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Getting Started with WordPress.org

There are two flavours of WordPress. There’s the service version (WordPress.com), and then there’s the self-hosted version (WordPress.org). This post is intended to be a super-simple guide to getting started with WordPress.org, and assumes the reader has some proficiency with the web.

WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org: What’s the difference?

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WordPress.com
Vanilla WordPress as a service, complete with customer support and VIP plans. This option is best suited for bloggers, writers, or authors that don’t want to mess with technical stuff. Getting a blog is free — you’re not paying for web hosting — but features are limited. Additional space, custom design, removal of advertising, video hosting, and domain names are considered premium add-ons, and they’ll cost you money.

WordPress.org
Standalone version of WordPress, best suited for businesses, designers, or developers. The download is free, but you’ll need to find your own hosting, and there is no official customer support outside of the forums. Don’t be worried, though – the WordPress “aftermarket” caters to this version, so there are hundreds (if not thousands) of freelance consultants and developers out there who will gladly support you. You’ll also find that premium themes and plugins from shops like StudioPress and WooThemes are built for WordPress.org sites.

Setting Up your WordPress.org Site

1. Register your domain name & web hosting.
Bluehost, DreamHost, MediaTemple and Laughing Squid get the official endorsement from Automattic, the company behind WordPress. Other worthwhile providers include HostGator and 1&1. I’m still hunting for a decent Canadian web host, sadly.

2. Create a MySQL database for your WordPress installation.
The steps are different for each web host, but regardless of your provider, you’ll need to take note of the database name, database username and password. These credentials will be required when you install WordPress.

3. Get your hands on an FTP program & code editor.
I suggest Filezilla and Komodo Edit. Both are free programs, they work on all major platforms (Windows, Mac and Linux), and I swear by them!

4. Download WordPress.
Go to the WordPress.org website, download the latest version of WordPress, and extract the /wordpress/ folder to a location on your computer.

5. Upload WordPress to your web space.
Using your FTP program, upload the contents of /wordpress/ to your web space. You can upload to the root folder (usually called “public_html”), or you can upload to a subfolder like /blog/ or /wordpress/ — the choice is yours.

6. Run the installer or edit wp-config-sample.php
Make sure you have the MySQL database name, username, and password!

To run the installer, go to your WordPress installation and follow the on-screen instructions. WordPress will try to create the wp-config.php for you.

Note: For added security, change the “wp_” table prefix to something else.

If that doesn’t work, or if you’d prefer to jump right into the code, open up wp-config-sample.php, and enter your MySQL database credentials. Save the file as wp-config.php and upload it to your WordPress directory. Once uploaded, go to your WordPress installation.

7. Follow the setup instructions.
You’ll be asked to provide a name for your blog and details for the admin user. Once that’s done, your website will be good to go.

Next Steps

Must-Have WordPress Plugins
When installing WordPress for the first time, I always go for the following plugins:

This post was inspired by the #ladieslearningcode event Introduction to WordPress for Beginners, which took place on November 26th, 2011. The workshop was led by local developer Wes Bos. I participated in the event as a volunteer mentor, helping attendees explore the basics of WordPress.

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