WordPress: The Complete Post-Install Checklist, Redux

Though this was originally created for another blog, I’ve updated it (more steps, more plugins, more theme sites etc) and posted it here.

One of the great things about WordPress is how easily you can have it up and running, completely customized to your liking, in such a short period of time. After setting up WordPress for several of my friends, I found that having a ‘checklist’ makes things go even faster – so I decided to write it all up and share with you. Please don’t hesitate to use the comments to suggest additions etc, I’ll update the checklist accordingly.

  1. Create blog title, add email address
  2. Change your password
  3. Disable visual rich editor
  4. Add users
  5. Change the tagline
  6. Edit Membership permissions
  7. Set a date and time format
  8. Modify Reading and Writing settings
  9. Edit Discussion settings
  10. Modify Permalinks structure
  11. Pick a theme
  12. Customize your theme
  13. Write down CSS info
  14. Change title format
  15. Edit blogroll
  16. Edit the About page
  17. Add some categories
  18. Edit the example post for testing
  19. Install plugins
  20. Install widgets
  21. Check blog and test plugins
  22. Create a favicon.ico
  23. Create a shortcut to the Dashboard / setup WordPress client
  24. Create a test environment
  25. Start posting!

Depending on how you’ve installed WordPress (manually or by a “one-click-install” that many hosting providers offer) – one of the very last installation steps is to choose a blog name and provide an email address. That’s where this checklist begins.

  1. Enter your blog title and an email address in the spaces provided. You’ll be given the username admin and assigned a password after you click Continue to Second Step. Use them to sign in to your WordPress blog – which will be http://www.example.com/wp-admin/login.php

  2. click to enlarge

  3. Select Users from the top nav, and scroll down to Update Your Password. Change it, but don’t click Update Profile yet. Feel free to edit the About yourself, Contact Info and Name sections as well.
  4. Remove the check from Use the visual rich editor when writing. Trust me, the visual rich editor will cause more problems than it solves. Now click Update Profile.
  5. Click the Authors & Users tab. From here you can add additional users if your blog will have more than one author. Some bloggers like to post using a non-admin account, and here’s the place to set that up. To understand the permissions system (who can post but not delete, who can post and edit etc) visit http://codex.wordpress.org/Roles_and_Capabilities
  6. Click Options from the top nav. Here you’ll notice your blog title has been set to the name you gave in Step 1. Change the default Tagline.
  7. Decide on a membership system for your blog. This has several implications – if you’re going to require people to sign in to post comments, you’ll need to enable this. If you do enable Anyone can register, make sure their default role is Subscriber.
  8. Set a date and time format – or just leave the defaults, which have always suited me just fine. Decide which day of the week you want to start on.
  9. Scan through the Writing and Reading tabs. By and large, each of the settings on both of these tabs can be left as the default. You may want to consider increasing the number of Blog Pages (posts) that are displayed by default (10).
  10. Select the Discussion tab. Here you’ll have to decide how you want to deal with comments. My suggestion is to allow anyone to comment, do not force users to create an account to comment, and users should not be required to have a previously approved comment. Here’s why I suggest this – the easier it is for someone to comment on your post, the more likely they are to do it. I know some of you are thinking that “opening up” WordPress to allow comments so easily is an invitation for spam, and you’re right. But a few steps down I’ll cover how to avoid comment spam without making it harder for actual visitors to leave messages.

  11. click to enlarge

  12. Now select the Permalinks tab. To help increase your search rankings, most SEO folks suggest that you change the permalinks structure. By default, your posts will appear as (or similar to) www.example.com/?p=1. The following Custom structure will have your pages appear similar to:


  13. Custom structure: /%year%/%monthnum%/%postname%/

  14. Alight, now it’s time to pick a theme. Click the Presentation tab. Again, depending on how your WordPress installation was done, you may have some Themes already installed and ready to use. If you’re not happy with the defaults, you have a couple of choices. You can find, download and install a WordPress Theme that someone else has created, or you can write your own. Here are a few WordPress Theme sites to get you started:

    WordPress Theme viewer
    WordPress Themes
    Alex King’s Theme viewer
    WP ThemePark
    WordPress Theme Gallery
    ThemesBase WordPress Themes
    980+ Free WordPress 1.5 and 2.0 Themes / Templates
    100 favourite WordPress Themes

    Creating your own WordPress Theme is certainly a valid option, but will likely take some time. Read up on WordPress Theme development and use all the resources you can.

  15. After you’ve found a theme that you’re happy with (assuming you didn’t write it from scratch) you’ll probably want to customize it a bit. Select Theme Editor from the top nav, and then choose the file you want to edit from the list on the right side. Many bloggers like to remove the Meta info as it takes up valuable screen real-estate. The Meta info is stored in the Sidebar if you’re using the default theme. You can comment out sections you don’t want, or delete them entirely. You’ve heard it before, and it applies here – backups are always a good idea.

    click to enlarge

  16. When you’re done customizing the look and feel of your blog, write down all of the CSS information. Select Stylesheet from the list in the right column, and write down the codes for future use (font info, link colors, background colors etc). You’ll find yourself looking up this information fairly often if you run ads through AdSense or Amazon (to match the ads with your blog style). Put it all in a text file or email it to yourself – whatever makes you happy – but it’s a pain in the behind to have to go into the Theme Editor each time you need a color code.

  17. Change the title format. By default, all of the < title >‘s for your blog will be in the format of:

    Blog Name >> Blog Archive >> Post Title

    Take a look at the section titled Tidy Up Those Dirty Page Titles in John Wisemans Brilliant WordPress SEO Tips for Bloggers and Webmasters for info on why and how to change the WordPress titles.

    click to enlarge

  18. Edit the Blogroll. The default WordPress blogroll actually does contain links to interesting blogs. But they probably don’t related to your site, so you might want to consider editing them. Select Links and then Manage Links to remove/edit the defaults.

  19. Edit the About page. Select Manage and then Pages.

  20. Add a few Categories. Select Manage and then Categories from the top nav. It’s very easy to add additional categories later, so don’t stress over adding everything now.

  21. Edit the example post. Use it to test things like < blockquote > and < h2 >. Add a picture to the post to make sure you like the way pictures are embedded. Don’t delete this post yet, you’ll want to keep it around to make sure all of your plugins work properly.
  22. After you’ve selected, installed and customized your theme and layout, edited the default post and About page, it’s time to install plugins. Because every blog is unique (uh mostly..) you’ll want to install some plugins and not others. Google “top wordpress plugins” or figure out which ones your favorite WordPress based blogs are using and install them.

    Some plugins that I’ve found almost mandatory are:

    1. Spam Karma 2.2 – remember Step 9? SK2 will solve all of your comment spam problems
    2. Intouch with Subject – if you want a simple “contact me” form
    3. AdSense Deluxe – if you’re using Google AdSense
    4. FeedBurner Plugin – if you’re going to have FeedBurner handle your RSS feeds
    5. Google Sitemap Generator – even if you don’t use the Google Webmaster tools it’s a good idea to have a sitemap
    6. Google Analytics Plugin – if you’re going to use the Google Analytics service
    7. WordPress Database Backup – makes it ridiculously easy to quickly backup your WordPress database. You can download the backup file, or have it emailed to the address of your choice.
    8. Search Meter – allows you to quickly view what your readers are searching for on your blog

  23. Install some widgets, if your theme is widget-compatible. For more info on this subject, see http://automattic.com/code/widgets/.

  24. Check your blog and make sure none of the plugins broke anything. Also make sure the plugins work as intended*.
  25. Create a favicon.ico for use with your blog. Upload it.
  26. Bookmark your Dashboard or Write Post page (located at http://www.example.com/wp-admin/post.php). Or, if you prefer to compose your blog posts using a desktop client, check out the list here.
  27. Create a virtual WordPress environment with Jumpbox. Though JumpBox doesn’t support adding themes or plugins (yet) – we’re all hopeful that it will at some point. Once those features are added, you’ll be able to use it to create an exact replica of your WordPress blog – where you can test and try out new plugins without having to worry about messing up your ‘live’ site.
  28. And last but not least – start posting!

* Don’t forget: Create a “contact me” Page for the Intouch with Subject plugin.

9 thoughts on “WordPress: The Complete Post-Install Checklist, Redux”

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