How do you take a spanking-new WordPress installation and turn it into your own, customized blog? How do you add plugins and templates to the blog? How can you brand your blog, make your WordPress stand out from the millions of others? It’s easier than it looks.
- Get Kubrick, a drop in template for WordPress, and install it. You literally copy several files into the WordPress directory and you have a beautiful default template. It’s XHTML compliant, clean, and simple–an excellent base to build off.
- Import your links. The fastest way to do this is to use OPML from your favorite RSS reader. It will have an “export to OPML” option somewhere, which you can use to save all the feed URLs to a file that you will import via WordPress->Links->Import Blogroll. Once you’ve imported your links, sort them into categories, and add code to your template to display them:
<h2><?php _e(‘Blogs I Read’); ?></h2>
<ul><?php wp_get_links(3); ?></ul>
is an example, using the link_ID from the categories in WordPress->Links. Just add one list set per newly made link category.
- Help customize your site. Get some plugins, and modify them to suite your tastes. Asymptomatic, the WordPress Plugins.org, Kitty’s Plugins, and the Web Log Tools Collection are all good places to start. And what do you do when you install these plugins? Let me run down a few simple ideas:
- Insert a breadcrumb navigation on your page
- Add an Acronym Replacer so when your write AOL, it looks uber-stylish
- Turn on the built-in WordPress->Plugins->Search Hilite
- Get an automatic linkifier to create links for you, when you only have the URLs.
- Random file is another useful WordPress plugin. I use it to rotate the banner of my Kubrick by adding a folder for random images.
The list goes on and on–and the more you customize, the more the blog acquires its own look and feel.
- Turn on pretty links. This is a two step process to turn wp/index.php?postid=12 into wp/date/postname, which is easier for users and search engines to read. To use it, go to WordPress->Options->Permalinks and select a permalink structure by pasting and modifying the default. Then, when you click the button, make sure to copy the code into a file named .htaccess and place it in your wp root directory. The .htaccess file will rewrite your links for you, from old and ugly to new and shiny.
- Ping some services. If you ping popular blog notification services, you’ll start getting traffic nearly immediately! Go to WordPress->Options->Writing and add at least the following:
These are just a few tips for getting started and customizing a new WordPress installation. Of course, with anything, there’s a thousand more things to do, but this is a start!
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