Creating a WordPress blog is dead simple. Managing it is a little trickier. There's a host of administrative tasks and tweaks you'll want to run through. And don't forget to choose a new look: nothing says "newbie" like the default theme.
In the following interview, "Head First WordPress" author Jeff Siarto outlines the knowledge and skills you'll need to get the most out of your WordPress blog. Siarto will expand on many of these points in his upcoming three-week online course "Head First WordPress in Tandem."
Once a new WordPress blog is launched, what tweaks and changes should be made?
Jeff Siarto: The first thing I always do is check my security. That means making sure you're not using the default "admin" username (for installed blogs) and that you're using strong passwords. My definition of a strong password is at least 8 characters -- a combination of numbers, letters and symbols -- and a phrase that does not include dictionary words.
Next, I always activate Akismet, the WordPress anti-spam system. The only thing you need to make Akismet work properly is an API key, which can be obtained for free from WordPress.com. This key identifies you to the Akismet servers and it helps the system identify more spam.I also turn on SEO-friendly permalinks (aka "pretty permalinks"). These can be tricky to set up and they require an Apache module called mod_rewrite. Most web servers and hosts have this enabled, so you shouldn't run in to too many issues. If pretty permalinks aren't working for you, check the help pages.
Finally, I like to think about the architecture of the site and set up any pages I need before I start posting to a blog. I almost always create an about page and a contact page. This can be done in the Pages menu within the WordPress dashboard.
What's the difference between a blog hosted at WordPress.com and one you install on your own server?
JS: It all comes down to control and how much responsibility you want to take for you site. Blogs hosted at WordPress.com are easy to set up, require no installation or server maintenance, and can have you up and writing in a matter of minutes.
When you host your own WordPress blog, you'll devote more time up front to installing and setting things up. But in the end everything is customizable. You'll have access to the codebase and the entire plugin library.
The great thing is you can migrate a WordPress.com blog to you own installation without much hassle.
Where is the best place to find WordPress themes? What are your favorites?
What technical knowledge do you need to manage a WordPress site?
JS: At a content level, the dashboard was designed to allow anyone to create and update content. To manage WordPress from the ground up, it's important to have a basic understanding of PHP and how a LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP) server functions.
What will students take away from your WordPress course?
JS: My hope is that people will leave the course feeling more comfortable with the technology under WordPress' hood. PHP and web servers will be less intimidating, they'll discover HTML and CSS chops they didn't know they had, and they'll be able to manage their own WordPress blog without a problem.
This interview was edited and condensed.
Learn more about this topic from Head First WordPress.
Whether you're promoting your business or writing about your travel adventures, Head First WordPress will teach you not only how to make your blog look unique and attention-grabbing, but also how to dig into the more complex functionality available on the WordPress platform. You'll learn how to customize your blog with your own URL, templates, plugin functionality, and more.