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WordPress 101

WordPress is a free and open source blogging tool and content management system (CMS) based on PHP and MySQL.

Everyone knows about WordPress. Most people don’t how useful and capable it is in creating functional, dynamic websites with little to no knowledge in web development. WordPress is growing stronger and stronger through the years as one of the leading CMS web platforms.  Everyone knows it as a blogging resource similar to Tumblr or Blogspot. But it is much more; it gives you similar blogging features and also gives you all of the tools to create beautiful website that is fully customizable through the user admin.

The beauty of WordPress is that there is a ton of documentation out there for it. Anything you get stuck on is usually just a quick Google search away. The plug-ins and widgets are also magical. Anything you can think of that you would need on a site is available, and if it isn’t, it will be.

I am going to give you a quick overview of how to create your own WordPress site in “THREE EASY STEPS”, with a bunch of little mini steps in between. While I can blog a “blook” on the endless options you have with it, I will leave the in depth exploration to you. Here are the key elements in creating a WordPress site. Each instance will be different, especially if you are using an existing template. But, once you learn what you are capable of editing within the WordPress platform, the possibilities are almost endless.

PURCHASE A DOMAIN & HOST

There are two different ways to use WordPress. Most people just get on the free blogging system at WordPress.com. The best way to utilize WordPress is by using your own host. You can go to WordPress.org to learn about using it for more than just a blog. There are many web hosts out there that will do the trick. I usually try to find the one with the best support for WordPress. Most are jumping on the CMS bandwagon and are now advertising with WordPress specific host packages. Here are a few that would work well:

http://dreamhost.com/

http://www.siteground.com/

http://www.wpwebhost.com/

- Install WordPress through the Host CPanel

  • The install for WordPress within the cPanel is sometimes hard to find. Just look for blogging software/services that are offered. Most up to date hosts will have an easy install app for WordPress in their cPanel. You can always install manually too, but that takes a bit for a non-developer to know what to do.
  • You can install into the root directory (WP as main site) or a sub directory (wp as blog or micro site).
  • Go to http://www.yourdomain.com/wp-admin to get started

 

CHOOSE YOUR THEME OR DEVELOP ONE

One thing I love about WordPress is that it is fully customizable, even more so if you know PHP, MySQL, and CSS. And for you non-developers out there WordPress is a good way to learn. If you choose to purchase an already made template to use there are a few things to keep in mind. Like any new site design it is always good to prepare for it by wire framing, hierarchy brainstorming and gathering content and imagery that you will use within the pages of your site. Even thinking about any added features you may want to use is helpful. (Google Maps, Image & Video Gallery, Events Calendars, etc.) Planning ahead will make finding a template that much easier so you can purchase the perfect template for you or your client. Have fun with it. Really dive into the live previews and test all of the features.

Here are some features I try and keep in mind when searching through the thousands of templates available online:

  • Navigation
  • Framework
  • Shortcodes (a great tool for easily customizing your content)
  • Sliders
  • Multiple Blog Layouts
  • Compatabilities (Video, Galleries, etc.)
  • Browser Tested
  • Documentation
  • Easy to customize admin
  • Comments Section (Do your research on the developer)

A lot of times the developers that sell templates within a marketplace online are very good at answering questions promptly online or on their own forum dedicated to customers. Sometimes you will get a dud and they will just sell you a broken template and not give any support. It is always good to do your research on the developer’s street cred before you choose to work with his/her product.

Good Theme Markets:

THEME FOREST
Envato (Digital Market business out of Australia)
They operate online marketplaces where people buy and sell digital goods every day, and a network of educational blogs where millions learn creative skills.

WP HUB
WPHub works with the best WordPress theme developers on the web. It is has a good variety from some of the top marketplaces online.

Some marketplaces give you the option to purchase the use of all of their themes for one small price. Here are some good ones:

ELEGANT THEMES

PREMIUM THEMES

 

ACTIVATE YOUR THEME

Once you find or develop that perfect theme, now it is time to install and put it to use. It is always good to have a set plan for this process, because it can easily seem overwhelming. Here is a list of steps I like to use when starting a WordPress Theme.

  1. Upload your theme and learn the admin.
    (ftp access sometimes helps when diving into the code)Upload your theme in the appearance tab>themes>upload in your WordPress admin.
     
  2. Get the navigation in place. Set up your menus.
    Use the menu system by setting up a main navigation for your site and adding pages.
    Once added to that specific nav, you can drag and drop in order (pull slightly over for sublinks)
    Set up your menus in the appearance tab>menus in your WordPress admin. 
     
  3. Change permalinks structure to /%postname%/
    This will change those cheesy post id’s and blog post date url’s to the actual name of the page.
    Change this setting in the settings tab>permalinks in your WordPress admin.
  4. Customize the Theme to the Brand.
    (Colors, Fonts, Images, Backgrounds, Headers, Some coding)
    Custom edit your theme in appearance tab>editor in your WordPress admin.
     
  5. Set up your Widgets
    Widgets are mainly used for sidebars and footers.
    Some themes and plug-ins will also give you custom widgets to use. Bonus!
    Change this setting in the appearance tab>widgets in your WordPress admin.
  6. Add any necessary Plug-Ins
    There are endless amounts of free plug-ins available out there. WordPress gives you the ability to search, install and update straight from the admin.
  7. Add content to your pages.
    This part is super fast with the WordPress editor for pages and posts. Make sure you hit the Kitchen Sink button to view them all. Also make sure you check your themes template option if it has one. It will be located on the right hand column of the editor page. (contact, sidebar page, home, etc)
    (font colors, bold/italics/underline, alignment, etc.)
    Developers now are integrating shortcodes right into the editor.

Here is a list of plug-ins I usually automatically install to a WordPress Site:

  • All in One SEO Pack
  • Contact Form 7
    (Create a custom form to put anywhere on your site) 
  • NextGEN Gallery – NextGEN Gallery is the best gallery plug-in out there because it gives you the ability to upload multiple galleries and post them on any page using thumbs or slideshow. And to top it off there is a list of Plug-ins and Add-ons that work hand in hand with it. Here is a list of those.
    (Put an image gallery anywhere using a shortcode) 
  • Comprehensive Google Map Plugin
    (Put a Google Map with multiple pin points on any page with a shortcode)
  • Facebook Likes It!
    (Facebook like button to any page or post)
  • WP Google Fonts
    (Pick any Google Font to use for your headers and content)
  • Widget Context
    (Displays widgets in context) 
  • Login Logo
    (Allows you to use your own logo at login) 

There are plenty of plug-ins out there so it would be good to do some research on them. A lot of bloggers will give a good list of plug-ins with descriptions of each.
Here is a link to start from:
http://www.tripwiremagazine.com/2011/12/best-wordpress-plugins.html

WordPress developers are bringing more and more to themes these days. Here is a list of features to keep an eye out for when searching for a theme.

  • Responsive
  • E-Commerce
  • Buddy Press Integrated
  • Custom Skins
  • Short Code generator
  • Page Templates
  • Custom Widgets
  • Google/Cufon Fonts
  • Translation Ready
  • Multiple Slider Options
  • Thumbnail Resizing
  • Mobile
  • Detailed Documentation

I hope this helps get you started on creating your own WordPress site. Remember if you get stuck, the answers are out there. WORD!