To participate in Lorelle’s WordPress School, you will need a test site to experiment and play on. This is a site that is not accessible and viewable by the general public, your private playground to experiment and break your WordPress site, but accessible by anyone with a link to the site, which makes it great for getting feedback and support for your efforts in this program. Remember, part of learning how to use WordPress is to break it, so you are NOT to use a live site for these lessons.
You’ve been working all week on the brainstorming and planning of your test site. Now it is time to start putting that information into your test site. Remember, this is your chance to do something ordinary or extraordinary with your test site, a chance to play with a site for a year and do whatever you wish with the content. Give yourself permission to imagine and experiment, and blog your passion.
You have several choices for your test site.
- WordPress.com free site: No cost to you, this is the perfect choice for the first few months of this year-long series. From a learning perspective, the way you publish content, structure and organize your site, and customize it is the exact same on WordPress.com as it is a self-hosted version of WordPress. Most importantly, it will be set up to allow your fellow participants to check out your assignments and work and cheer you on.
- Hosted Server/Cloud Installation of WordPress: If you have access to a server or wish to install WordPress on Amazon’s hosting or another cloud-based server, you may. If the site is open to public access (but shut off from search engines), you may use this. Those with a link should be able to view the site and offer words of encouragement and help.
- Managed WordPress Hosting: If you are using a web hosting service that offers managed WordPress hosting, that will work as well. Follow the instructions below for setting up your site to be closed to search engines but open to public viewing.
Which one you choose is up to you and your skills and abilities with WordPress at this stage. As we work our way through the core functionality of WordPress, you will eventually require a portable or cloud-based installation of WordPress for more intermediate and advanced work on WordPress Themes, WordPress Plugins, and site development and customization, but don’t feel the need to go there sooner than you are ready.
You are best served if you start slowly with a free WordPress.com site. It is simple, easy-to-use, and provides everything you need for the first few months of the lessons. When we move into the self-hosted version of WordPress, you may export your content from the WordPress.com site and import it into the self-hosted version, part of the curriculum of Lorelle’s WordPress School.
How to Setup Your WordPress School Test Site
The distinction between a publicly open site and a test site is that it is set to be hidden from search engines.
A testing environment hides everything from search engines and the general public, restricting access by password or IP address. If you wish to use such a server environment for creating your test site, that’s fine, just know that we won’t be able to view it without permission.
You will be using a JUNK site address. Avoid using a good site name for this test site. You may just delete it when it is done, depriving others from using that site address in WordPress.com. Examples of good junk site addresses, the subdomain section of the address, are initials like lvf1234.wordpress.com or sallys987654.wordpress.com.
To register for or add a WordPress.com site, see “How to Sign Up for a WordPress.com Blog,” go to the WordPress.com sign up if you are new to WordPress.com, and choose a free blog. The interface maybe slightly different, but the process is basically the same. WordPress.com has made it easy to register. Ensure that you check your email immediately to verify the registration and site.
To set up portable or cloud-based WordPress installation, see “How to Install WordPress on Your Computer or USB.”
Once WordPress is setup or installed, follow these instructions to make the site be hidden from search engines.
- In the WordPress Administration Screens, go to Settings > Reading > Site Visibility
- Check the box that indicates the site will be hidden and not indexed by search engines
- Go to Settings > General > Tagline and type in something that says, “A Test Site for Lorelle’s WordPress School”
This action hides the site potentially from search engines while keeping it open for viewing. It won’t stop people from visiting the site, following, or liking. The tagline makes it clear that this is an experimental site. I’ve been using this technique for years with students and clients, and it works well, giving them time to experiment and play until they are ready to make the site live, delete it, or just leave it there to play with when they have a new idea before deployment on their live site.
Follow the instructions in the Assignment below for the rest of your to do list.
Once you’ve setup your test site on WordPress.com or elsewhere, complete the following steps on the Administration Screens.
- Go to Settings > General > Site Title and type in a name for your site. The name should reflect the purpose of the site, but it is not important at this time.
- Go to Settings > Reading > Site Visibility to ensure you have set the site options to not be indexed by search engines.
- Go to Users > My Profile and set your Display Name to be a human-sounding name not your username. Fill in first and last name in the form while you are at it.
- Go to Appearance > Themes and search for Twenty-Eleven or 2011 and activate that WordPress Theme.
- Do the WordPress School: About Page assignment.
About the choice of the WordPress Theme, the Twenty-Eleven WordPress Theme was developed as a showcase Theme, showing user, designers, and developers the possibilities of what can be done with a WordPress Theme. It may look boring and simple, but it is critical to use this WordPress Theme for the first bit of this class because it puts everyone on equal footing for learning, and helps you learn how to use specific WordPress features and functions not available on many WordPress Themes.
There will be people in the WordPress School Google+ Community to help you out with the setup of your test site.
This is a tutorial from Lorelle’s WordPress School. For more information, and to join this free, year-long, online WordPress School, see:
- Lorelle’s WordPress School Introduction
- Lorelle’s WordPress School Description
- WordPress School Tutorials List
- WordPress Publishing Checklist
- How to Give Feedback and Criticism