You are a starting photographer. You’ve put together a decent portfolio and want to share it with your prospecting clients, but sending image attachments via Gmail or linking to your Flickr account isn’t going to help you look professional, so what do you do? Nowadays online presence is not just important for business; many people feel it is a minimum requirement.
Now, if you have absolutely no idea how websites work, or what is the difference between FTP and PHP, I highly suggest contacting your local Web Design Company or finding a freelance Web Developer to do the job for you. You will save yourself time and headaches at the cost of the developer’s fee (but make sure you hire somebody with good reviews and recommendations, since there are plenty of incompetent designers around). However, if you’re not afraid to use a search engine to solve a few simple problems, and are working with a very low budget, let’s say $50, you can set up a simple WordPress based website in just a few hours. Create a personal email and proudly direct people to your new portfolio website.
In case you don’t know what it is, WordPress is an open-source blogging software used to power millions of websites on the internet. Because it is so robust and relatively easy to use, it makes it an ideal Content Management System for a simple portfolio website, such as the one we are going to build in this tutorial.
What will be covered in this tutorial?
We will go over several factors to consider when choosing a web hosting provider. We will setup a personal email and go step by step through WordPress installation. Then we will install a free photography theme, change logo and go over some WordPress basics. And finally using WordPress plugins we will set up a contact form for your clients to use.
Choosing Your Web Hosting Company
As of the day of this writing, minimal requirements to run WordPress on your site are PHP version 5.2.4 or greater and MySQL version 5.0 or greater (for more detailed info on WordPress requirements see this page http://wordpress.org/about/requirements/). Hosting companies don’t use these numbers as a selling point, so it is important to keep them in the back of your head when looking at hosting plans. Almost always they will be listed toward the bottom of the hosting plan page, if not always ask a sales rep before you make a purchase. It would be terrible to find out you can’t actually run the current version of WordPress on your newly purchased hosting plan.
As for other deciding factors such as storage space and data transfer or the number mysql databases and domains you can have associated with your hosting account, rule of thumb is the more the merrier. Majority of business class hosting plans offer virtually “unlimited” storage and bandwidth and anywhere between 5 to 10 domains associated to one account. This is more than enough for the purposes of this tutorial and provides sufficient padding in case you want to set up multiple websites in the future on the same account.
Lastly, you should be aware of the location of your hosting company’s data centers. Internet is global, but you may experience unnecessary delays if you are located somewhere on the East Coast of United States and the server your website is hosted on is somewhere in Europe.
As an added convenience many hosting companies offer 1 click installation service for WordPress and other popular software. If you’re an absolute beginner you can greatly simplify this process by signing up with a company that offers it.
If you are still unsure about which hosting company offers the correct plan for you, going with any of the official WordPress partner companies will be the safest bet. We highly recommend using either Blue Host for their excellent service and easy WordPress implementation or Inmotion Hosting for their inexpensive business plans. Click here to sign up for Blue Host or click here to sign up for Inmotion hosting instead.
Full disclosure: these are affiliate links – we will get a percentage if you sign up, but we only recommend products we personally believe in.
Domain Name Registration
Many hosting companies offer domain name registration services with your hosting plan. However, it may be better to keep your domains separate from your hosting account in case you’d want to switch plans or companies in the future. Transferring domains from one company to another is a hassle and more so if you’ve never dealt with it before. Godaddy, Register.com and Network Solutions are popular domain name registrars and will be a safe bet for any beginner.
If your hosting plan and domain name are under different companies you will be required to point your domain to the hosting company’s DNS servers or nameservers, as they are called sometimes. This information is usually provided to you by the hosting company when you open an account with them. Alternatively you can probably find it by logging in to your hosting admin panel or see FAQ page on where to find this information. Once you have it, you can login to your domain registrar and enter DNS server info for the domain you just purchased. It may take some time for your domain name to propagate after the correct nameserver is applied to your domain (typically 12 – 48 hours). You will know it is done when entering your domain in a browser will open up either a blank page or a welcome page from your hosting company instead of the domain registrar page.
As a general rule, I would recommend keeping your domain names short, but informative. Your name or your company’s name work best. Descriptive terms about yourself or your business and its location are ok too. Stay away from anything that’s hard to type or is completely unrelated to what you do.
Before we proceed with the WordPress setup you will need to create yourself a brand new email (firstname.lastname@example.org). It is a good idea to keep several email address for different purposes, such as website administrator (email@example.com), website registrations (firstname.lastname@example.org) or website contact form (email@example.com). However, if you want to keep things simple, one all-purpose email address will do just fine.
Different hosting companies use different web-based control panels or different versions of the same control panel. Do not be alarmed, as the basic features they offer (email setup, access to mysql databases, etc.) do not actually vary much.
For the purposes of this tutorial I will be using cPanel, which is by far the most common Control Panel offered to date. Login into your cPanel using information provided to you by your hosting company.
Locate Mail options and click on Email Accounts, this will bring up a list of currently setup emails on your hosting account. It should be blank if you just set up your hosting plan. Using form provided on the page, type in desired email name and password. If available use password generator to create strong password. Never use simple password for anything related to your personal email or website, as it is the most common way for people to hack into your site. Make sure to write it down somewhere safe. If mailbox quota option is available and storage space is not a big issue on your account check unlimited for any main mail accounts you plan on using.
Click “submit” or “create account”, your email should be ready to use. Your hosting company should have provided you with an address to access your mail through a web interface. You can also search your hosting company’s FAQ pages on how to set up Microsoft Outlook or any other Email client with your details.
We are finally ready to set up WordPress on our website. Go to www.wordpress.org and download the latest version. Download link and the version number are always available directly on the homepage.
Next, go back to your Control Panel homepage and find database options. Click on MySQL databases. This will bring up a list of available databases and users. We will need to create both.
Under Create New Database type in desired name and click on create database. As with passwords, stay away from any simple words, combinations of letters and numbers works best. Make sure to write down everything, as we will be needing this information shortly. Notice your database has a prefix, full database name should look like prefix_xxxxxxx, where x’s represent the name that you typed.
Scroll further down on the page and use Add New User form to create a database user and a password. I strongly recommend using random strong password generator. Once user is created you will need to add it to the database and set user privileges. Select the username you just created under user dropdown and database you just created under database dropdown, then click on “add”. This will take you to the privileges setup screen. Make sure “All Privileges” is selected and hit submit. Save this information for later use. Just to make sure you have everything, you will need:
- Database name with prefix
- Database Username with prefix
- Database User password
Next we will need to upload WordPress files we downloaded earlier to our website. You will need FTP account information provided by your hosting company (usually the same as your Control Panel login info) and FTP client. If you don’t have one already, I suggest using free FileZilla (http://filezilla-project.org/). It’s basic, but it should suit you just fine in the beginning. Connect to your server using login details provided to you by the hosting company. For the purposes of this tutorial we will be setting up WordPress in your main http folder, which means your clients will be able to access your site by going directly to yourdomain.com. If you want to direct them to some other address, such as yourdomain.com/portfolio or yourdomain.com/blog you will need to create a new folder (in this case portfolio or blog) and upload WordPress files there instead of the main http folder.
It is important to note that your root directory is not always your main http directory. That is, files placed in the root directory cannot be accessed via youdomain.com/filename. Often you will see either http_docs or www folder in your root directory. This is the folder you will need to upload WordPress files to. If you are unsure about which folder to use, play with uploading files to different directories and try to access them via internet browser or refer to your hosting company documentation. Once you figure it out, unzip contents of the WordPress download file and upload everything to your website. This will take some time as there are many files to upload.
When upload is completed, type in your domain in a browser. If everything uploaded correctly you should see WordPress installation page before you. You will be asked to create WordPress config file. Follow on screen instructions and enter database information you saved earlier when asked.
If WordPress is able to connect to your database you will be taken to admin settings page. Here you can create website administrator and give your new website a name. For safety reasons, I suggest using a strong password and substituting admin name with something other than “admin”.
If you get an error on the previous step make sure all your information is correct first. You can even go back to your Control Panel and recreate your database and user from scratch. If the nature of the problem is something different you can use any search engine to look for a solution. For example, many people have file permission problems on this step as some hosts have different default permission settings. If you have a file permissions problem you can actually follow on screen instructions on how to create WordPress config file manually.
Congratulations, if everything was correct, you should now be able to access your fresh WordPress installation directly via yourdomain.com. Take a moment to relax as half the job is done. We will go over basic WordPress functionality and finally install our photography theme in Part 2 of this tutorial.