By Gareth Van Zyl
Setting up a professional-looking website in a relatively short space of time is usually quite easy.
A website makes you or your business accessible to potentially everyone surfing the internet, so if you want to setup your own site, read on as WINDOWS gives you a crash course to getting your site online.
Whatever your intention is of creating a website, setting up a professional-looking website in a relatively short space of time is actually quite easy and inexpensive.
The saying that a little knowledge is a powerful thing is apt in this instance, as all one needs to setup a site is a Content Management System (CMS) and the know-how of how your chosen system works. There are loads of systems out there; from the award-winning Drupal and Joomla! to the newly established systems such as Django.
Many of these systems have their differences and they each have their own internal logic as well. But all of them are designed to make managing your website an easy and quick procedure.
This crash course in getting your site online will show you how to use the Wordpress online publishing tool to get your site online. This article will guide you through the process of acquiring your web address and server space, how to upload and install your Wordpress files onto your server space, choosing a look and feel for your site, how to post content onto your site and an introduction to the world of plugins that you can integrate with your site.
Step 1. Getting your web address and server space
The first step to setting up your own website is to register a domain and rent server space. There are numerous online web-hosting companies that will register a domain and offer you a web-hosting package. But seeing as we're focusing on using the Wordpress publishing platform, you have to use the services of a server company that has PHP 5, MySQL and Control Panel (cPanel).
If you are planning on setting up a small website, search Google for a web-hosting company that offers all the services mentioned above. You should also search for a web-hosting firm that offers at least 1Gbyte of server disk space.
Dotservant.com, for instance, offers a service whereby you can register a domain and get 5Gbytes of web space and 10Gbytes of monthly transfer bandwidth for US $6 per month (excluding the annual once-off cost of $15 for registering the domain).
Unless you are planning on building a megalith of a website, the above-mentioned specifications should be sufficient, at least initially. Make sure as well, once you've decided on a web-host, that the host sends you information regarding the username and password you will use to login into cPanel and the link you'll use to log into your cPanel.
Step 2. Downloading Wordpress
Wordpress is a popular online publishing tool. It is open source so one can download the files for free at www.wordpress.org. Besides being free to use, Wordpress is also one of the easiest online publishing tools to use and is one of the most aesthetically pleasing online publishing tools to look at. CNN, The New York Times and even Martha Stewart are some of the most prominent users of the Wordpress system.
Furthermore, Wordpress has loads of self-help guides out there, such as Wordpress for Dummies, for those who want to find out more about using the publishing tool.
Step 3. Uploading the Wordpress files to your server space
Uploading the Wordpress files onto your server will require that you use cPanel. Log in to cPanel and click on the ‘File Manager' icon on the cPanel home page. You will be presented with a screen displaying all your files on your server. You will need to navigate to the left of your screen and click on your ‘public_html folder' or ‘home' folder to be in the correct location to upload your files.
Uploading your Wordpress files is simple. All you need to do is click on the upload icon at the top of the screen, navigate to the location of the zipped Wordpress files on your computer and upload the zipped files onto your server.
Once the zipped files are loaded onto your server, you can extract the files. Click on the check button next to where your zipped Wordpress files appear on your server and click on the icon at the top of the screen that says ‘extract' to unzip your Wordpress files onto the server.
Next, you need to setup your database, which is done by navigating back to the homepage of your cPanel and then by clicking on the ‘MySQL database wizard' icon.
The wizard will guide you through all the steps required to setup a database for your site. You will be asked to enter a name, username and password for your database. Also, you must enable all permissions when you are prompted to do so.
After you've setup your database, you can configure the ‘wp-config-sample.php' file, which is bundled with your Wordpress files uploaded on your server. The easiest way to configure this file is by keeping a copy of the file on your hard drive and then opening the file with your text editor on your computer.Once you've opened the file, you will then see that it presents you with a few lines that you will be able to edit, namely the database name, the database username, the database password and the database host name. This file helps you connect to the database that you created earlier.
Ensure when entering the relevant information that the information is typed correctly and that it appears within single commas. Once you've edited this information, you should then save the file on your computer as ‘wp-config.php' (note that you have changed it from ‘wp-config-sample.php'). Upload the file onto your server in the root or home folder.
Step 4. Run the Installer
You can run the Wordpress installer by typing the home address of your website in your browser. You will then be presented with the installer screen.
With Wordpress, the installation process is quick and easy. In fact, it's a one step process. You only need to enter a blog title (or the title of your website) and your email address. Your username and password will appear on the screen and you can change your password settings when you are logged into the manager.
Step 5. Choose a Theme
If you don't have any knowledge about coding languages such as HTML, CSS, PHP or MySQL, the Wordpress website has a range of ready-made themes to choose from (check out http://wordpress.org/extend/themes/ to see the available options).
Download your chosen theme's files onto your computer and then upload the files into your ‘wp-content folder' onto your server in the folder named ‘themes'. Log in to the Wordpress manager of your website and click on the tab that says ‘Design'. Then, click on the link that says ‘Themes'. You will be able to see a list of themes that you can activate, including the themes you have uploaded onto your server.
Many downloadable themes have header images that you can replace with your own header image. Ensure that the header image you wish to upload has the same dimensions as the header image bundled with the theme though. A great tool to use to scale, crop and resize images is the photo manipulation software GIMP (bundled on this month's free CD).
Step 6. Posting Content
Posting content on a Wordpress-powered site is simple. There are two basic functions necessary concerning posting content: write post and write page. The difference between the two is that a post is a blog or news article that has its default settings set in such a way that all articles appear as a syndicated list on the front page of the site. A page, on the other hand, is just a simple information-based page, such as an ‘About' or ‘Contact' page.
You can, however, setup your home page as a page that does not display the latest news articles. To enable or disable these settings, click on the settings tab and click on the ‘reading' link. You will be able to choose which page will display your latest ‘news articles'.
After sorting out the front page configuration of your home page, you are then in a position to start posting content. Navigate to the ‘Write' link and choose whether you want to write a ‘Post' or a ‘Page' (there is little difference in the way you would post content for a page or a post).
When posting content, you can upload text, images, visual media and even audio media. Also, the text editor used to post content is very similar to Microsoft Word when it comes to posting content.
After writing your page or post, you can decide if you want to publish it. You can save a page or post prior to publishing, or you can publish a page or post straight away if you are happy with it.
All unpublished and published articles can be viewed by clicking on the ‘Manage' tab and by choosing either posts or pages. In this manager section, you can delete pages and posts as well.
Step 7. Plugins
You can setup photo-galleries, contact forms and integrate all kinds of other modules or ‘plugins' into a Wordpress-driven site. Other modules include voting polls, photo galleries and contact forms, and all Wordpress modules can be downloaded off the Wordpress website by visiting this link http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/.
Every downloadable plugin is an open source program and every plugin comes with instructions on how to install the plugin.
So, who said setting up a website had to be difficult and expensive when you can do it yourself. In the next issue WINDOWS will show you how to setup your own personalised email address on your newly acquired server space.
Some hosting companies such as http://www.webfaction.com allow you to setup your WordPress site in just one-click so you don't even need to install it yourself.