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The 2 Hours After the WordPress 5 Minute Install

Dear Reader,

I now run WordPress on 4 of my web properties. So let me first say a big thank you to the entire WordPress development community for all their work. It’s an excellent platform for the types of projects I’ve been working on lately. More importantly, it allows me to get going quickly and move on to working on my main idea.

In the process of installing and managing these properties, I’ve learned just a little bit about WordPress and decided that I had better document some of it before it falls out the back of my head. So while I was spending time yesterday installing and configuring WordPress for autobiographicalfiction.com, I decided to document my steps. I’m putting them down here, mainly for me but if you find it useful as well, I’m glad.

These are the steps I take in installing a basic WordPress site. If you are not sure why you would want to use WordPress, check out “The Secret to Cheap and Easy Websites” over at my podcast, Sixty Second Tech.

Pre-Install Preparation

  • The night before you want to do the install, make sure you make any DNS changes that need to be made. If you have the site parked, go ahead and move it. Yes, I know change are distributed in 5 minutes these days but it takes a while for some people to see the change, especially Google. (That’s important when we get to the sitemap section.)
  • Pick a theme. There are some good, free, WordPress theme sites out there. There are also some very talented designers who are happy to build you a site from scratch. Which ever way you decide to go, do it before you start your install.

Installing and configuring WordPress

  1. Install WordPress
    There are several good options for doing this. On my hosting service, we have Installatron that will walk you through it. You host may have another installer but the thing you want to ask yourself is do you want to bother with the nuts and bolts of the install or do you want to trust the installer? If you trust your installer, it will be quicker overall but you have to make sure that they upgrade on a regular basis. Otherwise you may be stuck unable to upgrade your installation later. Your other option is of course, WordPress’ famous 5 Minute Install.

    No matter which way you go, you need to follow the instructions to get a working installation.

  2. Change the Admin password
    The last step in your install gives you a randomly generated password for the admin account. Log in right now and change it. Go ahead and setup the entire admin account while you are there. WordPress 2.5 has a great new feature that helps you decide whether the password you have chosen is secure or not. This is the key to the kingdom so you will want to make sure it’s secure but memorable.
  3. Delete default post
    Go ahead and get rid of it. The thing you don’t want is for your new feed to start with the default “This is a new WordPress” message, it just looks amateurish.
  4. Delete About Page
    Same reasoning as above. Unless you have content to go into it immediately, go ahead and get rid of it. Worst case scenario, you will have to add it back in later when you have content to put in it.
  5. Change the settings in Settings->General
    Go ahead and change the name of your blog, the tagline and browse the other options while you are there. As with the default post, the idea here is not to look like an amature by leaving “Just another WordPress blog” in the tagline. You can always revisit this section after you are up and running and fine tune the settings.
  6. Activate Permalinks
    If you are going to activate Permalinks (and I always do) then do it now. In a couple of steps we are going to be building our sitemap and we want the URLs to be correct for that. Click on Settings and then Permalinks check everything over and then save changes.
  7. Install Your Theme
    Hopefully you took my advice and have already selected your theme or had one designed for you. If not, stop now, go get you one, we’ll wait. Now, once you have it, fire up your FTP program and upload it into wp-content/themes. Then in the Admin control panel, select Design and activate the theme you just uploaded.
  8. Activate Akismet (optional)
    If you are going to allow comments on your blog (and that’s not a given, it’s a choice) then you will want Akismet installed and activated. If you are not familiar with Akismet, it helps control spam comments. It’s free and it comes with WordPress so all you do is have to install and configure. If you don’t have one already, you need a WordPress API Key for Akismet to work. They are free, you just need to go to wordpress.com and register. If you already have an account with wordpress.com and an API key, you can use it on multiple blogs.
  9. Setup Feedburner feed
    I run all my feeds through feedburner because it gives me the stats I want on my feed reader. FeedBurner (Google) has a FeedBurner plugin for WordPress that makes everything simple. It’s a multi-step process though so I’ll list them.
    1. Create a FeedBurner account.
    2. Register your feed with feedburner
    3. Install the plugin.
    4. Activate the plugin
    5. Configure the plugin
    6. In a browser, visit http://yourblog/feed/ and make sure it’s working. If it’s not, backtrack and make sure you’ve got everything configured correctly.
  10. Register with Friend Feed
    Ok, you’ve got a feed, let’s use it. If you have a friendfeed.com account, go ahead and register your feed with it. If you don’t have one, friendfeed.com is a great tool for aggregating all of your content into a single feed that people can follow. Of course your new feed won’t have any content in it because we deleted the default post earlier. Registering now will ensure that when you do post for the first time on your new blog, it will be listed.
  11. Install Google Sitemap XML Plugin
    Sitemaps are an important way to get your site spidered. Since it’s an off-site service like Akismet and FeedBurner, installing and configuring is a multi-step process.
    1. Register with Google.com/webmastertools
    2. Install the plugin.
    3. Configure the plugin. You may have some trouble at this point. Some systems are finicky about permissions. If, after configuring everything, you still can’t generate a sitemap because of permissions issues, here’s a tip. Create a file on your local computer called sitemap.xml, just an empty text file. Now, upload that file into the root of your blog. Now you should be able to create your sitemap. You will probably need to do the same thing with sitemap.xml.gz and possibly robots.txt.
    4. Go to google.com/webmastertools and register your site and then your new sitemap. This can be tricky and it’s really beyond the scope of this article to describe. The only advice I have is what I gave in the pre-install instructions, make sure you make any DNS changes the night before. Google caches DNS entires for about eight hours. Any changes you make just before installing may slow things down a bit.
  12. Install wp-db-backup
    If your blog is important to you then make sure you have nightly backups. Code is easy to reinstall, the hear of your blog is the database. I use wp-db-backup to do this on a daily basis for all my blogs.
  13. Install SimpleTags
    Tagging is an important part of blogging. To help me tag my posts I install SimpleTags. It allows me to use TagTheNet to analyze my post and suggest tags. It also takes care of “related posts” and even has a TagCloud widget. It will also place your tags in your header if you don’t have the following plugin installed.
  14. Install All in one SEO Plugin
    This is going to surprise a lot of you that know me and know my feelings about SEO but yes I use All in one SEO plugin. No, I don’t think it helps my page-rank one bit, my content does that and I preach this message every chance I get. However All in one SEO gives me a degree of control over keywords and the title field that I occasionally want. I always install this plugin because it’s simple to install, requires very little configuration and when I want to tinker with things I can. Don’t take this as an endorsement of anything revolving around SEO though.
  15. Write something!
    If you don’t have a blog post ready to go, why did you go through the last 2 hours of work? Seriously, the point of all of this is to give you a place to blog. Don’t skip the most important part, Write something and write something relevant.

I hope you’ve learned something. Feel free to post any additions to the process that you normally go through. I’ve done this countless times now but I’m still learning new tricks.

Until next time,
(l)(k)(bunny)
=C=

My response to “Blogs Will Kill The Web Design Star”

Dear Reader,

My breakfast buddy Bill Seaver posted a real interesting post on his blog titled “Blogs Will Kill The Web Design Star”. I started a comment to it but it quickly grew into a post by itself. So before you read this, go visit Bill’s blog and read it. (and while you are surfing, don’t forget to drop by his podcast, The New Mediology and give it a listen.

My response:

Hi Bill!

I couldn’t agree with you more. The days of paying someone big bucks for a simple site are gone. I actually covered this on Sixty Second Tech a few weeks ago in the episode The Secret to Cheap and Easy Websites. WordPress makes a great simple blog and with the explosion of good, cheap/free skins, there’s really no reason for people to pay for simple web needs. I did get some flack over on iTunes on that episode because a listener considered my approach to the subject denigrating to web designers. :)

If your needs are more than WordPress can provide, Joomla is a great next step. It’s several order of magnitude larger and more complex than WordPress but it has a great plugin structure and like WordPress it has an active community.

BTW, my favorite WordPress theme site is www.wpthemesfree.com. I’ve used several of their themes as starting points for my projects.

Also, I’ve been saying for a few weeks now that the job title to have for the next five years is “App Skinner”. Wife 1.24, The Lovely and Talented Kathy who is a web designer has been able to successfully deploy several complex sites including an e-commerce site, without having to employ a programmer. This opens up new doors for the company she works for because instead of having to hire a programmer to write yet another shopping cart, she can deploy Joomla and spend her time concentrating on developing a look and feel that will set it apart from the competition.

Bill, thanks for the post, it was great.

Until next time,
(l)(k)(bunny)
=C=

Upgrading Software

Dear Reader,

Well, it’s the weekend so I naturally decided to check what software needed upgrading. Two packages quickly showed up on my “things I use and keep current” list.

Spaz
Ed Finkler wrote this cool little twitter client and compiled it using AIR. Despite the fact that AIR has some kind of seriously dmanaged garbage collection requiring me to restart Spaz every hour or so, I love this little app. Ed has done some cool thing with it and I enjoy watching it’s progress. The only think I don’t like is when there is a new version (say…24 hrs has passed) when I fire it up, I get an in-your-face notification requiring me to decide at that moment, “Upgrade or No?” It’s not that I have anything against upgrading and certinly not against Ed or Spaz. but an icon on the toolbar when there is an upgrade available would be much nicer. Besides, I fired the client up to use it…not decide whether I wanted to upgrade. And yes, I know it’s Open Source software so I’m not griping about it or demanding a refund, I’m just using it as an example because the Windows Upgrade example has been beat to death.(BTW: Yes Ed, I’m jealous. I wish I had a cool open source app that everybody could point out the flaws of but never give me props for.)

WordPress
I like WordPress. Despite it’s flaws and the fact that I think Matt is a bit unstable because he won’t upgrade it to work exclusively on PHP 5, I really like it. However, for the uninitiated, installing or upgrading it manually can be difficult. I have a good friend who shoots up “The Bat Signal” whenever he runs into a programming problem and I got one this morning. He tried to move from 2.3 to 2.3.1 and it was (shall we say) less than graceful. On the other hand, I upgraded both of my blogs in about 2 minutes. It actually too me longer to upgrade one of my plugins than it did my two blogs. This is, of course, thanks to the fact that I use Installatron on my server. Installatron makes keeping these types of applications up to date, extremely easy.

A side note on WordPress, while it has an annoying “you need to upgrade” link on every admin page when there’s a new version, it does not force me to decide whether to upgrade before I can do anything else.

Anyhow, both this blog and PHP Podcasts have been upgraded and I even had time to add a shinny new skin here. (Didn’t really like the last one) So life is good…mostly.

Until next time
(l)(k)(bunny)
=C=