business & technology for wedding and lifestyle pros

How To Install WordPress Plugins


Now that you’ve installed WordPress, it’s time to perk up the plain vanilla functionality by learning how to install WordPress plugins!

How to Install WordPress Plugins

What’s a Plugin?

For those of you who are just getting to know WordPress, a plugin is a piece of code that you install and activate. Plugins can be complex or simple, and they either add functionality to WordPress or change existing WordPress behavior.  Some plugins have settings that you change based upon how you want them to perform.  Some have CSS files (remember CSS?) that style their results.  Others require you to edit something in your theme.

The WordPress site has a comprehensive list of every plugin available.  From here, you can search for the functionality you’re looking for and see reviews of the plugins, number of downloads, installation notes, etc.  Chances are, if you want to do it, there is a plugin for it.

We’ll start by installing a plugin that saves some real estate on your WordPress dashboard, the Ozh’ Admin Drop Down Menu plugin.  By default, the WordPress dashboard menu is on your left.

WordPress Default Dashboard

When you install and activate Ozh’ Admin Drop Down Menu, the menu moves to the top, eliminating the need for lots of vertical scrolling.

WordPress Dashboard with Ozh Admin Plugin

There are two ways to install a plugin, through your WordPress dashboard, or through FTP.

How to install a plugin through your WordPress dashboard
  1. Navigate to Plugins » Add New
  2. In the search field, type in the plugin you want to install, in this case we’ll search for “Ozh Admin”
  3. When the search results appear, locate the plugin and click “Install Now”
  4. Click “Activate Plugin”

If you have a zipped file of your plugin, you can also install it through the WordPress dashboard.

  1. Navigate to Plugins » Add New
  2. Click “Upload Plugin”
  3. Choose your zipped file.
  4. Click “Install Now”
  5. Click “Activate Plugin”
How to install a plugin using FTP

By now, you know that I love FTP and use the Core FTP client (if you need a refresher on FTP, read this post).  To install a plugin using FTP:

  1. Download the plugin that you want to install from the WordPress plugin repository
  2. Unzip it to a folder on your computer
  3. Sign into Core FTP, or your chosen tool
  4. Navigate to www.yoursite.com/wp-content/plugins
  5. FTP the plugin folder from your computer to your server
  6. In your WordPress dashboard, navigate to Plugins » Installed Plugins » Inactive and activate your new plugin

Warning. Plugins are addictive!  However, too many plugins can slow down your site dramatically, so as amazing as they are, be judicious with their use. Coming soon, an article with my must-have plugins. Which are your favorites?

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Installing WordPress


For the vast majority of you, installing WordPress will be an incredibly simple exercise.  Most hosting companies offer a one-click install package, such as Fantastico or Softaculus.  So mosey on along to your hosting provider’s interface and tell it to install WordPress already!  If your hosting provider does not have a one-click install, you will need to download the latest WordPress package and follow these instructions for installation.

How to Install WordPress

As you might remember from this post, WordPress needs a MySQL database to run.  You will need to define a database name for your MySQL database, a table prefix (usually wp_), a URL to install WordPress to, and a MySQL database username and password that WordPress will use to connect. A one-click installer may select the database username and password for you, so don’t worry if this isn’t one of the options available.  You may also get the option of selecting an admin username and password.  If so, take advantage, as “admin” is the most common username tried by hackers.

So, for example, if you are want people to visit your blog at www.mycookingsite.com/blog you might choose:

Database name = mycookingblog
Database prefix = wp_
URL to install WordPress = www.mycookingsite.com/blog
DB username (if asked) = your FTP username
DB password (if asked) = 0987fed654cba321
Admin Username (if given the option to select one) = johndoe
Admin Password (if given the option to select one) = 123abc456def7890

Take careful note of your username and password.  I recommend choosing a 16-character randomly generated password (something more secure than the one above, obviously!).  The database username and password are stored in a WordPress file called wp-config.php that will be automatically created for you by your installer.  Any time you change your password (which you should do relatively often, for security purposes), you will want to update wp-config.php.

If you are using a one-click installer, you will receive an email from your hosting provider once WordPress is successfully installed on your server.  Go ahead and go to WordPress and log in.

The login location for My Cooking Site would be: www.mycookingsite.com/blog/wp-admin

Username = admin OR your johndoe
Password = given in your installation email OR 123abc456def7890

Welcome to WordPress!

There are a few things that you will want to do immediately.

Delete the “admin” user. If your installer did not give you the option of selecting a custom admin user, you’ll want to:

  1. Navigate to Users » Add User.  Create a new user for yourself.  Make sure that author name is the one that you want to be visible inside WordPress.  Give that new user the role of Administrator.  Make sure that you choose a password that is secure and different from your database password.  Again, I recommend a 16-character randomly generated password.
  2. Log out of admin and in with your new username.
  3. Navigate to Users » Add User.  Delete the admin user.  Hackers target blogs that are easy to get into, and the first username that they will try is ‘admin’.  Make yourself less susceptible by deleting the user.

Adjust your basic settings.

  1. Navigate to Settings » General.  Update all of the fields.  Be sure that the “Anyone can register” box is unchecked.
  2. Navigate to Settings » Reading.  Select the box that says: “Discourage search engines from indexing this site”.  We’ll uncheck this box once your blog is styled and ready for the world to see!
  3. Navigate to Settings » Permalinks.  Choose either “Post Name”, “Day and Name” or “Month and Name”.  Leaving the default is bad for SEO (search engine optimization purposes).  A post URL of www.mycookingsite.com/blog/?p=123 means nothing to Google; a post URL of www.mycookingsite.com/blog/2010/01/brownie-recipe is much more descriptive!

Remove WordPress default content.

  1. Navigate to Comments and delete the initial comment that WordPress creates.
  2. Navigate to Posts and delete the “Hello world!” post.
  3. Navigate to Pages and delete “Sample Page”.
  4. Navigate to Plugins and delete the “Hello Dolly” plugin (unless you really love the song Hello Dolly!).

Voila – you have WordPress!  The next post in this series will be all about plugins!

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Debits and Credits


As small business owners, even if you aren’t going to handle your own accounting, it’s important to understand the basics of your finances so that you can determine how your business is performing.  Let’s start with some accounting language and terminology.

Accounting Basics Debits and Credits

Photo: © kazoka / Shutterstock

Your accounting records are kept in what is called the general ledger. The general ledger is made up of several ledger accounts (also known as accounts or G/L accounts).  Each ledger account is populated by journal entries.  Each journal entry must balance to zero.

A journal entry is created for every transaction in your business, and each account is either debited (abbr: DR) or credited (abbr: CR).

Each ledger account is classified into one of five account types: Assets, Liabilities, Equities, Revenues, or Expenses.  These account types all have natural balances that are debits or credits. The total of all of your G/L accounts must balance to zero.

The natural balances of each account type are:

Assets: Debit
Liabilities: Credit
Equities: Credit
Revenues: Credit
Expenses: Debit

Debits are not Additions and Credits are not Subtractions

Don’t think of debits and credits as additions and subtractions.  Simply think of debits and credits as increases and decreases to the natural balance of an account.

A debit will always be a positive number.  A credit will always be a negative number.  Negative numbers are generally presented in parentheses.  The total of the debits and credits in a journal entry will always balance to zero.  This insures that you have recorded all aspects of the transaction appropriately.

Confused yet?  Let’s do some examples from our everyday lives.

Example 1: Buying groceries

You go to Whole Foods and spend entirely too much money on baked goods (oh wait, is that just me?).  You pay cash.

Debit Groceries Expense 100
Credit Cash (100)

Grocery expenses are increasing, because a debit increases the natural balance of an expense account, and cash is decreasing, because a credit decreases the natural balance of an asset account.

Example 2: Financing a home

You find your dream home and go to the bank for a loan. The home costs $150,000 and you pay a $20,000 cash down payment.

Debit Real Estate 150,000
Credit Payable to Bank (130,000)
Credit Cash (20,000)

You are increasing an asset, your real estate account, by $150,000. But you now have a liability to the bank for $130,000 (remember, credits increase liabilities) and your cash balance decreased by $20,000.

Example 3: A customer pays you for an order

You sold someone a book for $20, they paid with cash.

Debit Cash 20
Credit Revenue (20)

Assets, with a natural debit balance, and revenues, with a natural credit balance, are both increasing in this transaction.

So what do you think—are debits and credits starting to make sense? Next up in this series, we’re going to chat about financial statements (excited yet?).

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First Impressions


With our lives moving at an incredibly fast pace and our attention spans becoming ever more diminished, your website’s first impression is becoming increasingly important. Did you know that the average user forms an opinion about your site in 50 milliseconds? Or that the majority of readers spend less than 15 seconds on a webpage? So, as website owners, our challenge is to make a good first impression, and keep our content sticky.

Website First Impressions

Lettering: KELLY CUMMINGS

How do you make a good first impression with your website?

A website’s first impression for me is all about the layout. The menu bar tells the whole story – it is where I like to see a blog’s main topics. From there, I like to be able to use tags to quickly find my way around to what I’m looking for.
Julianne Smith

I’m a self-professed design and lifestyle blog junkie. The first thing I notice about a site is the layout, design and photography. A blog that makes a great first impression has a simple, pretty layout that is easy to read and pleasing to the eye and showcases great photography. If one or the other is off I’m not likely to return.
Cyd Converse

What do these answers have in common? They both form their feelings about a site at the first moment they see it. If it’s cluttered, difficult to navigate, or not appealing to their eye, they aren’t likely to stick around. They may not have read a word and yet they are ready to leave.

Here are a few things that, as a reader, give me a great first impression:

  • A clean, easy to follow, cohesive design
  • Fast loading of information
  • Quick access to relevant information
  • An immediate clue about the blog’s main focus

And some things that make me click away:

  • Difficult to follow navigation, or a large amount of clicks to get the information I’m looking for
  • Music
  • High-resolution photos that take several seconds to load
  • Distracting elements, such as pop-up windows or flashing ads
What do you think makes people come back?

These are the things that keep me reading when I visit a new blog: clean layout, unique design that says who they are, good grammar, content that is obviously written with a wider audience than one’s family in mind, and posts that aren’t consistently about the banal things in life. The one exception to the banality rule? Those who can write about the mundane and make me laugh. If you’re one of those few genuinely funny people out there you can write about putting the groceries away or retrieving the mail from the mailbox and I’ll still keep reading.
Jenna Cole

Jenna is a reader that truly wants to engage with a blog author. If you are a follower of her blog, this won’t surprise you, as her own blog is personal and she has built a wonderful community with her readers.

Being personal isn’t just for “personal blogs”. If you are in the wedding industry, you no doubt know the name Lara Casey. Lara’s site and social profiles promote her business, but also gives potential clients and industry readers a window into who she is as an individual. She is branding herself as much as she is branding her talent, and people want to connect with her, as well as connect with her work.

A few things that keep me as a reader coming back to a blog:

  • Consistent, informational posts
  • Unique content, especially written with a distinctive point of view
  • Posts that start me thinking—this could be a post about business philosophy or beautiful inspiration photos

What resonates with you when you read a blog for the first time? What makes you return for more?

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You Need a Test Site


Big red flashing word of warning!

Be super-careful when you are following these instructions and be very sure not to edit the web server or database for your actual website!  Always be sure that you have backed up your database and web server before doing this, just in case.

You need a test site.

Creating a WordPress Test Site

Photo: © Studio Firma / Stocksy

So how do you set up a test site for your WordPress blog?  First, purchase a separate domain name (anything works) and set it up for hosting.  Then, take the following steps to copy your production site (the techie term for your user-visited website) to your test site.

If you are using VaultPress, you can use their automated restore to a new site feature. However, if you have a large number of uploads, the restore will take a bit of time.

Let’s say your production site is www.mycookingsite.com/blog and your test site is www.mytestsite.com/blog.

Step 1: Copy your web server
  1. FTP the following files and folders from www.mycookingsite.com/blog/ to your computer or hard drive Note that I’m ignoring your wp-content/uploads folder, as there is really no need to upload your image library):
    • wp-admin
    • wp-content/themes
    • wp-content/plugins
    • wp-content/upgrade
    • wp-content/index.php
    • wp-includes
  2. On your computer or hard drive, delete the plugin folder for Jetpack if you have it enabled.  This is to insure that you do not confuse the WordPress stat engine when you create your test site.
  3. FTP all of the individual files that are at the same level as the wp-admin, wp-content, and wp-includes folder to your computer or hard drive.
  4. FTP all of the files from your computer or hard drive into www.mytestsite.com/blog/.

You’ve now made a copy of everything on your web server except your images (no need to have these on your test site).

Step 2: Copy your database

If you are using VaultPress:

  1. Navigate to your Backups.
  2. View your most recent backup.
  3. Click the Download button and select only the Database.
  4. Prepare backup and wait for VaultPress to email you with the link to your backup.
  5. You will receive a gzip file containing your database tables.

Non-VaultPress Option:

  1. Download the nifty WordPress Database Backup plugin.
  2. Go to Tools » Backup and run a backup of your entire database.

Step 3: Import your database

  1. Create a new SQL database through your web hosting company.
  2. Through your web hosting company, there should be a service called phpMyAdmin.  Log into phpMyAdmin using the username and password for your database.
  3. Select your newly-created database in phpMyAdmin and click on the “Import” tab.
  4. Browse for your backup file, be sure that the format selected is “SQL”, and click Go.
Step 4: Update your test database’s WordPress options
  1. In phpMyAdmin, click on your test database, and the table wp_options (or wp_xxxxxx_options).  BE SURE YOU ARE IN YOUR TEST DATABASE.
  2. Find the option name “siteurl”.
  3. Click the pencil on the siteurl line to edit the information.
  4. Change the siteurl to your test site.
Step 5: Update your wp-config file
  1. In FTP, navigate to the root of your TEST WordPress installation.  In our example this would be www.mytestsite.com/blog.
  2. Open the file called wp-config.php
  3. Change the values for DB_NAME, DB_USER, and DB_PASSWORD to your test database information.
Step 6: Validate
  1. Visit www.mytestsite.com/blog/wp-admin and log into your test site.  You will log in with the same username and password as your production site.
  2. Verify that your test site is visible at www.mytestsite.com/blog.

Voila!  A perfect copy of your blog.  Use your test site to edit your theme, install new plugins to play with, develop new functionality, test upgrades of WordPress or plugins, etc before applying the changes in production.

A few notes:

  • If you aren’t on WordPress, but instead have an HTML website, you should still have a test site.  Simply FTP the files from your web server to your computer, and then FTP back up to your new domain.
  • Your web hosting provider should also allow you to easily password-protect your test site’s domain.
  • You should also read the WordPress Codex articles about Restoring Your Database From Backup and phpMyAdmin.

Edited To Add: See comments below for some reasons why you need a test site – this can include changes to your WP theme, or testing out plugins and new functionality, and creating new page templates – and also a shortcut method that doesn’t involve a whole backup of your production site.

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