In the previous article, I talked about what a content management system (CMS) is and how it makes keeping a website up to date so much easier.
Here at ZenPunk Web Works, we work mostly with the WordPress CMS. There are others out there, but we like WordPress the best. Mostly because it’s easy to work with and also because it’s free.
Installing WordPress can be a little technical, but it’s not exactly rocket surgery. In this article, we explain how to install WordPress on your hosted site. WordPress can also be installed on your local computer, but it involves some more steps. We’ll tackle that subject in another article.
Downloading the WordPress CMS
Don’t freak out but there are actually two different WordPress systems. One is the CMS and can be downloaded from wordpress.org.
The other is for blogs hosted at wordpress.com. We don’t want that one since we’re looking to build a site on our hosting server. By the way, a server is just a computer capable of displaying web content. It’s no biggie.
A lot of web hosting companies offer a one-touch WordPress install on their control panel. If this is the case with your web host, great! It will save you having to upload all of the files (and there are a LOT of them).
If your web host doesn’t offer the one-touch install, start by going to wordpress.org and downloading the latest version of WordPress. It will come compressed in a single .zip file.
Uploading WordPress to your Web Host
Once you have the .zip file downloaded onto your computer, you will need to unzip it. If you are on a Mac, you should be able to right click on the file and open it up that way. Some PCs also have an unzip tool automatically installed. If not, you can usually find one on the web, such as WinZip.
Once the files are unzipped, you will need to transfer them up to the hosting server. This is usually done using a process called FTP, which stands for “file transfer protocol”. I have found the best tool for this job is one called FileZilla. It’s free and does a good job of things.
Whichever FTP app you use will require information about your hosting server as well as login information. This can often be found on your web host’s control panel. Look for something called FTP Settings. If possible, use the secure FTP options. If you have trouble creating an FTP connection to your host, contact your host for help. There may be a specific port you need to use.
Once you have established a connection with your FTP program, upload the WordPress files into the root folder of your site. Your root folder will most likely have a name like www or public_html. If it has both, just pick one.
It will take a while to upload the thousands of files, so by all means go fix yourself a cup of your favorite beverage. I’m a hot tea gal, personally.
Creating the Database
If you read the previous article on content management systems, you may recall that they store content information in a database. I know that may sound real technical, but all it is is a way to keep all of your site’s information organized.
To create the database, log into the control panel of your web hosting account. Look for something called MySQL Databases or Database Manager. MySQL is the type of database that WordPress uses to store the data. In the database manager create a new database. Your host may automatically create a prefix for it, such as yourname_mydatabase.
The database name should be all lowercase letters and/or numbers plus the underscore. Be sure to write down the name somewhere because you’re going to need it later. You will also probably have to create a database user and password. Write down that information, too. Finally, you may have to assign that user to have privileges to that database. Be sure to give it all privileges.
I know all of this probably seems real technical. Don’t worry. The worst is probably over. If you get confused or lost, contact your web hosting company.
The Famous 5-Minute Install
If you have the one-touch install, now is the time to click on that magical button. That will trigger a series of steps where WordPress walks you through the install process. Be sure to have your database name and user information.
If you don’t have the one-touch install option, but you’ve uploaded the files and created the database, open up your site in your browser. So if your domain name is mywebsite.com, go there in your browser. WordPress should automatically direct you to the install page.
The first step is to create what is called the wp-config.php file. To create this, WordPress will ask you for your database name, your username, your user password and the hostname (usually “localhost”). It will also ask you for a table prefix. Just leave this as wp_.
WordPress will then ask you for a Site Title (this can be changed later), a username (DO NOT USE “admin”), a password, your email address and whether you want to allow search engines like Google to search your website. Be sure to write down your user name and password.
If everything goes okay, you should get to the Success! screen. To visit the front end of your site, just type in your domain name (e.g. mysite.com) in the browser. That should show you the main index page with a sample blog post, etc.
To visit the admin side, type ‘/wp-admin/’ after your domain name. That will take you to the login page where you put in your username and password. You didn’t use the username “admin” did you? Okay, good. Just checking.
On the admin or backend side, you should see a menu on the left side with menu items like Dashboard, Posts, Pages, etc.
Uh Oh! Something Went Wrong!
Installing WordPress can be tricky sometimes. If you went to the front of your site and saw a blank screen (often called the “White Screen of Death”), something went wonky. It is usually one of two places. Either the database information you entered was incorrect or the permissions on the files may not be properly set.
To check the database information, go into the File Manager on your control panel and open up the wp-config.php file. Scroll down to where you see lines like define(‘DB_NAME, ‘mydatabasename’). Make sure your database information is correct. If it is, check the permissions on your files.
Files and folders have permission levels that control who can see, edit and execute the files. Usually these are grouped together in three categories: Owner, Group and World. Within each category you can select read, write and execute.
Often these categories will be assigned values between 0 and 7 depending on which access levels are granted. Clicking Read will increase the value of that category by 4. Clicking Write will increase the value by 2. Clicking Execute will increase the value by 1.
Ideally, you want to have a permission level of 755 for all of your files and folders. That means the Owner can Read, Write and Execute files (4+2+1=7), while Group and World can only Read and Execute (4+1=5).
Many hosting companies won’t let a file display in the browser if it doesn’t have the right permissions. This is to prevent visitors to your site from modifying files without your permission.
If the database information in your wp-config.php file is correct and the permissions on all of your files are set to 755, then you may need to contact your web hosting company for further assistance.
Still Have Questions on WordPress?
Check out the WordPress Codex for answers to your questions. The Codex has tons of information on how to use WordPress, including how to install themes and plugins. It’s a great source of information.
There is also WordPress.tv which has videos of WordPress professionals talking on a number of topics, some beginner-level while others are more advanced.
Also, check out wp.tutsplus.com for a wealth of hands-on tutorials.
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