Written by Hirsch Fishman
A fresh WordPress installation is a beautiful thing – clean, simple, and loaded with potential. But before you can start designing your WordPress website and uploading content, there are some basic things that you need to do in order to configure it properly and make the most out of it.
My recommendations are what I consider the absolute basic things that you need to do as you start working with WordPress.
A lot of the things that others recommend I’ll find myself doing later in the design and development process. I don’t think they necessarily need to be done the very first time you log in to your WordPress admin panel, which is the perspective I’m coming from.
So without further ado, here’s my list of 8 basic things that you should do right after installing WordPress.
After you’ve installed WordPress and configured the installation, WordPress gives you an automatically generated password to use the first time you log in. This should be a no-brainer, but make sure to change that password to something that you can remember easier.
Never changed a password before in WordPress? It’s quite simple – just go to the Users panel, click on the “admin” user, and scroll down the page to where you can change your password.
By default, WordPress generates a link using database strings – http://www.example.com/?p=N, for example. It’s not the most usable or SEO-friendly format, which is why most people choose to enable permalinks. That way, links will appear a lot nicer – http://www.example.com/about/, for example.
To enable permalinks, you need to upload an HTACCESS file to the root level of your website, and then give it read and write (0666) permissions, which you can easily do with most FTP programs. Then, go to Settings > Permalinks to enable them in any of the given formats or customize them in your own format.
For more information, including what an HTACCESS file is, read through the “Using Permalinks” page in the WordPress codex.
Akisment is plugin that is highly recommended for use on your WordPress website – so highly recommended, in fact, that it’s already included when you first install WordPress onto your server. It blocks spam comments from appearing on your website, which is a big concern, especially if you have comments enabled on your website.
When you activate Akismet, you need a WordPress API key in order to complete the activation. You can get one by registering your WordPress website at WordPress.com, which is different than WordPress.org.
Now might be a good time to install any plugins that you know you’ll need on your WordPress website. You can always add more or remove any at a later time, and of course there will probably still be some configuration that you’ll need to do in order to get everything working properly on your website.
If you’re new to WordPress and don’t know what plugins to install, take a look through my list of essential plugins for your WordPress website or blog for ideas.
Customizing the WordPress login screen is something that I like to do for any clients that I build a WordPress website for. It helps make it easier for them to use WordPress, and is a little extra touch that can go a long way towards making the administrative experience more personal.
The method I detailed involves working with the PHP and CSS files that come with the WordPress installation. That’s fine to do if you want a fancier login screen, but the drawback to it is that when you upgrade your WordPress installation, you’ll lose all that work.
I found a nice plugin called WP Custom Login Form Image that I started using instead, which lets you customize the image that you’ll see on the WordPress login screen. This way, my clients will still see their logo on the login screen, no matter how many times the version of WordPress changes.
Why do this here? Because it’s a simple touch that might otherwise be overlooked later on, I think it’s just best to do it in the beginning.
WordPress sets up a default category for your posts called “Uncategorized”. If you don’t want that to display the word “Uncategorized” to display on your website though, you might want to consider changing the name of the category.
This is generally a good idea to do because you never know when you might forget to select a category for your posts – it’s happened to me before, and I personally don’t like seeing “Uncategorized” display as a category on my blog.
There are two ways of doing this, both simple to do:
Now that you’ve taken care of some of the preliminary settings, you’ll want to upload your theme files so that you can really start to design your website.
Use an FTP program of your choosing to upload the theme files to the wpcontent > themes folder. Then, go to Appearance > Themes, and activate that particular theme.
If you’re using an already-developed theme, then your WordPress website should pretty much be good to go. If you’re a designer, this is where you can start developing and testing your design.
When I’m creating a WordPress theme, I create the files in Adobe Dreamweaver, and then upload them via FTP to the server. After the website is launched and the responsibility for it gets turned over to the client, I have to think in their shoes. Not all them have Dreamweaver or want to use FTP, so they’ll need a way to update those files on occasion.
That’s where the theme editor in WordPress comes in – which in my mind is one of the more underrated tools in WordPress. This is the spot where someone can edit a particular theme file without needing any special software on their computers. (It just assumes that they have a working knowledge of PHP and CSS.)
The one trick is that you need to give write permissions to your theme files in order for them to be editable in the theme editor. You can do this the same way that you do with your HTACCESS file when enabling permalinks.
After you install WordPress, what are some of the things that you do to get it set up? Are there things you do that are different for a client’s WordPress website as opposed to your own WordPress website? And finally, is there anything that you think should be on this list that I didn’t include?
Share your thoughts with everyone on these questions and more by leaving a comment below!