How to set up a WordPress blogCredit: Myself

WordPress is by far the most well-known self hosted blogging software around, and for good reason. While themes and plugins can add excellent features to your WordPress blog, however, they can also mean the process for actually posting and editing content varies slightly from blog to blog.

Thankfully the basics of running WordPress are always the same, so here is a roundup of everything you need to consider when setting up a WordPress blog, from installation to site launch.

Installing WordPress

You'll be glad to hear that installing your WordPress blog can be very straightfoward. Unless you're comfortable with words like "FTP" however manual install can be a bit tricky, so hopefully you're with a decent host who offers Fantastico or another auto-install tool. There are video tutorials available to walk you through both automatic and manual WordPress installation, so just follow along carefully and you should be fine.

Preparing your blog

If your blog is live on the internet but not ready for people to see it quite yet because you're still fiddling around with WordPress settings or configuring your theme, you can use a clever plugin called underConstruction to hide your blog from prying eyes. When installed, this will show a customizable holding page to anyone who visits the blog and is not signed in. You'll be able to view the blog as it really looks, as long as you're signed in.

You can install plugins through the WordPress admin panel by going to Plugins > Add New and typing the plugin name into the search box.

The WordPress admin panel is very user-friendly, and makes it easy to change settings and generally keep things running smoothly. There are a lot of options though and it’s easy to overlook things when you're doing this for the first time (or, I know from experience, after 100 times). This guide to post-installation tasks is pretty much the holy grail of WordPress to-do lists. Some things in the post may not apply to your specific situation but I'd bet my left foot* that most of them will.

Change the appearance of your blog

It’s time to upload your theme, if you haven’t already. Some WordPress themes provide an interface for uploading your own header image or logo, while others do not. If your theme does not, an easy trick is to find the default header or logo image that the theme is already using and overwrite it with your own, keeping the exact same filename. The image shown on the site should update automatically, if not try refreshing your browser a few times and make sure you have no caching plugin activated on your blog.

Playing with widgets can be a bit of a timesink, depending on how easily amused you are. Widgets generated by third party plugins can often come with strange markup that your theme didn't expect to encounter, so it's worth checking that everything displays properly in your sidebar after choosing the final widget lineup.

Get ready for your first post

If you've already planned out the types of content you'll be posting, you may want to spend time setting up tags and categories in advance. You can add these from the add/edit post screen too so some people prefer to add them on the fly while writing blog posts. Each to their own.

If you're using WordPress version 3.0 or above, and your theme supports them, you may also want to set up one or more custom menus. You can do this by visiting Appearance > Menus in the WordPress admin panel. Add the links you need to a menu, and then you can drag each link around into a different order, or even to form submenus.

Get started!

The only way to create a popular blog is to have content, after all, so it's time to start writing some blog posts.

If you possibly can, try to resist pasting your blog posts from Microsoft Word. It can leave some awful code showing in your post that you may not know how to get rid of, and even if you do it can be very fiddly and take a long time to put right. Switch from Visual to HTML view in the editor if you do end up with any strange code (by clicking the tab at the top right of the edit box) and you may be able to see more clearly to remove it.

The preview button is there for a reason, so proofread your posts and be sure that any images added are showing up correctly. Proofread your post again, make sure you've added all the necessary categories and tags, proofread it once more to be sure and finally publish!

Once you have a few interesting articles, you can deactivate the underConstruction plugin and invite the waiting hordes of hysterical fans to visit your new blog.

*Disclaimer: my left foot is not really up for grabs