If you’ve decided to self-host your blog, there are two options for installing WordPress on your host. The first is to visit http://www.wordpress.org and download the free software. WordPress.org does include step-by-step directions for installing the software on your site.
Increasingly, however, web hosts are offering an easy one or two click installation of the software when you purchase your hosting package. Your installation process will be similar to thethe following:
Most hosts that offer WordPress (or other Platform choices) will present you with a control panel to manage your entire site. You’ll usually see an option to install WordPress or ‘Popular Scripts’ as shown below
To begin, click ‘Install’. The script installer will try to detect your settings and will let you know if any changes need to be made prior to the installation. Once your host account settings are in order, your installation will begin.
Some web hosts will do everything for you when you click install, but others may want a little information from you. The second phase of your installation screen will ask you where you want the blog stored – do you want readers to find the blog when they type in your web address, or do you want it to be a subpage on your site. Other things you may need to determine are the name of the installation directory (the installation script will create it), your Administrator user name, and the Admin password you want.For security reasons, it is recommended that you do not accept the default Admin user name ‘Admin’ or the default Installation directory of ‘wp’. WordPress is popular with readers and writers, but it is also a popular target for hackers who tend to exploit those default names to gain access to blogs:
Click ‘Next’ and your web host will take care of the rest of the installation. Your blog’s web address will be the ‘Base URL’ address you chose. Your blog’s administration page will be at www.yourblogaddress/wp-admin. Your login information will be the name and password you chose. If you forget your password, it can be emailed to the address you provided. Again, choose an email address that can’t be deduced from the name of your web address.
Your hosting provider will email you with your user ID and password and confirmation of the installation completion. Now it’s time for the fun part of any move-in: decorating.
If you’ve already been blogging at WordPress.com, much of the self-hosted WordPress environment will look very familiar. However, there are a few key differences – even when keeping up appearances – between running your blog at WordPress.com and having your own ‘place’.
When you first login to your new self-hosted WordPress Dashboard, one of the first things you’ll want to do is customize your appearance. To start, click on ‘Appearances’ in the left pane of your WordPress window and then click on ‘Themes:
The installation will include a few default themes, but you can add new themes by clicking the ‘Install Themes’ tab. That tab will let you upload custom themes you design or buy, or you can choose from over 600 free themes.
As with WordPress.com, each theme on your self-hosted blog allows a different level of customization. You can use the links to choose from different appearance options, or, if you know CSS or HTML, you can click ‘Editor’ and tinker with the code. Be aware that, on a self-hosted blog, you can break a theme, so be sure to make a backup before wading in too deep.
As with a hosted WordPress blog, your self-hosted blog includes a Widgets, add-ons to your blog page that can be dragged to your side bar. There are a few default widgets – Custom Menus and a BlogRoll you can add to your blog right away. You can add others by installing them from the ‘Plugins’ section of your WordPress Dashboard.
To add a widget to your blog sidebar, click and drag the widget to the desired place. Widgets can be moved up and down in relation to each other:
This is how a widget looks on the actual blog:
The plug-in is where the self-hosted blog really begins to flex its muscle. Plug-ins are basically neatly-packaged scraps of code that you can add to your WordPress blog and that allow you to add custom Social Networking widgets to your sidebar, shopping carts to your blog, and even forum infrastructures to encourage your readers to engage with each other on your site. If you know PHP programming, you can create your own, but the most common way to add a plug-in to your blog is to choose from the thousands of free offerings.
To add a plug-in to your site, click ‘Plug-Ins’ in the sidebar of your administration screen. You’ll notice that the WordPress installation includes one or two default plug-ins. Click ‘Add New’ to navigate to the search page:
You can use keywords or categories to search for plug-ins, just as you would when installing a new Theme.
Plug-ins shown in your search results are rated and can be sorted by rating or by name. Click promising listings to learn more details and then to install the one you want. Once the plug-in is installed, you’ll have the option to ‘Activate’ it. Some plug-ins, such as tracking programs, operate behind the scenes but need you to custom their settings to your blog. Others, such as shopping cart plug-ins, will appear as new pages or as new widgets to be added to your sidebar.
Because plug-ins are usually free, and because they offer new options for customizing your site, it can be tempting to add a bunch all at once. However, extra gadget you put on your site, visible or not, is like the clutter in your junk drawer – it may be useful, but it takes up space and, in the case of your blog, can slow things down for your user. Only you can decide when that next new widget is one too many.
When you create a blog with WordPress (or install to your web host), the web address of your blog will be www.your_blog_Name.wordpress.com If you want a more personal address, you’ll need to register a domain and then point it to your host or blog.
If you’re building your blog at WordPress, you can register a domain through one of their premium services. The cost is $18 ($5 for registration, $13 for mapping) to register and map your custom address to your blog. Once you purchase the domain, you own it, and you can move it at anytime.
Third Party Registrars
If you’re self-hosting your blog or if you think you may move your blog from WordPress.com to your own host at some point, you can also purchase a domain through a third-party registrar such asGoDaddy (http://godaddy.com). There are other registrars (Network Solutions, for example, but I’ve had good experience with GoDaddy and their support over the years. You will need to map to the domain to your host or to WordPress.com ($13), or you can forward the domain to your WordPress.com blog for free.
Mapping a Domain
Purchasing a domain on GoDaddy or another registrar is as easy as finding an available name you like, adding it to your cart, and then checking out. Mapping it to your WordPress.com blog is equally easy.
1. Update your Domain’s name servers (it’s not as hard as it sounds). First login to your account with your registrar and navigate to your list of purchased ‘Domains’. I’m using ‘GoDaddy’ as the example, but updating the name servers will be the same process on most registrars. :
2. When you see your purchased Domain (or list if you have more than one), select the one you want to update, and the control panel for your domain will appear. Locate ‘Nameservers’ and click ‘Manage’:
3. A pop-up will appear displaying your current Nameserver settings. Click the ‘Custom Nameserver’ radio button and, when it appears, click the link to ‘Enter custom name servers’:
4. A new pop-up will appear with 2 blank Nameserver fields. Click the button to add a 3rd Nameserver field and then, into the first, second and third fields, enter:
and click ‘Save’.
6. To finish the mapping in WordPress.com, go back to your Dashboard (the process will be similar if you’re self-hosting your blog, but you won’t incur any additional costs besides the domain purchase and the initial hosting).
In the WordPress.com dashboard, click ‘Store>Domains’ in the menu in the sidebar:
When prompted, enter the name of your new domain. WordPress will let you know it’s registered and ask if you want to move it. Check the box to confirm your ownership of the domain and then click to begin the mapping process on WordPress.com. WordPress will take you to the purchase page to purchase Mapping and, after your purchase is complete, it will prompt you for your registrar details to complete the procedure:
7. That’s it. Now just give people your custom domain address when publicizing your blog.
Forwarding a Domain
If you’re a WordPress.com blogger and you’ve bought a domain somewhere like GoDaddy already but you don’t want to fork over the $13 to map your domain to WordPress.com, there is another alternative – Forwarding your Domain – that gives you a custom look without the the custom price.
When you login to your Domain administration window in GoDaddy, you’ll see the option to setup Forwarding just below the Name Server administration. Click ‘Manage’ to begin setting this up.:
In the pop-up that appears, enter the actual address of your blog as the forwarding address. At GoDaddy, you can choose to Mask your forwarded address so that when your readers land on your wordpress.com page, at the top of the screen, they’ll see the Domain name you chose and registered.
You’ll also see to ‘Redirect’ types, Permanent (301) and Temporary (302). The first lets search engines that your site using the registered domain name is permanently at the address setup in your Forwarding screen. The second option tells the search engines that the forwarding address is temporary.
Forwarding vs. Mapping
On the surface, Forwarding and Mapping accomplish the same objective – they give your blog a customized name. However, while the cost of forwarding your domain may seem like the way to go, they are different.
Forwarding is like forwarding mail from the post office. Users enter the domain name you gave them, but the forwarding configuration sends them to the blog’s actual address, hiding it with your custom domain.
When you map the domain, users entering your custom domain, they start and end at your site. When you map your domain, every post you create in your blog will have its own unique web address that uses your domain name, making it easier for users to find and come back to favorite posts. It also means the site is indexed under that domain (www.yourcustomname.com) instead of the domain it’s being forwarded to (www.yourcustomname.wordpress.com).
When you first setup your WordPress blog and preview your new page, the first thing you may notice – after perusing your first post – is a collection of links and other items, called Widgets, in your sidebar. Not just a fictional product in economics class anymore, widgets are the tools that let you arrange and manage the content in your sidebar and on your page.
By default, most WordPress themes will populate your sidebar with the Blogs I Follow widget and the Meta widget.
The Meta widget gives you a quick link to login to the administration side of your blog. It also contains links to your feeds (more about those later) and to WordPress.com.
The Blogs I Follow widget is automatically generated when you click the ‘Follow’ () button in the corner of any WordPress.com blog.
You can also add to this list from your WordPress Administration page by clicking ‘Blogs I Follow’ in the sidebar and then the link to your WordPress.com Reader.
This field will let you enter the URL of any blog, regardless of whether or not it’s hosted on WordPress.com or another server. You can see the update and the results below:
Both of these widgets can be customized or removed from your sidebar by clicking ‘Widgets’ under the ‘Appearances’ menu in your blog’s administration page:
On the right side of the widget screen, you’ll see a collection of Widget areas that are available on your selected Theme. Some of the Widgets will appear in the sidebar – others will appear in the footer or above your header image. To add a widget to your blog, click and drag it from the ‘Available Widgets’ section to the desired Widget area in the right side of the admin screen.
The following are Widgets I recommend for any new blog:
About Me – Self-explanatory, this widget lets you use a free service to add a brief bio or profile about yourself. To use this widget, you’ll need to sign up with a free service called ‘About.me’. You can add an image and use your About.Me profile on any blog you create.
Categories – Your blog categories are not automatically displayed in your sidebar, so you will need to add them.
Search – This lets readers search your blog based on Tags, Category names and post content. It’s a good way to keep readers on your page.
Text – This widget can be straight text or, if you know a little HTML, you can really customize your WordPress.com blog.
Facebook (Twitter, del.icio.us) – Give your readers a chance to share your work. WordPress.com now makes it easy to add links to your social media with several customizable widgets just for that purpose:
Follow Blog – Blogs need readers. Make it easy for people to read your content by adding the ‘Follow Blog’ widget to your sidebar, ideally at the top:
Widgets appear on your site as soon as you drag them to the Widget area – you don’t need to save them for them to appear. You do need to click the ‘Save’ to keep any changes you’ve made:
There are a host of other free, useful widgets for your WordPress.com blog, and it’s worth taking time to play with them and see what works for you. On a WordPress.com blog, you are limited to the widgets they’ve included. However, if you decide at some point to host your own blog, you’ll have access to a world of plugins and widgets, including plugins for social networking, adding shopping carts and other functionality. I will cover self-hosted blogs in another post.
Until then, have fun exploring the world of widgets.