Category Archives: Website design

How To Set Up A WordPress Blog

One of the quickest ways to get a new website up and running is by using a WordPress blog but the big question that’s often asked is how to set up a WordPresss blog? Whilst you can do this for free on the WordPress site there are limitations there, the most important of which is that your blog can’t have “commercial intent”.how to set up a WordPress blog

There are no such restrictions when you use your own domain name and hosting.

So, how to set up a WordPress blog on your own host?

Step 1: Domain name: Get this first. Much depends on the area you’re targeting. Lots of people go for .com’s and lots of people go for their specific country extension. Choose a domain name that’s reasonably targeted to your chosen market and preferably that doesn’t include hyphens.

Step 2: Hosting: Get this second. Keep it separate from the domain as this gives future flexibility amongst other things. Even if it’s a couple of pounds/dollars a month more than the domain name seller wants to sell you hosting for – in the same way you wouldn’t use your gardener to do your electrics, it’s not their specialty. Most of my domains are hosted by either 1&1 or Hostgator.

Of the two, Hostgator are US based and one of the largest hosts in the world. This means their prices are reasonable and that they know what they’re doing. Their support is by chat window and is staffed day and night throughout the year. In my experience, their support people are usually at least OK and quite a few are pretty good. Plus everything is standard and anything you could ever dream about (and more) is likely to support them and be supported by them.

If you choose another host, make sure they use CPanel (don’t worry about what this means) as you can get support all over the place. Also make sure they have something like Fantastico which offers an almost one-click install of WordPress. So no worries about how to upload software – it’s all done for you. Click the Fantastico button, select WordPress and just follow the instructions on the screen and you’ll have a basic install of WordPress in no time. It really is that simple!

When you install WordPress, use a secure password – generate it from a site like Random Password Generator. Keep a note of it and let your browser store the value when it asks. I increase the length from the default 8 characters to 12 characters and tick the box that includes special characters. A password this long would keep the NSA or the UK’s GCHQ busy for quite some time trying to crack so you’ll be pretty safe from hackers.

Step 3: Set up DNS. Go back to your domain name control panel and enter the “name server” details your host will have emailed you (this is often called DNS settings). Again, don’t worry what these are, just do it! That way your domain name will “point” to your web hosting, which is what you want to happen.

Step 4: Configure WordPress. A handful of clicks and the basic install is done (see above). You then need to set it up correctly. Don’t panic about this list – it’s mechanical and almost paint by numbers. All the options are in the left hand side of the main admin section of WordPress.

4a. Posts – delete the “Hello World” post that’s installed.

4b. Links – delete the standard ones WordPress installs.

4c: Pages – amend the About page so it has a sentence or two about you & your business.

4d: Appearance – pay someone on (if you’re brave – standards there vary considerably) or vWorker to do a WordPress header for you. Tell them that you need it the exact size stated on the Header sub-option: 940 × 198 pixels (unless you’ve installed a different theme from the default Twenty Ten them) and tell them what you want on it – maybe send them a couple of photos you’ve taken to include on it. When it comes back, upload it via the option on the Header page.

4e: Plugins. We’ll come back to these a bit later as there are quite a few you’ll likely want. Section 5 covers plugins in reasonable detail.

4f: Settings. Most of this I’ll come back to but for now, click Permalinks, select Custom Structure and put the following gobbledegook in it:


4g: Main screen. (Also known as your home page). Your choice as to whether this has your latest posts on it or some text about your business.

For a business, click Pages. For a more traditional blog, click Posts.

Click Add New. Add a title and type in some content. Make it a few paragraphs long if you can but even one paragraph will do for a start. Click the “Publish” button.

4h: This is optional but if you’re running a business site and also want to include a blog (so you selected Pages, not Posts, in the step above), click Pages. Click Add New. Add a title of “Blog” (without the quotes) and press the “Publish” button. Don’t put any text in this page.

4h: Settings=> Reading. If you’re creating a regular blog, you can ignore this step. Otherwise, click “Static Post”. On the drop down list for the front page, select the page you created in 4g. On the drop down list for Posts Page, select Blog.

5. Plugins

This is where WordPress starts to get flexible. Chances are that if you want it to do something, there’s a plugin available to do it. Many are free, some of the more complicated ones are chargeable.

Installation is a two stage process (sometimes more if there are things to configure). First you install the plugin – usually automatically – then you “activate” it (turn it on). You need to go to the “Add New” sub-menu underneath Plugins to do this. Then use the Search option unless you’ve downloaded a plugin to your hard drive, in which case use the Upload option instead.

These are the ones I normally install:

5a. Akismet. You’ll find this pre-installed for you, waiting for you to activate it. Akismet is a powerful anti-spam tool. If you don’t plan to allow or approve comments, you don’t need it. If you’re thinking of allowing your site users to comment, go to the small trouble of obtaining a “key” and then activate it. Full and reasonably easy instructions are given as you go through the activation process.

5b. Easy Privacy Policy. It’s generally thought that Google looks for a privacy policy and even if that isn’t the case it doesn’t hurt to have one. This is easy to install and adds a Privacy page when you click the button at the end of the page.

5c. Google XML Sitemaps. Optional but helps to allow the search engines to find all the pages on your site. Despite its name, it doesn’t just cover Google.

5d. Smart Update Pinger. You have to download this one to your hard drive and then use the Upload feature to install. By default, WordPress “pings” (tells) various services that you’ve added a new post. Trouble is, it gets over enthusiastic and does this every time you make a change which if you’re in the habit of editing posts until they’re “just right” causes the ping services to get upset. Smart Update Pinger stops that from happening and allows your site to alert the ping services often but not too often.

5e. TweetMeme Retweet Button. This allows site visitors to tweet about your posts on Twitter at the click of a mouse. Useful to get a bit of extra buzz going.

5f. Stats. Another plugin that needs activating. Sure, you can get stats from your host but this gives an at-a-glance version without leaving your site. There are plenty of stats programs out there but I’ve found this one to be reliable.

5g. WP Super Cache. This is for when your blog gets busy – hopefully from lots of users but busy-ness can also be triggered by all sorts of other things. This is worth installing on a “just in case” basis.

5h. WP-SpamFree. Another one you have to download to your hard drive and then upload. I use it partly to provide a backstop for Akismet but mainly because it allows me to add a contact form quickly and easily. Activate it and copy the contact form code into a new page (called Contact or whatever you prefer). The only thing to remember is that this is code so you need to click the HTML tab above the post before you copy in the code. Then click the Visual tab again otherwise you’ll wonder why the buttons at the top of the editor look weird. There are other contact form plugins out there – Contact Form 7 is one I use if I want more control but WP-SpamFree is the one I use when I just need a basic contact form with the minimum of thought or effort.

That’s it – you’re ready to start adding pages or posts or both to your new WordPress site. Congratulations!

There are a few other tweaks you can do such as play around with Widgets. If there’s enough interest, I’ll talk about them in another post – just let me know in the comments section below.

But this post should give you all the essentials on how to set up a WordPress blog.

4 Essential Questions To Ask Your Website Designer

Like any professional service, website design is one that’s not always easy to judge before you actually sample it. Sure, you can look at someone’s portfolio but you have no way of knowing how much of the design was down to the designer and how much was insisted on by the client. So what should you ask your website designer to stand a better chance of getting a well designed website?

1. Do you do the design work by yourself or with a team?

There’s advantages and disadvantages whichever way this one is answered. But it may give you a clue as to how big the firm you’re working with really is. Sometimes a one-man band can bring better results than a collaborative effort and often this is more down to your personal preference as a client.

2. Will the pages you design validate and work in all browsers?

This is a biggie. There are standards for HTML and CSS that should be adhered to. As Microsoft have gradually made their Internet Explorer browser more compliant with these standards, a lot of sites have been caught out because they were designing their pages to take account of the idiosyncracies of Internet Explorer rather than work on all modern browsers. A good designer can make your pages look near enough identical regardless of the browser or operating system your customers are using. A bad designer will produce a page that goes haywire if it’s not viewed on the precise combination that they designed it in.

3. Will I be able to change the pages myself if I need to?

This may well strike dread into your designer’s heart but it shouldn’t! After all, you may want to add an extra service or remove an item you no longer offer. This is probably a two minute job that’s as quick for you to do as it is for you to explain to your web designer. It’s no good if it takes weeks of to-ing and fro-ing to get small changes made to your site. Any blustering could mean that either your potential designer is a control freak or that their code is so messy it would take you a month of Sundays to work your way round it. Some designers can’t even modify their own pages – scary thought, but one I’ve met before.

4. Will the site be installed on my web hosting?

This is another biggie. Too often, your website designer will want to host your site on their servers and hold you to ransom if you want to move or change anything. It may cost you slightly more initially but you’ll have more peace of mind if you can install the site they’ve designed on a website host that you have control over and access to. You can always allow your designer in to that space as well, but you’re in overall control. This is much better than finding out in six or twelve months time that your website designer has skipped town with a stack of unpaid bills and your beautifully designed site has been consigned to the digital garbage.