Here’s what you’ll need to put together a self-hosted WordPress website.
1. An up-to-date computer with a decent Internet connection
Please be sure that the computer you’re using is in good health. The operating system should be reasonably current, it should be free of viruses and malware, and it should be generally running smoothly. Your Internet connection should be reliable and reasonably fast.
2. Basic-to-good computer and Internet skills.
If you have been using a computer and the Internet for some time for web browsing, email, making purchases, watching video, using a word processor, and other common tasks, you should be fine. If there’s any question in your mind, please be sure you have a more knowledgeable friend or relative you can check in with if things get tricky.
3. A web browser
This is the software you use to view websites. Most likely you’re already using Firefox, Internet Explorer or Google Chrome if you’re on a PC, or if you’re on a Mac, Safari. Any of these are fine; just make sure you’re using the most recent version.
4. A web hosting account
It matters — a lot — what web host you choose. If you don’t yet have a web host in mind, you’ll need to do some research. Asking a trusted, knowledgeable friend for his or her recommendation is a good idea, but always research the recommended company yourself.
WordPress.org recommends several companies who you can be sure are well set up for running WordPress (see Further Reading at the end of this lesson), but there are many other good WordPress hosts who don’t get this special mention, so don’t limit yourself to that list. Googling “WordPress hosting” will give you a long list of possibilities, but you’ll have to investigate each one yourself. It’s worth your time.
First, see if the company offers web hosting on a Linux (an operating system) server. Overall, WordPress runs much better on a Linux server than on a Windows server.
There are specific technical requirements for running WordPress:
PHP version 5.2.4 or greater
MySQL version 5.0 or greater
Ask each web host you consider if they meet those specific requirements.
Then, maybe most important of all, ask what type of technical support they supply. Do they offer telephone support at all, or just by email or by “support ticket”? Do they provide support 24/7, or only during limited hours? What do they claim about the speed and quality of their support? Can a friend, colleague or acquaintance tell you about his or her experiences with their support?
Googling for reviews of web hosting companies is actually not useful at all, because there are lots of fake review sites which are really just paid advertising, and it’s hard to pick out the few genuine reviews.
A web host usually offers several types of accounts. If you don’t know of specific reasons to choose a more complex type of account — if your site won’t be particularly large, or busy, or complex — shared hosting will probably work fine. This type of account should cost about $5-$10 a month. If, as time goes on, your site becomes very large, busy, or complicated, you can always migrate the site to an appropriate type of account.
Be aware that there are also companies which offer what is often called managed WordPress web hosting. These are web hosting accounts which go beyond the services typically offered by providing extra levels of support and help. Managed WordPress hosting will usually provide a server which is optimized especially for WordPress security, automatic updates, automatic backups, and generous one-on-one support. But they are a lot more expensive. If your computer skills aren’t up to par, or you just have very little time available, and you can afford it, managed WordPress hosting is a good idea. Some managed WordPress hosting companies: WP Engine, Page.ly, and Synthesis.
When you sign up for your web hosting account, keep all of the information they send you in a safe place where you can find it later.
5. A registered domain name
A domain name can be bought from any domain registrar. It is not necessary or even particularly helpful to obtain your domain name and your web hosting from the same company, so please make these two decisions separately. It’s best to choose a well-known domain registrar with a good reputation. Again, you might ask a trusted friend.
Some domain registars which are well-known and considered good quality are GoDaddy.com, Register.com, and Namecheap.com.
Start out by registering just one good domain name, for just one year, unless there’s a pressing reason to do otherwise. A “dot com” domain is usually the best choice, but depending upon the nature of your website, another domain extension might make sense. It’s usually not necessary to register lots of variations on the name, and registering it for more than a year makes it more likely that you’ll miss the re-registration date when it finally comes up! Make sure that the domain registrar has a good email address for you, and that their emails are not getting caught in a spam filter, because their reminders to re-register will be important when the time comes.
When you register your domain name, keep all of the information they send you in a safe place where you can find it later.
6. An FTP program
This is optional if you’re not installing WordPress yourself. But the ability to FTP files is important for anyone running his or her own website.
FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol and refers to a common way of moving files from one computer or server to another via the Internet. To install and work with WordPress, you need to be able to upload files from your computer to the server your web host provides. Using FTP is not difficult, but may take a little getting used to.
If you already have an FTP program you know how to use, good. If not, a good free FTP program is Filezilla; (see Resources at the end of this lesson). Install it now and we’ll provide basic instructions for using it later in this course.
7. A text editor for editing code
I know we promised you that you wouldn’t need to edit any code, but there is one small but important exception during the installation process. It’s not hard.
If you’re not installing WordPress yourself, this is optional. But it’s a good idea for anyone running a website to know how to do simple code edits correctly.
The important thing is that code needs to be edited using a program which doesn’t add or change the characters, but instead keeps them exactly as you’ve carefully typed them.
Do not use a word processor such as Microsoft Word for editing code. Notepad (on Windows) or TextMate (on a Mac) will work fine. If for some reason you cannot use either of those programs, there are free alternatives; see link under Resources (at the end of this lesson).
8. An “Info Sheet” where you record website information
This is crucial! It could be a physical sheet of paper or a digital document, as long as you keep it in a safe place where you can easily access it and keep it scrupulously up-to-date. Use it on a regular basis it to record logins and other information about your website. Start by recording the information that your web host and domain registrar give you, and your login for this course. As you build your website, jot down notes about how you did things; we promise that you’ll be glad you did. Please don’t skip this important step.
With all of the above in place, you’re ready to install WordPress.