An idiots guide to WordPress installation and setup.

May 3, 200916 Comments
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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.

Downloading WordPress

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.

www.randomnumber.cp.blacknight.com/wp-admin/install.php

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.

Changing Defaults.

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.

Changing themes.

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:

Crowdsourced themes:

http://bit.ly/CMgv5

Should be enough in there to keep you going. Smashing magazine in particular seems to have a bit of a penchant for WordPress Themes.

http://bit.ly/zfY7M

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:

/httpdocs/wp-content/themes/

Themes should be uploaded one directory deep. In other words if a theme looks like this on your hard disk.

C:\pauls stuff\mytheme1\mytheme

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.

WP-SuperCache
URL: http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wp-super-cache/

Speeds up your site by caching your database queries.

Popular Posts
URL: http://rmarsh.com/plugins/popular-posts-plugin/

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
URL: http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wordpress-23-related-posts-plugin/

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
URL: http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/google-analytics-for-wordpress/

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
URL: http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/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
URL: http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wp-pagenavi/

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.

Wp-Db-Backup
URL: http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wp-db-backup/

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.

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

httpdocs/wp-content/plugins

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.

Overview.

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.

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About the Author ()

Paul is a regular 30 year old web bloke / programmer with a penchant for online marketing. This blog is a personal outlet, with an eclectic mix of articles.

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  1. Carol williams says:

    Thanks for sharing the information. Your description were very helpful and helped me to install my blog. I read a similar post How to install, use and update a WordPress blog, it is in part and nice reading. Is it necessary to install all the Plugins at a time, can we install it according to our need? help please.

  2. Justin Parks says:

    Excellent walkthrough on installing WordPress Paul, Nice and detailed while still sticking to “normal” language.

    Of course, things are even simpler on an install if your host provides Cpanel, but that’s a different can of worms altogether!

  3. Paul Anthony says:

    Alright Justin,

    Blacknight do actually offer it through a CPanel install of the application, but installing plugins and themes can be difficult, as the application is buried quite deep in the FTP server. I prefer more control through a manual install. Hope all is good with yourself, get a chat with you bout the expo this week sometime probo.

    Paul.

  4. Colm says:

    Great tutorial – thanks :D

    One small point that delayed me, the SQL server is not on the same box for blacknight’s shared services offerings, so you need to get the full internal name for it instead of just using LOCALHOST. This name isn’t displayed on the summary page as you create the DB, instead you need to click back on the finished db’s name and it is then shown.

  5. Leon says:

    Well that pretty much covers everything eh!? Well done. Here’s a WordPress PDF Manual I made that takes things to the next step and shows you how to use the thing!

    http://www.reverbstudios.ie/blog/1032/wordpress-visual-manual/

  6. Lala says:

    Hi

    REally impressed with this tutorial
    Unfortunately I cannot get Filezilla to connect to server

    When setting up wp-config.php I just left all the excess info that came with sample and added

    database
    username
    password
    host name

    I included, for example, the dbnumber_ chosenname within the single quotation marks

    In Site Manager does it require unumber in front of username?
    Is it always port 21?

    I have followed all details as close as possible and no idea where I have gone wrong?

    Any advice would be mighty!
    TA

  7. Paul Anthony says:

    Lala, sounds like you’ve potentially got your FTP username, and MySQL usernames and passwords mixed up. They are two separate entities. I’d double check the details you need for FTP in the control panel, and try connecting. It is always Port 21 for FTP. Yep.

    The guys @blacknight on Twitter or support will be able to help you if you are still stuck.

    Paul.

  8. Hi Paul,
    I have followed a lot of similar guides, but one thing I notice when I upload an install of wordpress like this, is that I face a lot of permissions issues on blacknight servers.

    In particular I used EZPZ One Click Backup to extract a site, and when I went to upload that (instead of a fresh WordPress install) I have a lot of difficulty installing anything through the wordpress dashboard.

    I am wondering if the issue is related to the fact that the original site that was backed up was probably a VPS, and the ownership becomes an issue when I upload that. I thought that ownership data might have been destroyed, but I am at a loss to explain how these backups are so crippled when I restore them/move them between hosts.

    While I am examining as much as possible, I think a fresh approach to installs might be best (backup user content only, and upload a fresh install with plugins every time).

    Am I making sense? This issue is causing me a lot of frustration – there is only a limited amount of manual/fresh/green field installations I can do, and I need a way to reliably restore WP files across hosts.

  9. Paul Anthony says:

    Hi Richard.

    I’m not familiar with the EZPZ system, but I have restored and moved data to new servers before. Some of the stuff on the Codex is normally pretty helpful, and I tend to just backup everything but the options table when moving SQL data between hosts. Plugins etc are usually a simple enough, upload and enable scenario..

    http://codex.wordpress.org/Backing_Up_Your_WordPress_Files

    You might want to try 777 permissions on your folders before restoration to see if that makes any difference, or indeed taking a peek at something like this plugin:

    http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wp-dbmanager/

    Paul.

  10. Hi Paul,
    thanks for the suggestions. The issue I was facing was that the initial host was a VPS, and I was moving to shared hosting. It is normal for shared hosting environments to handle the permissions of wordpress (or any PHP app) differently.

    In several experiments I have recursively applied 777 to an entire WP install, yet the install was unable to install plugins through the dashboard. Though I 777ed it through an FTP client – I think blacknight have some knowledge base articles which state that you can only make directories writable through the file manager.

    It is a very unusual scenario and I am considering the usual wipe and start over until I work around the special cases.

    If I get a repeatable strategy I will be quite happy indeed.

  11. Rodolfo says:

    @ Richard Conroy – Never change permission to 777 it’s very dangerous. From the Blacknight panel try to go to Domain_name / Website Configuration and change PHP Support from “Run as Apache application” to “Run as CGI application”

    @ Paul Anthony – This is a great post. I keep coming back everytime I install a new WP site, just to double check I’ve done everything correctly! You could add the following:

    1) See previous reply to Richard – change settings to CGI to avoid permission issues
    2) My Sql hostname has to be input as “mysql[...]int.cp.blacknight.com”, to be found under your database settings

    Hope it helps :)

  12. Emma says:

    Thanks for your great guide. I needed a little handholding which Blacknight very ably provided me but your guide was fantastic in showing me the steps in a clear fashion. Thanks again.

  13. PJ says:

    Paul,

    Cant seem to get to the wp install page. You refer to ‘www.randomnumber.cp.blacknight.com/wp-admin/install.php’ What does the ‘randomnumber’ stand for? What should I be putting in it’s place? Thanks!!

  14. Paul says:

    Think you can find that Random number under:

    All Domains » yourdomain.com > Website configuration. Its the temporary address given to your site. HTH,

    Regards,
    Paul.

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