WordPress Beginner: Introduction

Welcome to part one of “WordPress Beginner“, a new series of articles aimed at you, the fledging WordPress blogger, to help you set up a blog using self-hosted WordPress. Over the next few weeks I’m going to explain what you need to do to set up your hosting, your WordPress installation, how to install themes and plugins, and give you a basic introduction to HTML and CSS.

Although WordPress is surprisingly (for a technical web platform) intuitive – once you get to understand how it works – it is true to say that the learning curve can appear rather steep, and the amount of information available on the web daunting, if not overwhelming. Hence this series! Step by step I shall take you through the key elements and help you get your site up and running with as few headaches as possible!

Who should read this?

This series is aimed at people you may have already tried a hosted blogging service, such as WordPress.com, but who are now looking to have total control over their site, and wish to dive in and host WordPress on their own web-hosting. Throughout these articles I am going to assume that you have little or no technical knowledge, but that you are comfortable using a computer for every day tasks.

You will have to learn at least a little HTML, CSS and even a smattering of PHP. But don’t be put off by this. These are simply tools to deliver our web site content and as with any tools, it is simply a matter of learning how to use them. And don’t worry, this series of articles will help you with all of this.

Before we begin, it is worth mentioning that I am not going to discuss which blogging platform is best, or the merits of self-hosting vs hosted solutions. You can find plenty of articles elsewhere on AZREBN which discuss the relative merits of the main blogging platforms. So, if you’ve read this far I am assuming that you’ve already made the decision and:

(a) you want to use WordPress

(b) you want your site to be hosted on your own servers.

(c) you already have a domain name registered.

Great! Let’s begin…

Congratulations! You’re a web developer!

It’s true! You are! From now on you are going to be hosting and developing your own site. You will be delving into template files, stylesheets, learning about WordPress tags, and starting out on a very rewarding journey. Congratulations!

But before we get too excited (after all we haven’t done anything yet), there are some basic things we need to do before we get stuck into the nitty-gritty…

  • Get web-hosting
  • Get some basic development tools installed on your PC/Mac

Choosing a web-host

Excuse me! What’s a web-host? A web-host is a company which stores all of the files that make up your site, and makes them available to computers connected to the internet. Usually, but not always, your web-host is also responsible for managing your domain name – but this isn’t essential as it is possible to rent webspace from one web-host and the domain name from another.

If you’ve searched for web-hosting on Google you will know that there are thousands of companies out there offering a myriad of services and prices. Daunting, I know. There are only 2 really important things you must consider before choosing your web-host:

  • Support – this is essential as it inevitable that you will need some support at some time. Do they have a telephone hotline, or an email or “ticket” system with a guaranteed response time? If not, look elsewehere.
  • Technical specifications – there are some minimum technical requirements in order to run WordPress. Clearly, if your host doesn’t meet these requirements you will have problems.

Oh, and there is a third really important thing: you get what you pay for. State of the art servers, top quality security, rapid and knowledgeable support staff all cost money to provide. So, avoid really cheap hosting plans, spend a little more with a reputable company and you shouldn’t go wrong.

Web-hosting specifications

As mentioned previously, WordPress has some technical requirements from your web-host. Use this list when selecting a web-host.

  • Apache servers run on Linux. Avoid Windows servers.
  • PHP 4.3 or greater (PHP 5 is always good to have)
  • MySQL 4.0 or greater
  • A minimum of 5 MySQL databases. Although you only need one database for WordPress itself, if you add a forum it will need its own database, and you might want to host more than one blog using sub-domains in the future.
  • mod_rewrite module enabled on Apache. Don’t worry about what this means – but you need it.
  • FTP accounts – for uploading files from your computer to your webspace.

The current requirements for running WordPress can be found here.

Development tools that you must have

In the final section of this week’s WordPress Beginner, I’m going to recommend the development tools that you should install on your local computer. These will make life easier when you are customising your site.

  • Text / code editor – you will have to edit WordPress theme files during the course of your site development. Whilst it is perfectly possible to do this with something like Notepad, a proper text editor makes life much easier, thanks to syntax colour-coding, line numbers, maybe even versioning (to help you track changes to your files). I use Homesite, which is an Adobe product, but there are others out there, many of them free to download and use. Whatever you choose, do NOT use a word processing programme like MS Word or any other “Rich Text” editor. MS Word and the like are perfect for writing a letter, but a no-no for coding as they introduce all sorts of hidden code which will mess up your beautifully crafted pages. You have been warned…
  • Firefox – if you use only one browser, this is it, no question.
  • Google Chrome – it is always worth testing your site in several browsers and Chrome is largely built on the same platform as Safari, the browser for Macs.
  • Install the Firebug add-on for Firefox. This is a “must have” accessory and helps you diagnose CSS and HTML problems in your Firefox browser.
  • Install the Web Developer add-on for Firefox. Another useful tool that enables you to “see” how your code is being dealt with by the browser. A good compliment to Firebug although, personally speaking, I find that Firebug gives me 99% of what I need.
  • Install Filezilla Client – free to download and use, this is needed in order to upload files to your web-host.

That’s it! The essential list of software which you need to have on your local computer. Download them, install them, play with them and be ready to use them in the next instalment of WordPress Beginner.

Coming up next…

I hope this first article has whetted your appetite for running a self-hosted WordPress site! In the next article in this series I shall cover:

  • Installing WordPress on your server
  • Customising the wp-config.php file
  • Adjusting the Settings in your WordPress Dashboard

In the meantime, feel free to leave a comment with any requests for specific topics you would like to see in WordPress Beginner. Happy web developing!

This article, with minor edits, was first published as one of a series written for the Arizona Real Estate Blogging Network.


  1. Help – I am having a hard time getting the drop downs to work on the menus for Lexicon Child Theme. I am pretty sure the parent / child relationships and order sequence is right, but cannot get it drop down. Any suggestions??? Thanks…

  2. I am a beginner so I thought this would be for me but no. Yes. it is definitely a steep learning curve. I am a confident computer user but obviously do not have what it takes to set up my website with WordPress. You are right, there is a lot of information available and I have read so much I am very confused. I even employed a uni student to help me and he only survived 2 hours and never came back. I know I understood more than he.
    Maybe I should start again but where do I start? I have my photos uploaded in the library but I can’t seem to understand how to get them into a page. I know I need to use Dynamic Content Gallery but having difficulties.

    • Brenda,

      Running a self-hosted web site, even if using WordPress, requires some technical understanding. Frankly, there’s no substitute for reading as much as you can (there’s a great “WordPress for Dummies” book on the market – ideal for novice WP users) and being prepared to make mistakes and get frustrated from time to time.

      If you would rather put your energies into creating content, etc, use wordpress.com instead. Can be the best option for many people. No technical knowledge needed, no need to learn PHP and CSS – just build a site! :-)

      Please post support questions re the Dynamic Content Gallery on my forum. Thanks.

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