Setting up a WordPress site properly

I’ve been WordPress teaching for a few years now and I’ve shown many students what steps to take when setting up a site, but it seems that once out of the classroom, these steps are forgotten. I’ve also noticed this with folks asking for help on the WordPress forum. So many designers try to design their WordPress theme without any content and ensuring their setup is right. These first initial steps aren’t that difficult and will ensure that nothing is forgotten when it’s time to launch. So here is the process I follow with every single wordPress build.

  1. Install WordPress and log on.
  2. Navigate to my Post section and rename the Uncategorized category to something more sensible. More often than not, I change it to News. If I know what other categories will be needed, I insert them here as well.
  3. If I have blog content from the client (99% of the time I don’t), I insert it here. If I don’t have any blog posts content, I like to install the WP Example Content plugin which generates 5 posts and pages. 
  4. Unlike blog posts, most clients do provide page content. So at this stage I would create the various pages and set up my menu via the Appearance > Menus.
  5. Next I’ll navigate to my settings and ensure that under the general setting,  the full site title and tagline are inserted and I’ll change the timezone to the clients’ timezone.
  6. Under Settings >  Writing I make sure that the appropriate category is selected as the default post category.
  7. Under Settings > Reading I change the front page display to a static page. I usually select Home for my home page and Blog for my post. Again for me, 99% of the time, my clients want a site with a front page and blog posts appearing as a sub page.
  8. Next we have the comments which are under Settings > discussion I normally don’t change much in here except when clients do not want comments at all.
  9. The Media section is next and again, I normally leave the default as is.
  10. During the build of a site, I make sure to check the second radio button on the privacy settings and block search engines.
  11. Finally the last step and probably the most important one is the permalinks. I usually select the second option. I’m no SEO Guru and really don’t think that one permalink over another is going to make That much difference. I used to opt for custom permalinks and set them to /%category%/%postname%/ but then I read Chris’s post and I stopped that.(I know he didn’t say to stop using /%category%/%postname%/ but still, if that custom permalink is better, wouldn’t WordPress have made it an option? Those folks are smart, so I prefer to go with one of their choices. :-D)
    Setting up the permalinks at the beginning of a project can also save you a lot of grief from your client. If you discover that their server doesn’t support mod_rewrite, then finding this out before the launch will give you plenty of time to find an alternative.

Once I have taken care of these 11 steps, then I start building the theme. I’ve seen many designers get caught out when launching a site realizing that they didn’t style the blockquotes or the list items. Ensuring that you have content, even dummy content, during the build will help you release a better theme for your client.