In this two part tutorial series, we’ll be running through how to set up your own blog using WordPress. WordPress is a content management system(CMS) used to create websites and blogs. Using its built-in interface you can easily produce a site for your business, blog, personal use or anything else without any background in web development. It’s also very versatile so you can design your site however you want. In part one, i’ll show you how to set-up hosting for both local and remote servers. At the end of this article, you should have a basic WordPress blog or website which we’ll start customising in part two.
Local hosting and Web hosting
In order for your website to be visited, we need it to be available on a web server. This web server stores your website and needs to be running at all times so that when a client is looking for your site they can find it. This is called web hosting and it means that your site is available to everyone anytime by being stored on a remote server.
But first, you need to build your website and while you can do all your development online through a remote server, another way is through local hosting. This is where you turn your PC into a personal server that only you can access. By doing this, development is made offline and then uploaded to a web server, making it live. Local hosting has its benefits as we can use it for development, backups and testing. This will also save money as local hosting is usually free and we won’t be relying on web hosting for storage until we’re ready to make our site live.
Ultimately, the choice is down to you, if you would rather develop entirely online through a web server, you can skip ahead to setting this up. If you want to develop through local hosting, read on.
Local Hosting with Xammp
Right now there is plenty of downloadable server software we can use but too many to mention in this article. Instead I’ll be discussing the software I’ve used before to get local hosting.
Because this article is focusing on creating a blog web site using WordPress, we’ll need a local server that can accommodate this.
From my own experience, I’ve developed sites and projects using Xampp. This is a free, open source server for Windows, OS X and Linux. It’s also has a very helpful community and is widely used and available on multiple operating systems. Another perk is that it also works for site development software such as Drupal and Joomla so you don’t need another server if you ever want to try out alternatives to WordPress. It also includes PHP development which is the scripting language WordPress uses which saves us an extra step when setting up and configuring our local host.
Setting up Xammp
While we may have access to many different servers I’ll be demonstrating how to set up WordPress using Xammp in order to make this article useful for everyone regardless of operating system.
First, we need the Xammp software which you can get here. Be sure to choose the version appropriate to your operating system and download. Once downloaded, you can launch the installer. You might first receive multiple messages from yours PC’s security but carry on through to the installer. After hitting next, you’ll see a checklist of added features with Xammp. For WordPress, all we need is PHPMyAdmin and MySQL. It should look something like this;
Next, we need to choose where to install. In this case, this will be C:\Program Files where you should make a new folder called “Xammp”. This is where we will also be installing WordPress later so make a note of this.
The next stage will ask you about learning more about Bitnami for Xammp. This is an installer for additional applications. Because I’ll be showing you how to download WordPress yourself, we can uncheck the box for learn more about Bitnami for WordPress. Now we need to install Xammp.
The last stage will ask you about starting the control panel. Make sure this is checked and hit Finish.
This should automatically bring up the control panel screen which should look like this:
For our WordPress site all we need is to press start for both Apache and MySql services. These should now be both up and running. Now we need to set up our local database to store our site’s content.
On the Xammp control panel hit the admin button next to MySql. This will take us to the control panel.
On the left hand side you’ll see a panel with a list of names. These are the names of our databases which will change from person to person. At the top of this list is new. Select this and you’ll see the same list of names in the centre of the screen. At the top is the prompt to create a new database. We want to create a database for our site which you can call anything you want but for now, we can call it “Wordpress”. Take note of your database name as we’ll need this in a moment. Hit create and you’ve made your database.
The last part of setting up our locally hosted site is to actually install the WordPress software.
Download WordPress here. Before you extract the file, we need to place it where we installed Xammp earlier. This should be C:\Program Files/Xammp. Inside this Xammp folder is another folder called htdocs. This is where you will cut and paste the file. Now you can extract the package by right clicking and hitting extract all. You can rename the folder here to something more memorable like “wordpress”. Open up this folder and find the file wp-config-sample.php and rename it to wp-config.php.
Next, open this file in a text editor (I’m using Sublime Text but any text editor should work) so we can modify it.
Find this part of the script…
…and change it so that the database name is the same as what we named our database earlier, in this example its “wordpress”. Then change the username to “root” and leave the password blank. This last one can be changed later but for now we can save the file and close it.
If you’ve made it this far, you’ve gotten over the hard part as all we need is to install and set up WordPress. Open up your browser and go to http://localhost/wordpress/. This will take us through the installation process. This is a straight forward process of choosing your language and then the username and password you’ll be using to sign into the backend of your website.
It’s important to know that with any account you should be aware of security. I’d recommend either using the password generated by the process or using your own combination of characters. Be sure to keep a record of your sign in details and we’re finished. You’ll be taken to your website which will have all the default features which we will be going through later in this tutorial.
Next, I’ll be showing you how to do this but using your WordPress site on a remote server to make it available online.
If you’re just looking to keep your website local for now you can skip ahead to part 2.
Setting up Web Hosting and Installing WordPress
Web hosting is how you’ll make your site available for other people to visit.
This is different to local hosting where the site can only be seen by you. By not using local hosting and skipping ahead to this section we’ll go through how to use a web hosting service to store your website.
This is also the point where costs come into play. While there are plenty of free services out there they come with the risk of limited resources, limited customisation, insecure servers and the possibility of deleting your site and all your work.
Paying for your web hosting is the best way to get your site out there and they are reasonably affordable.
There are a lot of services available such as Hostgator, Siteground and Bluehost and choosing the right one can really be a daunting task if this is your first foray into hosting. While they all do more or less the same thing you’ll probably be taking into account factors like pricing, space, and bandwidth. But luckily there’s also plenty of up to date lists and reviews comparing these services.
This is ultimately a choice that’s left to you however I’ll talk you through some factors that you’ll ideally need.
Disk space/storage: This is the amount of allocated space you have to store your content. If your site is very media based, you’ll need more space. Services vary between several GBs to unlimited.
Bandwidth: When a user visits your site they take a small percentage of your bandwidth. The more visitors the more of this resource is taken slowing down the loading times. Unless your anticipating thousands of visitors at once this won’t be a huge factor and many services provide high to unlimited bandwidth.
Security/site backups: Securing your site is always crucial. Your site can be hacked and have it user accounts deleted or accessed. Your site can even be deleted altogether. These are worst case scenarios but it’s always wise to be able to back-up your website or have your user’s details securely stored.
Domains/Sub domains: This is your first site but maybe you see yourself developing additional sites in the future. Domains and sub domains allow you to develop separate websites that are all stored under the one hosting service.
Email: This is pretty self-explanatory but having your name followed by @yourwebsite can look pretty professional.
Support: You don’t need it until something goes wrong and Googling it won’t help. Access to live chats, email and user forums can really save you in these situations.
Shopping: Maybe you’re selling a unique product and want to include online transactions. While there are hosting services that support e-commerce it may not be a necessary feature right away. WordPress is customised using plugins one of which is Paypal so securely handling transactions isn’t something to worry about just yet.
The links above cross reference all of these qualities and many more so it’s worth spending some time thinking about. I should also mention that the limits of these different factors can also change depending on the service’s different plans.
Setting up a Web Hosting Plan & Getting a Domain
There are already so many hosting services out there however they should share a similar setup process of getting a domain, billing and additional content. In this example I’ll be referencing the process using Hostgator as I’ve used it before. This isn’t to say you should do the same just that I’ll be using it as an example.
The first step is usually choosing a plan. You can base this choice on your budget or what you are looking for. These plans usually consist of basic ones that can be limited to a single site or more advanced ones that have additional content. We need at least one domain for our site so you can still make your way through this tutorial even with a basic plan.
Some services actually have plans that include WordPress but for this tutorial I’ll show you how to do this yourself.
Once you decided, you’ll most likely be taken through the process of getting your domain name like in the example below.
Here you can enter in the name of your website.
You’ll probably find the domain already exists so this is where you have to get creative by trying to reword your domain or change to .org, .net or a list of other options.
Changing the domain ending can actually have different costs too so be sure to choose one that seems appropriate.
After you’ve decided on an available domain you’ll be taken through the billing process. Some hosts will use this opportunity to add additional content.
This can be security, emails, back-ups etc. You should use your best judgement for these as they all have their benefits. It’s better to pay that much more if you want prevent a potential hack or loss in the future.
Once you’ve given all your personal and payment details, you should receive a record, most likely an email with all your hosting details and a link to your dashboard.
Using a Domain you got earlier
Alternatively you may already have a domain you bought earlier. Usually a web host will have the option to use this instead of creating one.
Now that we have our domain and hosting set up, we just to need to install WordPress.
There are different methods of installing WordPress and using it with your hosting provider. One of these methods involves FTP software such as FileZilla and uploading your content. This is a bit too much to get into if this is your first time creating a website. Right now, we’re going to use the simplest method by installing through our web host.
First, login to the control panel of your host using the login credentials you should have received. The layout of your host’s back-end can vary however if it supports applications such as Drupal, WordPress and Joomla then there should be a page that will take you through installation.
Selecting WordPress will likely take you to a page where you should choose the current version. Next, is to choose the domain you site will be under and the Username and password.
Finally, there’s the directory where we’ll save WordPress. Most likely you’ll want the domain to be the install location. Ideally this should be left blank or with “/” if it’s not already there.
After you’re finished, hit install. You’ll receive a link to your site along with your WordPress login details either on screen or by email. Don’t be alarmed when this link doesn’t work. WordPress can take anywhere from a few hours up to 24 hours to setup. Eventually your link will be live and take you straight to your new site.
Ok, so maybe it’s not exactly how you imagined your new website. This is actually the default layout and it will most likely be different to yours. In the next article I’ll be showing you how to start developing your website, using themes, creating articles and more.