WordPress is a great Web authoring tool. Originally created as a blog platform, WordPress has become a very popular choice for blogs and marketing websites. One of the major benefits of WordPress is that it allows end users to easily author and publish their own content without writing HTML pages manually. Setting up a WordPress site is relatively simple and many popular hosting providers have automated this process. We can set up a local development environment, use our hosting provider to create a live site, or use a service like cloud 9 to create a cloud-based development workspace. I’ll use cloud 9 for this course, but briefly discuss the first two options before setting up our workspace.
Local Development Environment
WordPress uses PHP and MySQL at its core. So to install WordPress locally, we first need to install and configure a Web server, PHP, and MySQL. This is a worthwhile project, but beyond the scope of this course. Instead, use a service like XAMPP or WAMP to install these technologies for you. I prefer XAMPP from Apache Friends. Once installed, you can follow the famous five minute install instructions from the WordPress Codex. There are detailed instructions for setting up your database in the same article.
Many hosting providers offer single-click installation of WordPress for your website. This process simplifies things and usually creates the required MySQL database and user accounts automatically. Regardless of installation method, be sure to double-check the security of your site. Create unique keys and salts and use “.htaccess” or local file permissions to secure vulnerable files and directories. I recommend reading and understanding the Hardening WordPress article from the WordPress Codex.
Cloud 9 is a service that provides cloud-based development workspaces. Similar to virtual machines, Cloud 9 workspaces allow you to install and configure your environment to suit your needs. Workspace templates provide users with an efficient way to spin up a WordPress environment. Use the activity below to set up your cloud 9 workspace for this course.
Step 1: Setting up the workspace
- Sign-in to Cloud 9
- Choose “Create a new Workspace”
- Enter the name and description of the project
- Select the WordPress template option
- Choose “Create Workspace”
Step 2: Configure WP
- Choose “Run Project”
- Preview Project and follow instructions to configure
- The wizard will ask for a username, password, and email address
- If you’re using a public workspace, remember not to use any private information here.
- Since this is a dev environment, we will save all the security hardening for our final production environment.
- If you ever lose the admin credentials for this site you can manually reset that information in the database.
Step 3: Login and check it out
- Log in
- Explore the admin features
- Explore themes
- Create Content
- Add a post
- Add a page
- Add a menu
What’s the point?
WordPress is free to use and there is a large community to generate special plug-ins, themes, and widgets to enhance the functionality of the site. Developers can leverage WordPress as a platform to build their own special themes and plugins to suit their own needs or the needs of clients. WordPress is useful for students of Web design because learning it provides an employable skill with a foundation in content management systems.