WordPress: Site Set-Up Made Easy

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Cedar Waxwing, copywrite Ellen Wilson

Cedar Waxwing, copywrite Ellen Wilson

Transformed from the cold of winter, spring has finally arrived.  And so has my new blog.  From the soil of Blogger, I have sprung like a lily into WordPress.   Let me give you the low down on my transformation, and how you, too, can easily change blogging platforms in a few easy steps.

How I Picked this Berry-of-a-Blog

First of all, I could find no easy how-to-guides for setting up a site on WordPress (WP).  I even bought WordPress for Dummies, which proved to be…exasperating.  Though it is full of good information, it has no clearly ordered steps to follow.  I like clearly ordered steps; I will follow them, one foot at a time. I don’t want to jump all around putting the puzzle together.  I started to feel like Bones on Star Trek:  Damn it, Jim! I’m a writer/photographer, not a magician!  But, eventually, the tenacious pug in me put it all together.

Themes

Before you jump into the logistics of your transformation, you might want to start perusing the thousands of WP themes that are out there on the Internet.  You can find a multitude of free themes that will suit your needs.  Start asking yourself some questions about layout and design.  What is important to you?  What do you absolutely want/need on your site?  What’s it all about anyway?

Play around in template heaven.  You will be glad you did.

Important!  All files that you download from WP are zipped.  You will have to unzip them in order to upload them to your site.  You need a program to do this for you.  Check your hard drive to see if you have such a program, if not, get one.  I purchased WinZip, because I figured I would be using it for awhile, but you can also download the program for a 45 day free trial.

First, I had a basic site set up for free by some nice people at WP. I did not want the basic theme the nice people set up, so I then uploaded the Ngatini theme, by Narudin Jauhari.  I like this theme because you can change the header (top picture) into anything you want.  I can now upload any picture I want into this area.  Great for a photographer.  This theme also has numerous widgets that you can use in your sidebar.  Once you choose a theme it will be listed at the bottom of your site page, as mine is.

Step 1:  To Domain or not to Domain?

That is the question.  If you decide to post on WordPress.com, you don’t need a domain.  It’s free.  But you are limited to what you can upload on your site.

There are many hosting sites to choose from.  I chose Hostican (update: now called Jumpline and I DO NOT recommend them) because it was advertised on WordPress’s site.  Your host site will give you your domain.  The benefits of obtaining your own domain is that you own it.  No one else does.  And for a business, that’s important.

Search engines also put at the top of the heap when you get your own name.  And you want to stick out, don’t you?  Of course you do!  You are a writer/photographer, damn it!  You live to get noticed.  Let us be perfectly clear about this, and not hide behind a bush.

Think about it, people associate you with your brand.  And your brand is reflected in your domain name.  So spend some time thinking about your name.

Step 2:  Oh, Our FTP!

WTH?  Yes, FTP is an affectionate acronym for file transfer protocol.  You will be able to upload your WP template via whatever system your hosting site uses, but using FTP may prove much quicker.  I use Filezilla.  Filezilla is the Godzilla of file management.  I truly like this monster management system.  Filezilla quickly picks up the files on your hard drive in its huge jaws and neatly drops them into the database of your domain.  Best of all, Filezilla is free to download and use.

Check out this great tutorial on Filezilla.  It really helped me understand how to use this program.

Step 3:  Plugins

If a WP template is a blank canvas, plugins are the paint that brings your canvas to life.  There are hundreds of free plugins out there on the Web.  Discover them!  This site uses Yet Another Photoblog (YAPB), designed by Johannes Jarolim.  It is simple to install and easy to tweak.  I can now download a new picture for each post.  Plugins are uploaded the same way a WP template is.  Make sure you read the readme txt file directions for each plugin before you attempt to upload it; every one is a little different.  Unfortunately.

Last but not Least…

WordPress also transfers all of your posts from your old blogging platform into your new database.  If this an important consideration for you, make sure that WordPress supports the transfer of your old platform’s posts.

Really, it’s not too hard getting started, if you follow the steps that I’ve laid out for you.  I think I’ve included all the basics.  The bare Bones.  Transform yourself!  You, too, will be saying, “Damn it, Ellen – I am a magician!”

Happy site design everyone.  Drop me a line when you have your new site up and running so I can come over and admire it.

Update:  For excellent tips on site design please visit these sites:

Men with Pens

Chris Garrett

Darren Rowse 

Photo Credit: © Ellen Wilson

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10 Responses to WordPress: Site Set-Up Made Easy

  1. Karen Swim says:

    Hi Ellen! I love the new site and am fully convinced to make the move to WP. Your site truly is now worthy of your talents. Thanks for all the helpful tips. I too have started doing research and have noticed the mish mash of disorganized information. Your photos are breathtaking. Congratulations on your new home. I’ll be visiting regularly so save me a seat. 🙂

    Karen

  2. Ellen Wilson says:

    Karen, you will most certainly enjoy WP. I hope the tidbits help. I knew next to nothing about Domains, plugins, FTP, etc., etc. Learning so much in such a short period of time has made me tired, and thrown my rhythms out of wack. I should retire to the woods for awhile.

  3. Glad you made the move, Ellen. One suggestion – get the “subscribe to comments” plugin and install it. It’s really a good one to have.

    Sheesh – haven’t I taught you anything? 😉

  4. Ellen Wilson says:

    James, I have learned from the best. Thanks for the tip. E

  5. Kelly says:

    Ellen,

    Thanks for the comment over at the MCE Blog, where as James knows, I can’t let folks subscribe to comments. (So you know, I commented back. Go visit, but don’t tell James I’m using this goofy way of talking back to you. He thinks I’m goofy enough.)

    Actually I am not commenting for that reason, but to totally agree with you about the lack of clear, step-by-step doc on making the big switch. What I’ve found is lots of folks saying it’s yucky and icky if coming from TypePad. For weeks I’ve been trying to tell myself it can be done, but myself disagrees. Even Steve Rubel, a huge blogger over at the big LilyPad who was able to have conversations with the WP people when trying to switch last fall, gave up in frustration. Nobody at WP’s going to talk to me, for sure. No wonder it looks rough. Sheesh indeed.

    (James isn’t listening, is he? ‘Cause he’ll say it’s way easy and I won’t really have to hire four coders and it won’t take three weeks of my life and interrupt work I get paid for and still be buggy and wreck what little mojo I have in the blogosphere and Steve Rubel’s a wimp and so am I, or something like that.)

    I’m pretty well convinced that I’d like to in theory, but I’d have to work on it on a vacation or something. Actually what I’d really like is for TP to step up, because truth to tell I like them holding my hand.

    May your switch be perfect! Cheers!

    Kelly

  6. Ellen Wilson says:

    Kelly,

    I won’t lie, it does take up a lot of your time to switch to WP. I have spent quite a few hours working on this site when I could have been soliciting work. But, the way I look at it, it was a good business decision to move out of Blogger and into WP. It’s not hard, as long as you follow the steps. You don’t need a a bunch of coders working on it, unless you want a specialized template, plugin, or design. The important thing is do whatever works for you.

    I don’t even know what TP is. I’ll have to go Google it. E

  7. Ellen Wilson says:

    Ahhh! Type Pad! It’s late; I’m tired.

    Type Pad and Lily Pad. Two new blogging platforms I have learned of today.

  8. Kelly says:

    LilyPad=TypePad=TP

    Sorry 🙂

  9. Hi Ellen,

    This is a great tutorial, and you’ve covered all of the bases. Although it can seem overwhelming at first, taking it one step at a time makes it lots easier.

    Like magic, you’ll have a shiny new blog. How cool is that?

    Barbara Swafford’s last blog post..Blogs – The New Electronic Paper Trail

  10. Ellen Wilson says:

    Thanks Barbara. Yeah, I advocate breaking it down into steps or it is TOO overwhelming. Especially for us nontechies. But if you can do that it really isn’t rocket science. Just plug and go.

    I refuse to mess with CSS or HTML.

    Watch, now that I’ve said that I will.

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