How To Install WordPress Plugins

We’ve talked a little bit about plugins, so you know what a plugin is, but let’s go over how to find and install them.

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.

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

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” then “Install Now”
  4. Click “Activate Plugin”

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

How to install a plugin using FTP

By now, you know that I love FTP and do the majority of my work in Core FTP (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 → Inactive and activate your new plugin

Plugins are addictive.  Don’t say I didn’t warn ya!

Installation & Basic Configuration of 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.  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.

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 URL to install WordPress to, and a MySQL username and password that WordPress will use to connect.

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

Database name = mycookingblog
URL to install WordPress = www.mycookingsite.com/blog
Username = johndoe
Password = 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!).  This 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.  We’ll talk more about that later!

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.  That email will contain the password that has randomly been generated for you for your WordPress “admin” user.  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
Password = given in your installation email

Welcome to WordPress!

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

  1. 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. 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.
  4. Settings → General.  Update all of the fields.  Be sure that the “Anyone can register” box is unchecked.
  5. Settings → Privacy.  Select the box that says: “I would like to block search engines, but allow normal visitors”.  We’ll uncheck this box once your blog is styled and ready for the world to see!
  6. Settings → Permalinks.  Choose either “Day and Name” or “Month and Name”.  Leaving the default is very 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!
  7. Navigate to Comments and delete the initial comment that WordPress creates by hovering over the name of the comment until links appear below it.  Select “Delete” and press “OK”.

Voila – you have WordPress!  The next post in this series will be all about plugins!  (As you know, plugins are my favorite things.)

Setting Up Your Server

After your domain name has been registered, the first thing that you will want to do is create email addresses.  You’ll want to add the following (in addition to any others you might want):

[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]

You can choose to manage these email accounts through your hosting company’s email interface or manage the account through your personal internet email address or in Outlook (or virtually any other way!).  I manage my Edit and Post and Elizabeth Anne Designs email addresses through my personal Gmail account.  If you would like to do the same, visit Settings → Accounts and Import in Gmail.  Choose ‘Send mail from another address’ and follow the prompts.

You can also choose to set up Google Apps for your domain name.  Visit the Think Splendid blog for an excellent article on the setup of Google Apps.  (A clarification to those who hop over to Think Splendid: Since Terrica’s article was published, Google has updated their settings to allow you to use your own mail server to send/receive.  If you select that option, the “on behalf of” line that used to accompany all sent messages is no longer shown.)

Your hosting provider should also give you instructions for setting up your first FTP user (if one was not already set up for you).

What is FTP?

FTP, or file transfer protocol, is the way that you upload and download files from your server.  Your hosting provider will give you access to a web FTP program that is good in a pinch, but to get the full power of FTP I recommending downloading one of the several free FTP programs available.  I personally use Core FTP, which you can download for free here.  In essence, what this program allows you to do is to transfer files back and forth from your computer to your server with one click.

To log in to your FTP program you will need the following information:

  • Host Name – a host name can be either your server name, your website address, or your IP address.  For ease, let’s use your website address.  So, my host name would be editandpost.com
  • Username – this is specified either by your hosting company or by you within your hosting company’s interface.
  • Password – also specified by you or your hosting company during setup.

The port for log in is typically 21 (verify with your hosting provider).  Your connection type is FTP.

Once you’ve logged in to your FTP program you should see a screen similar to this:

Now you’re ready to rock and roll with FTP, you have email, and your server is a blank slate. Next in this series, we’re ready to install WordPress!

Domain Names

So you have chosen the web hosting option that is right for you and have done some research and finalized a name for your blog or website. Now what?

It’s time to purchase domain names. The steps to this are different depending on the hosting provider you chose, but they probably make this pretty easy for you. In your account’s control panel, look for “registrations” or “manage domains” (or something similar), and for around $10 and in around 10 minutes, you can register a domain and enable it for hosting.

My advice would be to register at a minimum the .com and .net versions of your new domain. You should determine which of those will be your primary site and redirect the other. So, for example, if you visit www.editandpost.net, it will redirect you to www.editandpost.com. Redirects are key because you want visitors and search engines knowing your site by only one address, to strengthen that address’s results in searches.

When you are registering a domain, certain information will be required so that the owner of the domain is visible in engines like Whois. Your hosting provider should have a privacy service that you can take advantage of, so that your personal information is not used for the registration.

Other options for registration are the .co.uk version of your domain, .info, .mobi, .biz, .org, etc.

After you have registered your domain and set it up for hosting, you will be ready to do some basic set-up on your server and install WordPress! Aren’t you excited?

Servers and The Basics of Hosting

Now that you’ve taken the preliminary steps of designing your blog, it’s time for technology to take over.  Because you are going to create a WordPress blog,* the first thing that you will need is hosting.  If you have a website for your business already, you likely already have a web hosting provider and either space on a server or your own server. If you are setting things up for the first time, you will contract with your chosen web hosting provider who will allot you website space on a server and set you up with a FTP (file transfer protocol – this is the way you upload and download files from your server) account.

What are the types of hosting and which type is right for me?’

Basics: A server is essentially a large computer that is held in a hosting provider’s data center. Your hosting plan determines how much of the server your account “owns”. There are three main types of hosting services: shared server, virtual private server, and private server.

Shared Server: The most economical option.  Your website is hosted on a server along with multiple other websites.  The hosting provider that you choose will set limits for your account so that you do not overload the server and cause the rest of your server’s websites to go down.  This option is great for those of you just getting started, as the memory and bandwidth that you will be provided is likely sufficient for your needs.  However, if you expect several thousand visitors per day (at peak times), you may experience slowness with shared server hosting and your web host even has the ability to take your site down to steady the server.

Best for: Just getting started; Non-complex sites; Static websites (non-blogs); Sites without a rush of traffic at peak times

Virtual Private Server: Picture a server as a packing box for glassware.  You get the space for one glass and share the box with multiple other glasses.


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The server is partitioned off so that you have full control over only your piece.  No other website can touch your area of the server, and vice versa.  Advantage: your own place to play, guaranteed server resources up to your partition’s cap.  Disadvantage: you can’t take advantage of the resources that the other partitions aren’t using like you can with the shared server.

Best for: I personally don’t recommend VPS hosting.  I tried it for a while and was completely unimpressed.  In for a penny in for a pound, I say, and if I’m spending money and getting dedicated resources, I’d rather have…

Private (Dedicated) Server: your very own home for your website.  With dedicated hosting, you will have full control over your entire server.  There are differences between private server plans, so you should do your homework and speak with potential hosting companies to see where your website fits in with their offerings.  Be sure to know:

1) Exactly what type of server you will receive and how much horsepower it has
2) The level of support you receive from the hosting provider
3) What you will be charged for (bandwidth, number of databases, disc usage, FTP accounts, etc)

Best for: High-traffic websites, those who want lots of control over their site and the resources it consumes.

For experienced website owners: what type of hosting do you use and recommend? Have you had good experiences with Virtual Private Servers? If you have a high traffic site, when did you switch to a dedicated server, or, have you been able to stick with shared hosting and save money?

Coming up in this series: Domain Names; Setting Up Your Server

* Of course, all of this applies if you have a website without a blog too!