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Noemi Millman: Triopter: First Steps: Configuring Wordpress

First Steps: Configuring WordPress

I planned to document the process of setting up this site, so here’s the first installment.

WordPress’s famous “five-minute installation” is great. In fact, a lot of web hosts even have a “one-click” installation process available that takes even less time and doesn’t even require you to find out things like your database login.

And a default WordPress installation is very useful, and very close to ready to use. Its defaults for posting, commenting, and everything are very useful.

But there are always a few things I like to change. There are the obvious, such as setting up a tagline, changing the example “Hello World” entry, and deleting the example comment. Then there are the not-so-obvious things like permalinks and the blogroll. Here are the first three things I did with this blog after installing and changing the tagline:

Setting Up the Blogroll

WordPress comes with a default “blogroll”, a list of links to other people’s blogs – in this case the blogs of the WordPress developers. Since those links are useful to have (your dashboard will keep you updated on their posts and thus on updates and tricks about WordPress), but you don’t really want links to them, I set them all to be “invisible” (i.e. not shown on my public blog pages), and move them to a “default links” category to keep them out of the way.

Once you’ve done that, you can add your own friends’ blogs to your links list, and make them visible. Or you can wait and do that later.

Customizing Permalinks

What are permalinks? Well, usually when you write a post, it appears on the front page of your blog. As you write more, eventually that post will be bumped off the bottom of that page, and become just an archived post. A permalink is a permanent link to that post, a URL that will always reach it, regardless of whether or not it’s still on the front page.

WordPress allows you to set up your permalinks (go to Options => Permalinks, in the admin menu) to look however you want them to (although to do so, you really need to be on UNIX-based hosting, and to make sure your host has enabled something called mod_rewrite). I use a friendly format that includes the post title, which is also great for getting your site ranked well in search engines.

You can also add other things to the URL, such as the word “archive”, the year, month, or day of the post, the author’s name, or more. WordPress then lets you know if you need to update a special file called .htaccess in order to make sure that it can pull up the appropriate post for each link.

Changing Your Name

Finally, I like to go to the “Users” menu and add a “Nickname” to my profile. Once you save the nickname, the profile panel will give you the option to use it when displaying your name on the blog (for instance, when indicating who the author of a post is). This way, it doesn’t say that each post was written by “admin”, or whatever your username is.

Start Writing

That’s it! Just these few steps should be enough to get you started writing. After that come themes and plugins, which are wholly optional, but will give your blog more personality and make it a richer experience. And which are a topic for another post. Or three. Or thirty.

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