Creating this blog was a learning experience. I did not intend to put NEARLY as much work as went in to it, mostly because I did not realize that there is a difference between WordPress.com and WordPress. There were a bunch of twists and turns, and I think I got most of them right the first time, and I feel lucky!
Hence why I am writing this post. It would have been nice to find a recipe to follow all the way through, and know I am doing it right.
I HIGHLY RECOMMEND READING THE WHOLE POST BEFORE YOU START THE RECIPE.
First, a bit of background:
I had another incarnation of Krawczuk Industries before. I basically always like the name, because the words look balanced next to each other. Sort of like how Stephen King looks nice on the top of books. So, I got the URL (I like Namecheap to register a domain) and pointed it at a tumblr site. And it sat there, pretty much untouched with a few posts.
Later, I had a need for a portfolio site and a blog (THIS SITE!) and looked around for an alternative.
The Difference Between WordPress.com and WordPress.org
Just to be clear: http://wordpress.com and WordPress are different things, but they are related.
YOU CANNOT HOST A CUSTOM THEME ON http://wordpress.com . They say so on their site.
I didn’t know that. A friend of mine said she downloaded a theme, and that you could upload it to http://wordpress.com, or at least that is what I thought she said.
And so I looked at themes. And found one I loved. Swooned over really. Perfect: it had a portfolio, had pages, and a blog. It was is Yin and Yang by OnionEye.
And then I realized: http://wordpress.com and WordPress are different things, and themes can only be used on WordPress.
So, what is the difference? In short: WordPress is like building and owning your own house (you need to do all of the work and all of the chores, but you can customize all you want) , and WordPress.com is like renting an apartment (all of the work is done and a lot of little things are done for you behind the scenes, and you can focus on just creating the content in the environment provided).
– is a piece of software that needs to be installed on a server. There are fees associated with having a server. (I use Laughing Squid, but more about that later.)
– Since this is running on a server, you will need to do ongoing maintenance.
– the software is Open Source, so you can download it and use it for free
– you can install custom themes, many of which will allow you to use WordPress as a CMS. Some themes are free, some you need to pay for.
– you can install plugins, which will extend functionality of WordPress. (I didn’t think I would need to do this, but I found the system needed to be supplemented with some of the features.) Most plug-ins are entirely free, but making a donation is nice. Some plug-ins tie into outside services, which DO charge a fee.
– stats do not come directly out of the box.
They do a great job of describing themselves on their “about” page. And I’ll paraphrase a bit here.
– This is a service based on the WordPress platform, where you can start a blog in seconds without any technical knowledge.
– You must use their themes and layouts, but you can be adding any content very quickly. (You can pay to customize somewhat, but that customization is limited. There are also Premium Themes, which are a little more fancy still, but still hosted on wordpress.com.) You CANNOT install custom themes.
– This is mostly free to use, but there are some premium services
– while you cannot add plug-ins to wordpress.com, the platform already incorporates many valuable features you would typically add plug-ins for.
– Stats are available with the service.
Do your own homework as well, but those are the major differences I see. Still want to do your own WordPress site? Then read on.
From here, you should have:
– a domain name (as I said, I like Namecheap to register a domain)
– a theme in mind (as I said, I like Yin and Yang by OnionEye), that suits what you want to do (I am going to assume you know the theme/purpose of your blog.)
– a credit card handy (I recommend being cash forward – don’t put anything on your credit card you can’t pay off immediately. But hey, it’s your life.)
– 4-8 hours to do this without rushing, and a week to tweak, play and add content. (You can do this quicker, but it does take time. Give yourself a reasonable amount of time if you can.)
Picking A Host
Once I realized I could not post my theme to WordPress.com, but really loved my theme, I went to WordPress.org to figure out my next steps. It seemed like I had to pick a host, and it seems that they have a number of partners.
I looked at the bigger hosts. I liked the idea that they had one click installation of WordPress, and that there were “unlimited” options. But, I didn’t like what I heard of the reviews. So, I went with Laughing Squid. Actually, I know the people who run Laughing Squid personally, but they didn’t seem as easy, so they weren’t my first choice. But the poor reviews of the others and my personal experience eventually sold me.
I chose the micro-squid plan. The set-up was quick and painless. With very little hassle.
I followed their guidance on how to set up wordpress:
(I liked their directions better than wordpress’s: http://codex.wordpress.org/Installing_WordPress)
If you followed all of those steps, you are now the proud administrator of a basic wordpress site. Good Work!
Customize Word Press
In my opinion, the only mis-step I took was not installing this plug-in first, before doing anything else: Better WP Security.
Go to the “Plugins” nav on the side of the page, click on “Add New” and add that one. It takes a second, but then you will see a “Security” tab on the left. Follow their directions to secure everything, in a way you find reasonable.
With that done, you may want to upload your theme. OnionEye came with instructions on how to upload, which I followed. I basically clicked on “Appearances” on the left, “Install Theme” tab at the top of the page and then “upload” from the nanavigation below that.
Now, you have a more secure site, that is even begining to start to look right! Now is a good time to start adding content.
Or, you could add some more plug-ins.
This is what I am using:
>Security – no system is perfect. But, these make the off-the-shelf system a little better.
Better WP Security – in their words, “takes the best WordPress security features and techniques and combines them in a single plugin thereby ensuring that as many security holes as possible are patched”.
WP Security Scan – connects to an outside service which scans your site for problems.
>Backup – it is essential to make a copy of your work. It is very easy to loose a whole site…
WordPress Database Backup – this will back up to your email address
WordPress Backup to Dropbox – this will back up to Dropbox.
>Contact Forms, Comments and Spam
Akismet – This one, while tied to a pay service, provides the very needed service of cutting down comments spam. Pay for it. You WILL need it.
Contact Form 7 – This one seemed popular, and tied in nicely to CAPTCHA
Better WordPress reCAPTCHA – Let’s you do CAPTCHA on forms, which seems helpful.
Contact Form 7 BWP reCAPTCHA Extension – Links both Contact Form 7 and CAPTCHA together
Artiss YouTube Embed – This seemed full featured, should you want it to be, or simple.
Awesome Flickr Gallery – Again, simple and powerful solution
TPG Get Posts – I wanted a simple way to have a list of the most recent blog posts, and this did the trick!
Google XML Sitemaps – This creates a sitemap of your site, so Google can find all the bits
Google Analytics for WordPress – This streamlines integration of Google Analytics.
– Webmaster tools – These tools help you understand your site, from Google’s perspective. Not a plug in, but a service you should sign up for.
– Google Analytics – Stats from Google. Not a plug in, but a service you should sign up for.
I may install in the future:
– A link checker, to make sure all of my links still work.
– A cache plug-in, which will make static versions of all of my pages, rather than dynamic ones
This is what I am not using:
Hello Dolly – Cute! A great example of what a plug-in does. But, not something I really need.
Jetpack by WordPress.com – Personally, it doesn’t provide a lot of value. I like Google stats better, and the rest of the functionality I either don’t need or think the other plug-ins will do better.
It’s all sort of painless now. There are the occasional updates.
Oh, and you have to create your content… Darn thing does not write itself. Or could it???
Huge thanks to http://glukkake.me/ for providing me some guidance when I really needed it! If it wasn’t for her, I would still be slightly afraid of plug-ins!
Thanks Mark… this really simplified the process of building dare I say two sites…
And I am a creative in a techie body.
Thanks Mark. This was very helpful. I found it especially helpful in beginning to understand how plug-ins can expand wordpress functions. And that helped me make the decision between free word press and the other one.
Thanks, I’ve spent way too long overinforming and confusing myself. Now I can just relax and actually put a site up easily. Well written, Michael.
Thanks so much. I was able to get http://www.ashleybiezecreative.com/ off the ground really quickly. WP can be intimidating even if you are tech savvy. Great post.