Setting up WordPress websites has become a regular part of my work. Much more than just for blogs, the platform is ideal for rapidly launching sites. In fact, nine out of ten WP sites I launch are non-blogging sites. I thought for my sake and for others who are looking for a checklist for what needs to be done to setup a WordPress website, I’d punch out a basic checklist for the process. This may get quite lengthy, but hopefully it will be a helpful resource to make sure all the bases are covered.
- Search for and select domain an open domain.
- Sign-up with host and document access information.
- Setup ftp access and document access information.
- Setup MySQL database and document access information.
- Create sub-folder on host with the same name as domain (This allows easy launching of additional sites on same host) and point domain to sub-folder.
- Download and unzip latest version of WordPress.
- Save wp-config-sample.php as wp-config and edit database access information in the top of the document. The documented info from your host provider, i.e. database name, host, username and password should be entered.
- Upload WordPress and go to the domain address in the browser.
- Click to install and be sure to copy the temporary Admin password into notepad and log-in to instigate the installation.
- Immediately change the Admin password to something familiar so that you don’t lock yourself out of WordPress.
Basic WordPress Configuration
- During installation check the "I would like to block search engines, but allow normal visitors" during the configuration process. To change the setting later go to "Settings" under the Privacy link and change the option to "I would like my blog to be visible to everyone, including search engines…".
- Search for and upload a theme to modify. For CSS gurus who want to configure I highly customized site, I recommend using the Sandbox theme. Not a lot of bells and whistles, but it provides a strip-down template to build from scratch.
- Change the Permalink. Under settings in WP 2.5+ go to Permalinks and change the default. My favorite is the simple Custom Structure: /%postname%/.
- Write a Page called "Home" and set it as the default homepage. Under "Settings" click on "Reading" and for "Front page displays" click "A static page" and select "Home" for under the "Front page" drop-down.
- Setup the basic landing pages and sub-pages for the site. When a sub-page is created, under "Page Parent" select the parent page.
- Delete the site Description. In most cases I have no need for the "Tagline" that is used for blogs. I’ll add-in my own meta tags later. Go to "Settings" which brings-up "General Settings" and delete the "Tagline".
- Download the FCKEditor for WordPress plugin. Unzip and upload folder to wp-content/plugins/. Then activate the plugin. This will instigate a much improved wysiwyg editor for pages and posts.
- Download and install the WordPress Database Backup plugin. This nifty plugin can schedule to email you a backup of the database on a weekly basis. You will still need to download your site periodically, but what an amazing function to capture the content from the site.
- Download and instlal cforms II an amazingly powerful forms configurator. This plugin is the most robust configurator I’ve found which both drops form submissions to a user-friendly database on the site as well as sends email submissions to the designated manager of the contacts.
- For sites requiring mobile access WordPress Mobile Edition plugin detects mobile users and serves-up the page in readable mobile format.
- The Search Pages plugin enables the search function to return results from both pages and posts.
- Install Google Analytics for web stats.
Design the Theme
- Create a back-up of the site before beginning to tweak the design.
- For a simple, straightforward site: replace the header image, modify color scheme, font treatment and spacing as needed.
- Tweak the navigation to display pages and ditch the other widgets except the search form. If hard-coded changes are needed in the navigation, start by inspecting the header.php, functions.php and possibly sidebar.php files. These will most likely contain the code for the menu.
- Populate the site with enough content including images to get a feel for how well the navigation and flow of the site works.
- Make adjustments to accomodate what is stipulated in the scope document. If you are working with a client, a scope document will save you grief as you will have the stipulated requirements for the site. This will help scope creep to get out of hand.
Before Going Live
- Create an account for content managers.
- Orient the user with the site with basic update training.
- Check for browser compatibility in major and current search engines. There’s much debate on this subject. Generally I ensure at least the current and previous versions of FireFox and IE work well.
- Go back to the Privacy setting and enable search engines to find the site.
- Spell check and surf the site looking for content or graphical errors. Ideally, it’s good to ask other folks to hit the site as well.
- Use the free online ad credits the host gives with a new account to help launch the site and emphasize to the client that ranking in the engines takes time.
There’s the initial run-down. This is by no means an exhaustive list. Depending on requirements the design phase could become quite lengthy. There are also a boat load of other plugins, but those are the most common ones I use for a typical configuration. I may continue to add items down the line as they come to mind. Any good suggestions will be added as well.