parameters that come free with the theme to make it look slightly different. E.g. changing a header image or a background. Free themes often provide a good base to work from when a designer starts designing.
2) You can buy a premium theme – again a few websites exist to allow you to do this. Both unique prices and shared prices exist. If you buy at the unique price – then this becomes unique to your blog, and no-one else can purchase it. If you buy at the shared price – there is the likelihood that another blogger could do buy the same one, and two blogs will be on the web looking the same. Often this isn’t that big a deal, with people subscribing via RSS etc. But to some, especially business bloggers design plays an important role in distinguishing a brand.
3). You can go down the bells and whistles approach and get a custom wordpress designer to create your blog design from scratch.
Finding free themes.
There are many great designers out there who use WordPress themes as a further way of promoting themselves. After all it is recognition of their work. Google should be all you really need to find free themes, but just in case you are a bit on the lazy side:
Should be enough in there to keep you going. Smashing magazine in particular seems to have a bit of a penchant for WordPress Themes.
There are also a good collection on the official wordpress site. However you do have to know how to go about installing them.
Installing themes in WordPress
When you have downloaded the selected themes of your choice – the majority of them will be in Winzip (.zip) format. You should extract these to your desktop and upload into the themes directory. The themes directory can be found
Under the /wp-content/ directory – then go into themes..
On blacknight hosting this can be found here:
Themes should be uploaded one directory deep. In other words if a theme looks like this on your hard disk.
Don’t make the mistake of uploading mytheme1 (containing subdirectory mytheme.) In the video walkthrough, notice how I check that there isn’t another subdirectory inside the downloaded theme.
Once you have uploaded a theme into the correct directory, it will automagically appear within the WordPress admin panel. You can view them by going to themes, then activate them by clicking on the theme image, and finally clicking activate. Browsing your website then reflects the changed images and css. The architecture of WordPress really lends itself to developers – as it abstracts your blog posts and data away from the theme, it makes creating new themes really easy. Now that you’ve got the look and feel sorted out – its time to enhance further the functionality of WordPress with plugins.
Increasing functionality with WordPress Plugins
WordPress whilst an extremely well architected system still has a few holes in its functionality outside the core. Thankfully, a shed load of plugins exist to add to existing functionality really easily. At time of writing the official WordPress site listed 4,245 plugins. So chances are there has already been someone who has come up against the same problem and developed a plugin to solve it. There are also plenty of WordPress plugins available via Google, some of which aren’t listed on the main wordpress site.
There are some plugins that I would recommend you install on a fresh WordPress install. Some of them are obviously more ‘essential’ than others.
Speeds up your site by caching your database queries.
Popular posts gives your visitors a list of popular posts on your blog, based on the number of comments, and pingbacks received. Generally popular posts should be displayed prominently throughout your site to gain ‘buy in’ from new visitors.
Related posts list a couple of posts, which are related according to tags, and meta content. Related posts should be used at the post level, to encourage longer stays from your visitors and greater pageviews.
Google Analytics Plugin
Google Analytics is used to monitor your blog statistics. You should get yourself an account, and learn to read your statistics. You can learn a wealth of information from it. Firstly, what keywords people use to find you. If you discover for example that 30 people find you with the term “wordpress theme” in one month – then there is a good chance that if you write more content around that particular term that you’ll get more traffic. This plugin integrates WordPress with Google Analytics easily. Simple give it your Analytics ID and away it goes.
All in One Seo Pack
This plugin enables automatic SEO to an extent. It automatically writes unique meta content – but you should take the time with your posts to write extra meta descriptions.
Wp-PageNavi is used to page your posts, in other words if you write 30 posts in a month it can break them up into 6 pages of 5. This is useful if you are writing a lot, and helps your readers to browse much more easily.
This plug automatically emails a copy of your database to you at scheduled intervals – preventing you from losing everything in your blog if something goes wrong.
I’ve listed a few of the plugins I use myself over on this post on popping your blogging cherry – which is also a good one to checkout if you are starting out.
Installing plugins is as simple as installing themes, you can either upload the zip file containing the plugin files directly in the WordPress admin panel (under Plugins > add new), or you can upload the extracted file directory under
Once you’ve uploaded them successfully, either using the browser or via FTP, you have to enable their functionality in the dashboard. You can do this by going to Plugins > Installed. Inactive plugins are the ones you’ve just freshly installed and which are yet to be activated. To activate a particular plugin you can Just click “Activate” beside it. Some plugins will require integration (e.g. a small piece of code pasted into your theme) but on the whole many of them work out of the box.
Writing your first post.
Your first post isn’t really that important. What is important is that it represents the first step of an unknown journey. Blogging essentially could lead to many things – but on the whole you will undoubtably connect with loads of new people that are as passionate about your subject matter as you are.Firstly you should setup categories for your first post.
Categories and tags are what defines the content of each of your posts. For example if you want to blog about growing apples, then define a category called “horticulture” – whenever you write a new post about say growing roses – it can go in the same category. If you decide to branch out (forgive the pun) later on – you may want to add a new category. A good tip when you start out is to keep your category count down until your blog grows a bit. Tags are attached to each post as additional data which highlights the key themes discussed in the post. Add as many tags as you want to each post that you create, and assign a category for it to appear on.
You can also preview how a post looks before you press the publish button, or you can even schedule it for later.
Overall WordPress offers newbie site owners and bloggers a comprehensive solution for content management, with a wealth of features out of the box. If you are thinking of taking the plunge, I would most definitely recommend it as the platform of choice – for the number of prebuilt features and themes alone. Hopefully this guide serves as a way for some of you to take the jump.