Two years on, Sarah Lewis’s videos on installing a site are still spot on

Lately, at workshops and in various conversations, I’ve been promising people some information on setting up a WordPress blog from (as distinct from the fully hosted service logoIn doing so, I’ve been conscious of the fact that I’d like a dollar for every time I’ve heard or read some blogger say that setting up a WordPress blog is “easy”.

Yes, it is easy – when you know how. If you don’t – and if you don’t read “tech” – you can be in for a frustrating time.

I remember very clearly that, when I started blogging and was trying to get information on how to install blogs and get them operational, it used to drive me nuts that experienced bloggers would tell me how “easy” various blogging platforms were. Generally they weren’t easy for me. Then when I got onto WordPress, people on forums would say installing WordPress was easy with something called Fantastico. TheĀ  only catch was your web hosting provider had to have Fantastico installed (I’m going back several years here – Fantastico is virtually standard issue these days, as far as I can ascertain, but it wasn’t then).

Eventually I found a web hosting service which provided the Fantastico service and then things started to look up. For me.

But what to do when I wanted to help someone else get started?

One option was to do unto others as had been done unto me, tell them “it’s easy” and wander off.

Another, which I have done and still do quite happily, was to recommend that people check out Typepad, so they are saved the learning curve challenges of a WordPress solution.

A third option was to find a way to explain.

Sarah Lewis to the rescue

In 2007, my friend and colleague Sarah Lewis, who is a total WordPress expert, produced three videos on setting up a WordPress blog, which are a gem of communication. Even someone who has no technical expertise can discover and apply, from these videos, the key steps. Truly, after following and implementing the clearly illustrated steps in these videos, anyone should be all set to start blogging.

As a couple of years has elapsed since the videos were first posted, some of the details of the sites displayed might have changed, but it looks to me as if the videos have stood the test of time extremely well.

The videos

If you follow these videos and strike any problems, please leave a comment here and I will do what I can to help you sort out the problem.

Video 1: Getting yourself set with a web host for your blog

Installation 101: How to choose and sign up for a web host for your WordPress blog

This video provides a detailed, practical explanation of what is involved in identifying a suitable web hosting service. As well as providingĀ  lots of very helpful advice on what to look for in a hosting service, Sarah recommends a particular service: it looks very good, but I haven’t used it.

I have two hosts to recommend from my own experience, HostGator and PressHarbor, both of which I have used and one, HostGator, I am still using.

HostGator blog hosting logoHostGator know WordPress, they are available (and very helpful) 24/7 via LiveChat, they will fix small problems patiently and without charging and are very reasonably priced. The “Baby” account is a bit more than you need just starting out but is great value. You can view and compare the various hosting plans and features here. They have an affiliate plan so if you like the service and recommend it to others you could in due course cover your cost – the links in this post are to my affiliate account, but quite frankly I would use the service even if there was no affiliate program.

With HostGator you need to either be able to “get under the hood” and do some work yourself from time to time or have someone you get to do that.

PressHarbor blog hostingSome don’t want to do that and want a more hands-free option, which brings me to my second recommendation, PressHarbor. Until only very recently, I had used PressHarbor and its precursor, BlogHarbor, for several years. PressHarbor is a full hosting service, so as with HostGator and other hosting services you can have a fully-fledged website and also a blog for the same price. For people who have used PressHarbor and BlogHarbor before that, the service is legendary: you will not be allowed to have a problem go unfixed! The various options are listed – if you are just starting out with a blog and in most instances for some time to come the basic Bronze option should be more than adequate. I am always happy to recommend PressHarbor, especially for business people who have no interest in doing their own “fixing” and for literally only a few dollars more a month are happy to have someone look after all the techie stuff. They don’t have an affiliate program.

Video 2: Installing WordPress

Installation 102: How to install WordPress using CPanel and Fantastico

CPanel is the software engine (or “control panel automation”) that runs the “back office” of your site, where you can do various configuring things, such as using Fantastico to set up your site. HostGator uses CPanel – and Fantastico: instead of CPanel, PressHarbor uses Plesk, which has a rather different interface than CPanel, but there is a Support forum and a support ticket system to help sort out any problems.

Video 3: Configuring your blog

Installation 103: Basic WordPress configuration

This is a very clear explanation of how to basically configure your WordPress site so you can be up and blogging as soon as you like.

Sure, there are lots of things you can do to make the blog look more like what you want and operate in a way more attuned to your purposes, but if you apply the lessons in the videos you will be able by this stage to start blogging.

PS: What to do when you get tired of the look and feel of your standard, out of the box, WordPress blog

Sooner or later you may get bored with the basic look and layout of your WordPress site. There are many different “themes” available for WordPress (what some people would call “templates” or “styles”, WordPress calls “themes”): many are free, some you have to pay for (“premium”). The most expensive premium theme I have, the Thesis theme I use here, cost $164, which allows me to use the theme on multiple blogs, forever, with upgrades at no extra cost: for half that price you get to use it on one blog only at a time (that’s an affiliate link to the Thesis theme, but I recommend it mainly because it does not give me the headaches that a number of free themes – not the ones that come with the basic installation, I hasten to add – have given me in the past).

But you don’t need to change the theme to start blogging.

One more thing, if you are starting out, you can’t break anything irreparably – if something doesn’t work, re-installation can be arranged easily.

Suggestions and questions

If you have any clues to share or questions about the various processes, please let me know via the comment space below. I’ll do my best to get answers for any problems.

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