Setting up your own blog based website

This post is for people who want to set up a website for a small association and need to do it inexpensively. Commercial association software is expensive but often very comprehensive. To create a website inexpensively for the Catalina380 International Association, I did this using WordPress as a foundation just as I have described in previous posts.

I’m sure there are lots of articles about how to get started with a WordPress website but I thought it might be interesting to people to have an abbreviated summary of what I found beneficial when starting from scratch up to having a live site at a hosting facility. Though you can easily get the application running at www.wordpress.com, here is what I suggest if you want to do more than just get it started. In fact, I will assume that you already have the basic application running.

Background Knowledge

First, you need to know at least a little about IIS if you are working with Windows. If you don’t already have IIS started, you will need to start it by checking the check box for IIS through Control Panel->Programs and Features->Turn Windows Features On and Off. Internet Information Services Manager that comes with Windows makes it simple to create a new website for your testing. If you do everything through the hosting facility, they will take care of most of this for you. I liked having a local site to play with as well as the hosted site.

It is very helpful to have a basic knowledge of PHP and of CSS (cascading style sheets). I found a web site that provides this background very efficiently and the information and tutorial is free:

http://www.w3schools.com/php/

http://www.w3schools.com/php/

What I found was that I needed basic knowledge in these areas to figure out how WordPress works and to make changes to the various available themes. For instance, I found that the theme TwentyEleven was closest to what I wanted but I didn’t like the wide space at the top of the page. To change this, you need to find the correct php file in the themes folder, find the controlling section and make the changes. Other changes I wanted needed to be made through the style.css within the theme folder. For instance, I wanted a bolder horizontal line than provided in the theme and this can be changed easily in the style sheet.

Useful Software

There are a couple of free applications that will make your life easier:

MySql: http://www.mysql.com/downloads/mysql/   Again, I set everything up locally before moving things to the hosting facility so I needed a local installation of the database. It’s free. There are multiple levels of MySql but the community edition (free) is all you need. Installation is simple. Installation of WordPress itself will create the needed database so you don’t even need to worry about this.

FilZilla: http://filezilla-project.org/ This is a very easy to use FTP file transfer program that is a must if you are going to transfer files from your local machine to a hosted server and later when you want to edit a file on the hosted site by first pulling it to your own machine, making the changes, and then pushing it back up. For my project, I first developed everything on my local machine and then transferred files to the hosting site to make sure things worked there and ultimately to bring the site live. Your hosting site will provide the connection information you need and once that is resolved, the rest is a simple drag-and-drop from your machine to the hosting machine.

MySQL Workbench: http://www.mysql.com/products/workbench/  When you install MySql, particularly if you come from a SQL Server or Oracle environment, you find that you can get to a command line (CMD => MySql) and from there you can work using Sql but still only through command line syntax. What MySql Workbench does is provide a Windows interface through which you can work with your database as you would through SqlServer Management Studio if you were working with SqlServer. Furthermore, this gives you a very easy way to back up the database and restore it if needed.

Though WordPress has the ability to back up and restore, doing this directly with the database with MySql Workbench gave me an easier and cleaner way to do this. The script created would do everything from create the database to drop and recreate the needed tables and finally to load them with data.

Microsoft Visual Studio: (This one isn’t free!) Though you can certainly modify .sql files with any text editor (not Word or something that buries its own information in the file), Visual Studio provides a way to load the backup file generated by MySql Workbench and do global search and replaces. Why is this useful? When you develop on your local machine and want to transfer everything to the hosting site including the database, you can change the URLs easily from “http://localhost/mysite” to “http:/www.mysite.com”. This is particularly important since WordPress ties itself together in many ways through URL’s.

So there you have it. If anyone has other recommendations, please add them as comments!

Cheers!

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