In the previous post in this series about setting up a WordPress blog, I discussed why to set up a self-hosted WordPress blog. This time I will assume you have acquired a domain name. So now, in this post, we look at what more you need before you can set up the blog.
Web Site Hosting
Last time I listed some possible web hosting services that I know a little bit about and feel I can recommend: GoDaddy, Bluehost, Dreamhost, and Media Temple. They are are all good, very professional and easy to work with. There are lots of web hosting services competing this kind of business and they are not hard to find!
These service providers will all sell you hosting for a reasonable price and provide access to what you need to set up a WordPress blog: More than enough hard disk space and sufficient CPU on a modern web server.
If you can choose the type of server, you should get a Linux/Apache server. Not because you need to interact much with the server, but because many of the plugins and much of the advice that you can get on the Web about WordPress blogs presuppose that you use Linux/Apache – so that will simply make it easier for you. And Apache is the dominant server OS, and very reliable. It is possible to use almost any type of server for WordPress, but even common types like a Windows server or NGINX are more difficult to work with.
The server will most likely have PHP (at least version 5.2.4) and MySQL (at least version 5.0.15) installed – these are the minimums required by WordPress. Again, you can use alternatives like PostgreSQL and others, but MySQL is the standard and will make life easier for you as a blogger.
Other things you need: Software
As a blogger you want to post text, most likely you’ll also want to post images along with the text, and perhaps video. Some people even post audio. Each of these forms of content require a little bit of infrastructure: Good, solid software that can make you productive as you learn to use it well.
You can either write your blog posts online in WordPress or you can write them locally (on you PC, tablet, smartphone, whatever) and upload them to your WordPress site afterwards. I, and most bloggers I know, tend to do some of this, some of that depending on circumstances.
To write text outside WordPress you need a text editor that doesn’t insert non-HTML codes in the text. Word, for instance, is famous for being badly suited for bloggers. So you want a plain text editor or a HTML editor. The second thing the editor should be capable of, is spell checking. There are lots of great software available.
For Windows users, Notepad is a good choice. Some also use Blogjet. Both Windows and Mac/Linux users can also use for instance Libre Office or OpenOffice, both free and both more than good enough. Emacs, a Linux editor, is also available for all platforms.
I do most of my writing in Libre office, after which I use a HTML editor to format the text before I copy it to WordPress. While it is possible to edit HTML inside WordPress, it is good to have a HTML editor around: Good editors help you find mistakes and auto-complete code while you work. As is often the case, good software increase productivity and make reduce the incidence of errors.
For HTML editing, I prefer to use either Dreamweaver (expensive but very good, available for Win/Mac) or Komodo Edit (free but still quite good, available Win/Mac/Linux). For Win users, Notepad++ is good as well. I have tried and liked Aptana studio (free or for pay, all platforms) as well.
Images make blogs look better and more interesting. Some bloggers use mostly text, some use lots of images, some even use mainly images. But very few use only text.
What you need depends on what you do and want to do. Personally I find that most of the time I simply crop (cut slices of my images) and transform them to a Web friendly format (most often jpeg). Sometimes I overlay my images with text. Only rarely do I do anything more fancy – like adding layers, remove red eyes or use filters to transform the images.
If you don’t want to spend money on image editors, there are a large number available. On my Mac I tend to use Preview: it is free, comes with the Mac, and has a lot of capabilities. For Win, PhotoFiltre is an excellent program. For Linux Pinta and Fotoxx are good, free and easy to use.
An advanced photo editor that is available for all the platforms, and that I like a lot, is GIMP (good, but terrible name). Very versatile, but one I use for the heavier jobs – for cropping the ones mentioned above are more than sufficient.
For more professional or advanced tasks, Adobe Photoshop Elements and Adobe Photoshop are outstanding – very sophisticated. They are also good to use because they have such a wide user base, so if you wonder how to do something, googling it will give you lots of excellent advice – most often there are people out there who know how to do it.
One final thing: FTP
FTP refers to File Transfer Protocol. FTP programs are used to transfer files from your PC (local) and up to the server (remote). I use a program named Filezilla for this. It is open source and free, works on all the major platforms (Windows, Mac, Linux) without a glitch, and is very easy to use. I strongly recommend it – when you go to the download page, you will want the client, not the server). Filezilla is an example of very successful open source software.
Another possibility is using your HTML editor for this, as many HTML editors come with an integrated FTP program so that you can edit a HTML or PHP file and then transfer it up to the server when it is ready, without leaving the program. Among the ones I mentioned earlier, both Dreamweaver, Komodo Edit and Aptana Studio can do this. I most often use my HTML editor to transfer HTML and PHP files, and then I use my FTP program when I want to either upload the WordPress software (8-900 files) or other software packages to the server, or when I just want to add an image I have edited locally to a WordPress post on my server.
That’s it for now: we are ready to set up the blog now! So next time, that’s what we’ll do!