Category Archives: How-to

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WordPress Video Explanation: Creating a Single-page WordPress Site with a Contact Form

This article was originally published on DigitalSplashMedia.com.

One of the nice things about WordPress is that it’s flexible enough to meet a lot of different business website needs.

Let’s say you’re just starting a small business and you don’t really have any content to put on a website yet and you’re not ready to start blogging. You might want to just start out with a single page website with a contact form on the home page so that people can contact you. This is really easy to do in WordPress. Let’s walk you through it.

Transcript

I’ll start with a test WordPress site that’s just been installed. By default, WordPress installs with a sample blog post. Let’s first delete that.

Next, I’m going to create a new page that will serve as my home page. I click on Page Add New, enter the name of the page and down below I put in some intro text and this is where I’ll also paste in some code for our contact form in a little bit. When I’m ready, I click the blue Publish button.

Next, I’m going to need a contact form plugin so I go to Plugins and I don’t have any contact form plugins installed yet so I need to find one by typing in the search field. Here I’m going to look for a very simple and basic contact form plugin called Contact Form 7. It’s at the top of the list of the resulting page. I click on Install Now and when prompted to, click the OK button.

Next I activate the plugin by clicking the Activate Plugin link.

Next, I’ll need to get a bit of bit of code from the plugin’s settings panel to paste into my page. For this plugin, it’s right up at the top. I select it and copy the code.

Then I go to the Home page that I created, and paste the code where I want the form to go. Remember to click the blue Update button.

Now if we go to check out our site, we won’t see quite what we want yet. There’s one more important step.

We need to go to our Settings > REading and specify that we want a static home page and select the page we created from the drop down menu for Front Page. Don’t worry about selecting anything for the Posts page dropdown. Click the blue Save Changes button, and now when we go back to view our website and click to refresh, we should see our form.

Now you’ll notice that in this example the comments form is also showing. This could be a bit confusing for readers, so let’s disable that. Go back to your page, click on Screen Options near the top right of your page, and select the discussion check box. Now a new Discussion panel will appear on your page with two check boxes that specify whether or not this page should allow comments or trackbacks and pingbacks. Unclick the Allow comments box. The other doesn’t matter for this, but I’ll unselect it anyway and then click the blue update button.

Now when I go back to my website and refresh, that comments box is no longer there. Now we have a very simple, website with a contact form on the home page.

One last thing, let’s delete that default Sample Page that WordPress gave us. Go back to your admin panel, Pages > All Pages and hover over the Sample Page item until you see the links underneath it and click the Trash link.

Now we should have just a single page website. Not very exciting but it might be just the thing some small business need when they’re just starting out.

Changing Themes Checklist

Changing themes is super easy in WordPress – just a matter of finding a theme you like and activating it. But, a lot of people aren’t aware that when you change themes you have a potential to mess up some of your content. Sure, your posts and pages will still all be there, but your sidebar and other widgetized areas are likely to lose what you had. So, it’s a good idea to do some prep work before you change your WordPress theme.

WP Beginner has a great blog post that will walk you through the process - Checklist: 15 Things You MUST DO Before Changing WordPress Themes. Check it out.

How to Move Your WordPress Site to a New Web Host

How to Move Your WordPress Site to a New Web Host

If you’ve got a WordPress.org, self-hosted website or blog, the computer, aka web server, where the files for your website “live” belongs to a company that specializes in housing or “hosting” websites by maintaining hundreds of web servers and renting space on them out to companies like yours. These companies are commonly known as web hosting companies or web hosts.

There are hundreds of web hosts out there offering varying features, levels of service and price plans. And, like anything else in the business world, the quality of service can vary wildly among web hosts. As a website owner, there may come a time when you may want to move your site from one web host to another. Why would you want to do this? Several possible reasons:

  • You’re not satisfied with your current host – maybe your site is down a lot, the server has frequent issues or the host network is slow
  • You’ve outgrown your current host – they can’t accommodate the amount of traffic you get or the amount of disk space you need
  • You’ve developed a site on a testing platform and it’s time to move it to a production server elsewhere

I’ve run into each one of these issues at one time or another over the past ten years and chances are very good that you will too. The prospect of moving your website to a new host can be intimidating. Fear of your site being down or losing some of your content is enough to keep many people from making a move. Moving a WordPress website is not a pleasant task, but if you follow some basic guidelines you can minimize the down time and the risk of losing your precious content. In this article I’m going to outline the basic steps I’ve taken to move my WordPress websites.

I’m not going to discuss how to find a web host. I have yet to find a perfect host*. There’s all kinds of conflicting information about web hosts. The nature of web hosting makes it a very competitive industry and the task of keeping web servers safe and secure from black hat hackers, viruses, bots, spammers and other Internet baddies is a daunting one. Different people will have different experiences at the same host. With the ever-changing and varying levels of service available from web hosts out there, I think the best weapon a website owner can have is the knowledge of how to pick up and move if you’re not satisfied with where you’re at.

Do make sure that the new host where you plan to move supports the minimum WordPress requirments for PHP and MySQL. You can get the latest requirements on WordPress.org. In looking at a new web host, you should consider whether your server will use a Linux Apache server or Windows IIS server. My experience is that WordPress can be more difficult to manage on Windows IIS servers.

*The motivation for doing this article is that the web server where my Digital Splash Media website used to be, kept crashing and having issues, resulting in sporadic and intermittent down time. I had other websites at that same host (Blue Host) and had no problems with those because they were on a different server. I asked the Blue Host multiple times if they could move my site to a different server. But they always had an excuse for not accommodating me. After the most recent bout of this, I got fed up and moved the site to its new host, HostGator. So far, so good. I should mention that I’ve still kept my other sites at Blue Host and they’re still running fine. So, it’s not that the whole Blue Host experience was bad, just that I had the bad luck to have my site on a lemon of a server and they wouldn’t accommodate a reasonable request to move my site for me. So, I had to take things into my own hands and leave them.

Preparing to Move Your WordPress Website

The first thing you want to do is make sure you have all the content for your website. With WordPress, that means you need to have a backup of the database, as well as backups of certain files. You’re going to need to have some FTP software to download these files from the current web host as well as uploading them to the new web host.

Download Files

Using your FTP software, download all your files from the /wp-content/uploads/ folder. A WordPress export should get these, but I like to err on the safe side and get these just in case.

If you have any plugins that have installed new folders, download the contents of that too. For example, the NextGen gallery plugin has a /gallery/ folder in /wp-content/. Get that folder. If you’ve made any customizations to your theme make sure you have those downloaded to your own computer as well. In fact, if you want to play it ultra safe and conservative, just download the whole /wp-content/ folder with all of its subfolders.

If you’re really paranoid and your current WordPress version is older than what you’ll be moving to, you might consider downloading the whole WordPress installation from your current website. I’ve run into issues just updating WordPress versions on one host where I needed to reinstall the old version in order to get in and troubleshoot. Better safe than sorry.

Database Backup

Back-up and export your database. For a lot of simple WordPress sites, using the Tools > Export command in the WordPress dashboard will get you the database content. But some plugins add additional tables to the database and the WordPress exporter doesn’t get those. To get those additional tables I usually export the whole database using a plugin called phpMyAdmin. To learn more about backups of your WordPress database using phpmyadmin, check out my video tutorial article on backing up your WordPress database.

Document Your WordPress Configuration

Downloading your files and exporting your database won’t keep all the information you’re going to need to set up shop on a new web host. Most of your settings in the Settings menu and widget configuration won’t get saved, so you’ll have to reset those when you set up the new installation of WordPress. So, you need to take note of these settings and configurations. Take note of how you have everything configured in your Settings menus as well as any theme-specific configurations like background color or header images. I take screenshots of my widget settings and when I have custom text widgets, I copy all of the text or code in those and paste them into a document so I can easily copy and paste them in when setting up the new site.

Take note of all of your plugins. I take screenshot of my plugins page so I can easily see what plugins I have installed. I likewise take screenshots of plugin configuration pages to document plugin settings and make it quicker and easier to re-establish how everything was on the new site.

Once you think you have everything backed up and documented take a break – for a few hours or preferably a day. Come back and go through everything again after your break to make sure you didn’t forget something.

Ok, now you should have “boxed up” everything and you’re ready to make the move. Now it’s time to start prepping the new place for your site.

Prepping the New Place

Ok, you’ve found a WordPress web host that you think will be good. Sign up for an account with the new web host. You’ll be asked if you need a domain name or if you already have one. You already have one, it’s just currently pointing to your current web host. So, select the option that you already have your own domain name and you’ll be asked to enter that domain name. Make sure you enter it correctly.

Once you’ve signed up you should be given instructions on how to log into your web hosts admin panel. This is a different admin panel than your WordPress admin panel. Many WordPress webhosts use what’s called CPanel to administer various tools and services for your web hosting plan, such as email accounts and software like WordPress.

You’ll want to install WordPress. Hopefully the web host will have a quick and simple automated WordPress installation. If not, you’ll have to install it manually.

Installing WordPress is about as far as you’ll be able to go until you redirect your domain name to the new web host. To redirect your domain name to your new web host, you’ll need to log into where you registered your domain name** and find the option to change the nameservers. Your new web host should provide you with its namservers, something like ns1.newwebhost.com and ns2.newwebhost.com. Enter in these new nameservers.

Now comes the hard part, waiting. The process of re-directing your domain name by changing the nameservers, can take 24 – 72 hours to propagate across the Internet, so that when someone types in your domain name it goes to your new site on your new web host. In practice, I’ve found lately that the change becomes effective within a few hours.

(**Note: if you registered your domain name where you’re site is currently hosted, it would be a good idea to transfer that domain name registration to a neutral domain name registration service. For ease and flexibility in moving web sites from one web host to another, I recommend registering your domain names with a domain name registration service, not a web host. Personally, I like DomainDiscover.com).

Once the nameserver change has taken hold you’ll be able to log in to WordPress and starting moving your site into the new place.

Moving In

Once you have FTP access to your new web host and can log into your new WordPress installation it’s time to move in. The sequence of some of the following steps can be varied, but you’ll need to do all of these steps to get your site looking the way it was.

If you have a customized theme you’ll want to first FTP that theme to your new site into the /wp-content/themes/ folder. By uploading the theme first it will be ready and waiting for you when you log into WordPress.

Log into your new WordPress admin panel. Delete the default post and page that WordPress creates when it installs. Then, import your database export by going to Tools > Import and when prompted select the xml file you exported from your old site. WordPress will then install the WordPress Importer plugin and then lead you through some steps to import your site. Make sure you select to download the attachments.

Activate your theme by going to Appearance > Themes and activating the theme you uploaded.

Configure any theme-specific settings that you may have had on your old site like banner or header images, page background images or colors, etc.

Configure the general settings the way you had them on your old host

Find your notes of all the plugins you had installed and go to Plugins > Add New and install and activate each of those plugins and then go through and configure the settings for each of them to match what you had on your old site.

I usually configure my widgets last after I’ve installed and activated my plugins since some plugins include widgets. Go to Appearance > Widgets and with your notes about your old widget settings, go through and set up your widgets the way you had them on your old site.

Lastly, go through all the pages of your site and a good sampling of your posts and check everything out to make sure everything looks and works as it should. If something doesn’t look right you may have to re-check configuration settings and you may even have to go in and edit some posts and pages, but in my experience that has been rare.

And there you have it. Those are the basic guidelines and steps I’ve used numerous times to migrate WordPress sites from one host to another. Don’t forget that once you’ve changed hosts you’ll need to set up email accounts on the new host to match what you had at the old host as well. Good luck, and if you’ve moved a WordPress site and have any additional tips or guidelines you’d like to share, please feel free to comment.

 

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Backing Up Your WordPress Database Video Tutorial

Update June 25, 2011: Seems the WP PHPMyAdmin Plugin may pose a security risk. Don’t use the plugin and in fact, delete it. Instead, use the PHP My Admin tool available through your web host’s control panel.

A frequent question I hear from beginning WordPress users is how to back up WordPress. They’ve heard that before they upgrade to a new version of WordPress, they should do a backup. And of course they are right, backing up your WordPress database is very important and is highly recommended by the folks at WordPress prior to performing an upgrade. According to the WordPress codex:

Your WordPress database contains every post, every comment and every link you have on your blog. If your database gets erased or corrupted, you stand to lose everything you have written. There are many reasons why this could happen and not all are things you can control.

So here’s a short video tutorial screencast outlining how to back up your WordPress database using a simple and easy-to-use plugin, the WP PHP MyAdmin plugin. Expand the video to Full Screen mode to see the details more clearly.

There are other options for backing up your WordPress database, including services that will do it for you automatically, but I still think it’s important to know how to do manual backups.

Backing up your database is essential, but remember that the WordPress database is only part of what you need to backup. There are two parts to backing up your WordPress site: Database and Files.

Learn more about backing up your WordPress files.

Learn more about backing up your WordPress database from the WordPress codex.

The following is the transcript from the video tutorial.

Video Tutorial Transcript

Backing up your WordPress database is an essential task you need perform before upgrading or moving your WordPress site.

The WordPress export tool will back up your core WordPress database tables, but it won’t include any additional database tables that some plugins add.

A very useful plugin for backing up your whole WordPress database is the WP-phpMyAdmin plugin.

Let’s take a look.

Log into WordPress and go to Plugins > Add New

Type in phpmyadmin in the search box and click the Search Plugins button

On the resulting page, you should see a plugin title WP-phpMyAdmin by Roland Rust and Christopher Hwang.

Click the Install Now link and then click the OK button in the pop up window

After the plugin installs, activate the plugin

Once the plugin is installed and activated, you’ll find a phpMyAdmin menu item in your Tools section. Go to Tools > phpMyAdmin.

The main PHP MyAdmin page shows you all your database tables that are in your WordPress database.

There are several tabs at the top of the page.

Click on the Export tab.

The resulting page lets you select what tables you want to export and in what format. For our purposes, we’re going to just keep all the default selections. All tables are already selected by default and the default export format is a .sql file.

Near the bottom of the page is a Save as File checkbox. Select this checkbox.

Next in the File name template field, enter a name that you’ll be able to remember.

Finally, click the Go button in the bottom right hand corner of the screen.

Once you click the Go button, the export file will be saved to your computer as a .sql file.

If anything goes wrong with your back up during an upgrade or site change, you can just import this file back into your database using the Import tab at the top of the PHP MyAdmin page.

So that’s backing up your WordPress database with the PHP MyAdmin plugin. A simple and quick way to back up your WordPress database, giving you peace of mind to upgrade your version of WordPress or move you WordPress site to a new host.

WordCampTV Video: Theme Workshop

I’ll be doing a new WordPress workshop later this summer, WordPress 201, or Going Beyond the Basics in WordPress. A major part of this workshop will be devoted to customizing and tweaking themes. At a recent WordCamp held in Orange County, Drew Strojny from The Theme Foundry led a workshop-style session on customizing WordPress themes, from basic best practices to the beginnings of more advanced customizations. If you’re interested in learning how to customize themes and can’t wait until later this summer for the WordPress 201 workshop, check out this video from WordPress.tv.