I'm thoroughly convinced that business owners and perhaps more importantly, creative people, should have a WordPress blog. Traditionally, creating an online platform (a place for you to tell the world who you are and what you do) has been a tricky affair. You had to know Dreamweaver, some HTML, some CSS, and possess the technical skills to run and maintain a live site -- or know someone who could! That all began changing with sites like MySpace. Now people could create somewhat of a nook for themselves or their creative endeavours.
But WordPress takes this idea even further. Rather than creating a simple page, why not create a full site, all without knowing a lick of code? That's what WordPress is all about. Yet most people associate WordPress with "blogging," and that may have negative connotations. But really, a WordPress site could be presented in a blog format (that is, regular updates presented as "posts"), or as a traditional static website. In fact, I'm hard pressed to think of an instance where WordPress wouldn't be useful.
Why You Need WordPress
Own a restaurant or a small business? WordPress could be the platform that you run the website on. What about e-commerce? No problem. But in particular, musicians, writers, photographers, and artists should all be running WordPress in my opinion. Why? Because it's super-easy to get up and running, with a minimal amount of technical skill. What's more, the ongoing maintenance, like adding new content, interacting with visitors, and so on is also super-easy. It's all built into a point-and-click interface, so literally anyone who knows how to use a mouse and keyboard can run a site built on WordPress. Oh and, WordPress is free and open source, too! This means you can freely use it to do whatever you want with it; and developers can create their own add-ons and plug-ins and share them with the WordPress community (which is huge, by the way). What's not to love?
Sounds pretty cool, huh? Well, in this two part series, we'll be taking a closer look at WordPress. In this first part, we'll focus on how you can get up and running quickly with WordPress. In part two, you'll see how easy it is to begin creating and managing content. So, let's dig into it, with a look at getting WordPress running.
The great thing about WordPress is its flexibility, and you'll see this flexibility over and over. Right off the bat, we have several options when we want to begin working with WordPress. To get started, you'll need to either install it or sign up for an account. You have three options to run Wordpress: You can sign up for a free account on WordPress.com, you can install WordPress on a live web server, or you can run WordPress on your computer. Let's take a closer look at each option:
The easiest, most straightforward, and most non-technical approach to running WordPress is to sign up for a free account on WordPress.com. Just head over to WordPress.com and click Sign Up Now. The account activation process is an easy step-by-step process, and all the technical aspects of the blog are hands-off for you and I, which makes it a great option for those who want to get up and running quickly. On the downside, your site's URL will be branded with "wordpress.com," following your username (unless you don't mind paying for their Domain Mapping service), and you won't have much control over some of the more advanced functionality of the blog.
WordPress on your Existing Web Host
Alternatively, if you already have your own web hosting account, you can install WordPress there. Many web hosting companies provide an easy point-and-click interface for installing WordPress. For example, one of the hosting companies I have an account with uses Cpanel, which is a visual interface for interacting and managing the back-end of my hosting account. As a part of this interface, I have the ability to install WordPress -- a process that takes less than 20 seconds! If you have a hosting account running Cpanel, scroll down to the bottom of the interface and look for Fantastico in the Software/Services category. Once inside Fantastico, look for WordPress under Blogs on the left. The setup is fast and simple, and best of all you can set a unique URL and you have full access to do whatever you want with WordPress. In other words, you can customize it as much as you like. That said, this is a more advanced option, requiring more technical skill than simply running a WordPress.com account.
Local and Offline
The third and final option is to run WordPress on your computer. This is often referred to as running WordPress "locally." This is a great option when you want to experiment, customize various aspects of your blog, or to simply get things built and running well before you go live. What's awesome about this approach is that you don't need an internet connection to work on your blog. You could be up at the cabin, on the train, or on the beach, happily working away on your blog. Note that the public cannot access your local installation of your blog, so at some point you'd have to upload your installation to a web server. The trouble with running WordPress locally is that you'll need both Apache and MySQL servers running to be able to run WordPress. And you'll need to scratch build your database. This is certainly possible, but it does get a bit more technical. Mac users can do this with an application called MAMP, and PC users can use XAMPP; both of which are freely available. These apps allow you to run the needed servers on your computer.
Whichever route you go is really up to your personal preference. I prefer running my own WordPress blogs via my hosting account (actually, I run several installations simultaneously) and I also like running things locally on my Mac -- again, for testing purposes, or when I'm struck with a cool idea for customizing some aspect of the blog. In those situations, its far safer to tear apart an area of the blog on a local version of your blog rather than on the live server! The last thing you want is your live site looking like a fifty car pileup after some harebrained idea goes horribly wrong!
In the meantime check out these WordPress tutorials.