This series of tutorials deals with how you can start your own blog using a blogging software called WordPress. WordPress is a free blogging software that you can install onto your website so that you can write and manage your own blog. It is generally regarded as easy to install and use. The tutorials take you through the steps of installing your own WordPress blog, configuring/customizing it, modifying it so that it is search-engine friendly and so on.
This chapter deals with how you can go about setting up the blog.
There are certain prerequisites before you can use WordPress as your blogging software.
Your web host must support the execution of PHP scripts. PHP is basically an interpreted programming language. It is the language in which WordPress is written, and thus for WordPress to run at all, your web host must support it. Most, if not all, commercial web hosts support PHP. If your site is hosted on your ISP, chances are that it does not support PHP and cannot run WordPress.
Your web host must allow you at least 1 MySQL database. WordPress stores its data, your blog entries, in a special file called a database, which allows easy and fast retrieval. Check with your web host if your hosting package provides any MySQL databases. Again, if you are hosted on an account which your ISP supplies to you for free as a result of your using their broadband or dialup services, it is unlikely that you have access to MySQL at all. Get an account with a commercial host instead.
Your web host should not insert any advertisements into your web page. Although this is not an official requirement for running WordPress blogs, my experience is that you will run into problems using your WordPress blog when the web host embeds advertisements into pages displayed on your site. My tests on a few free web hosts providing PHP and MySQL access show that the inserted advertisements interfere with the forms created by the WordPress script, with the result that you may be unable to post or edit any blog entries.
Note that I am not saying that you cannot insert advertisements onto your own page. Ads you insert on your own page, if done correctly, do not cause problems. However, most free web hosts automatically insert advertisements into your web page without your intervention. Sometimes these advertisements are loaded into portions of the page that interfere with the WordPress script that handles posting and editing.
(Before you get angry at the free web hosts, you should note that they use the advertisements to recover the cost of running your website. Free web hosts without any viable revenue model tend to close after a short time, as my article on free web hosts that disappear overnight mentions.)
Ideally, find a web host that runs the Apache web server on a Unix-type machine (like Linux, FreeBSD, OpenBSD, etc). Although WordPress runs on other web servers, you have many more options on how you can configure the structure of your site and the links (or "permalinks") to your pages if your site runs on Apache.
My personal recommendation is that you also get your own domain name. WordPress itself does not require this, but, as with any website, it's best to own your own domain. I found this out the hard way when I started my own sites. If you use a domain name supplied by your web host (such as some-name-or-other.blogspot.com), you are at the mercy of your web host in the long run. When they close, and free web hosts close with alarming frequency, the community and search engine reputation that you have built up over the years will be lost. You will be forced to start your blog on a new host with a new URL, losing people who have bookmarked your site and linked to it. Your previous good search engine ranking will also be lost and you will need to start from scratch. Even if they do not close, they can at any time decide to charge you an exorbitant rate, above market rate, for you to keep your site. You will then have no choice but to agree, since you would otherwise lose everything you have built up over the years.
With your own own domain name, any time you are dissatisfied with your web host, you can simply backup your database, move to a new host, import your old entries into the new host's database and you're back in business as though nothing has happened. Your visitors may not even realise that you have changed web hosts.
Find out from your web host the name of your MySQL database, the user name you should use to connect to the MySQL database and the password for the database. In some cases, your web host may require you to create the database yourself from their control panel. Follow their instructions and do so. Make sure that you write down all the information provided about your database, word for word, letter for letter. That is, if your web host (or your web control panel) tells you that your database username is called "yourdomain_yourusername", make sure you write that down and not just "yourusername" even if you specified "yourusername" when you created the database. Note also that the user name and password used to connect to your database may not be the same as that used for your web hosting account.
You will need to use this information later.
Download the latest WordPress software. You can either get the zip version or the "tar.gz" version. If you don't know what "tar.gz" is, download the zip version. This tutorial assumes that you have downloaded the zip version.
Unpack (or unzip) all the files contained in the archive you downloaded. If you use Windows XP, simply double-click the file, and drag the folder "wordpress" onto your desktop.
Open the "wordpress" folder. In Windows, this means double-clicking the folder. In the window that opens, you should be able to spot a file named "wp-config-sample.php". If you cannot find such a file, and you are using Windows, look for a file named "wp-config-sample" (without the PHP extension). Windows hides file extensions by default.
Start up an ASCII text editor and open that "wp-config-sample.php" file in it. In Windows, you can simply use Notepad. To start Notepad, go to the Accessories folder in your Start menu and click the "Notepad" item. Then click the "File" menu, followed by the "Open" item in the menu that appears. Navigate to the file you found earlier and double-click it to open it.
In the file, you will see lines like the following:
database_name_here" with the name of your database. Make sure that the name of your database is enclosed
within the single quotes. That is, if the name of your database is "
mywordpressdatabase", the line should read:
username_here" with your MySQL database username, and the "
password_here" with your MySQL password.
Again, make sure you do not delete the enclosing single quotes.
Scroll down the file to find the section containing words like the following:
Replace all instances of "
put your unique phrase here" with any phrase you like. They can also be of any length.
Like your password, these keys are supposed to improve the security of your blog. If you can't be bothered to think up new
phrases for those keys, you can use WordPress' secret key generator
to generate some random sequence of characters that you can copy and paste into those lines.
Save the file under a new name, "wp-config.php". To do this in Notepad, click the "File" menu followed by the "Save as" item on the menu that appears. Type the name "wp-config.php", including the quotes. You must include the quotes or Notepad will name the file "wp-config.php.txt" behind your back.
Now comes the long and tedious part: uploading the files to your web hosting account. Basically, what you will need to do here is to transfer all the files in the wordpress folder to your web host. It is a long process (especially if your upload speed is slow) since there are many files to transfer.
You will need an FTP program. An FTP program is simply a piece of software that transfers files from your computer to your web host. (It can transfer files the other way as well, but that is beside the point of this tutorial.) You can either get one of the free FTP programs listed on thefreecountry.com's Free FTP Clients, Secure FTP (SFTP) Programs page, or use some other FTP client that you like.
If you don't have any preference, try FileZilla so that you can use my tutorial How to Upload a File to Your Website Using the FileZilla FTP Client on http://www.thesitewizard.com/gettingstarted/howtoupload.shtml as a guide on how you can upload your WordPress files. If you use some other software, you will need to read the instructions supplied with that software yourself.
Whichever software you use, connect to your web host using that software, and transfer ALL the files located in your wordpress directory. You can do either of 2 things:
Transfer the files directly into the main web directory of your web hosting account. You may want to do this if your entire website consists of your blog. You should also do this if you are a total novice when it comes to creating a website or blog, since it will simplify your job later.
Transfer the files into a subdirectory (sub-folder) of your web hosting account. This is useful if your blog is only a small part of your website. You will then need to create a main page for your website that has a link pointing to your blog. For example, if you create a folder called "blog" in your main web directory, the URL to your blog will be called www.example.com/blog/, and you will need to create a file www.example.com/index.html that points to that URL. If you take this route, whenever I say www.example.com/wp-admin/install.php and www.example.com/wp-login.php later, you will need to use www.example.com/blog/wp-admin/install.php and www.example.com/blog/wp-login.php instead. You will also need to create the index.html yourself. If you don't understand what I just said in this paragraph, use the first option.
Once you have finished uploading your files, open your browser and go to www.example.com/wp-admin/install.php. Replace the "www.example.com" with the real URL of your website. You will now need to complete the installation of your blog using WordPress' browser interface.
If you get an error message at this point, telling you that WordPress could not connect to your database, it probably means that you entered the database name, user name or password wrongly in your wp-config.php file. Fix the incorrect information in the wp-config.php file, and upload that file again to your website. Then try www.example.com/wp-admin/install.php.
Fill in the name of your blog and your email address. Click "Continue to the second step".
WordPress then sets up your blog and displays a page giving you your blog username and a password. Write this username and password down somewhere. You will need to use this every time you manage your blog or post an entry.
Congratulations, you have successfully installed WordPress. You can start posting to your blog by going to www.example.com/wp-login.php (replace www.example.com with your domain name), logging in with the "admin" user name and the password supplied to you earlier and following the instructions given on that page.
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