WordPress Setup Checklist: With Downloadable PDF

While there are plenty of guides out there on how to install and get up and running with WordPress, this is a guide on some basic settings you will probably want to set up right out of the gate with WordPress. After a number of installations I began to see that there were some common things I did every time, so I put together this to-do-list of configuration settings.

{Downloadable PDF}

First Add Some Categories

If you planned your website out, you probably have a good idea what categories you need, but if you haven’t given it any thought yet; Categories (big ‘C’) are important to many themes since they are used to build out menus. They are also another tool in your bag of semantics to help Google and other search engines know what your website and your content is about. If your still stuck, you can set up an “Editorial” Category for miscellaneous posts. This is at least slightly better than the default “Uncategorized”.

Edit the Default Users

Depending on how WordPress was installed, there may be one or more things for you to do here.

1) Add a backup user. I like to have at least two user accounts that I can use to log in to WordPress just as a precaution. One account will be linked with a domain email and the other with a free email from Google or Yahoo or something similar.

1) If you have an “admin” user, delete it, but not before creating a backup user! Hackers often target this default user account.

2) Add a nickname, first name and/or last name to your default user profile, and CAPITALIZE the first letter! Then set “Display name publicly as”, and choose the capitalized user name… because usernames that are all lowercase bug me. Ok, this step is optional.

Edit or Delete the First Post

Now that your Categories and Users have been set up, you’ll want to go into the first default post and either delete it or edit it so that it has some content.

Delete the First Comment

Along with your default first post comes your default first comment. Delete the comment or you can disable comments altogether later.. Unless it really makes you feel happy to already have a comment on your blog, then you can leave it. =)

Edit or Delete Default Page

Most sites will all probably at least have one Page, usually an About or Contact page. You can set that page up or delete this and add pages later.

Enable Akismet or Disable Comments

If you are going to let people make comments on your site, then you are going to be dealing with a lot of spam. Akismet is a plugin that will handle the majority of this and it’s installed by default, but it isn’t turned on. You will need to register a WordPress.com account to enable Akismet. If you choose, comments can be disabled either globally or on a per post basis and you won’t need to worry about Akismet.

Change the General Settings

As you go through the Settings section, most of the settings you choose will be a matter of personal preference, but there are a few you should be aware of. In General Settings, it is WordPress Address (URL) – Decide now if you want to use ‘www.mysite.com’ or just ‘mysite.com’. This has implications in Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools. It doesn’t really matter which unless you want to really geek out on it. But what really matters is that you choose one way and stick with it.

Change Discussion Settings

Here is where you can globally turn comments on or off for your website. Just check or uncheck the box that says ‘Allow people to post comments on new articles’. I also will check the box to set ‘Comment must be manually approved’, just as an added precaution against spam.

Change Media Settings

Unless you plan to become a prolific blogger… you probably want to change the media settings so that WordPress doesn’t automatically categorize media by month and year. If you ever need to get into the file structure of your site, it will just make things easier to find if they are all in one directory. I know it sounds like keeping everything organized by month and year would make things easier, but it does not. You are quite unlikely to remember a what month and year you posted that picture of the guy and the thing in the place.

Change the Permalink Structure

The default URL for your WordPress posts will look something like

http://yoursite.com/?p=123

Not very pretty to humans and not very pretty to search engines either. Another tool in your bag of semantics is the URL structure of your website, so you’ll want to change this. Something like http://yoursite.com/sample-post or http://yoursite.com/category/sample-post works great.

True, it used to be the case that if you just used http://yoursite.com/sample-post, you would run in to performance issues if you had lots of posts, but that has been fixed as of WordPress 3.3.

WordPress has a radio button you can click if you want to do http://yoursite.com/sample-post, but if you want to add the category select the radio button for custom structure, copy and paste or type this: /%category%/%postname%/

Stick a Fork In It, Your Done

At least with the default installation. You will probably want to customize the theme and maybe add a few plugins, especially a Google Analytics plugin if you want to do any meaningful analysis on your content.