Today we finish up our series by my phenomenal guest poster Melinda VanLone on how to switch from WordPress.com. If you missed her previous posts on Should You Move from WordPress.com to WordPress.org? and the first five steps in switching from WordPress.com to WordPress.org you can find them by clicking the links. Next Wednesday, I’m taking part in a really cool cross-blog discussion about endings, and then I’ll finally be continuing on with my series on using the five senses in fiction.
How to Switch from WordPress.com to WordPress.org: Part 2
Last week we covered the first five steps:
1. Advertise the move.
2. Export your data.
3. Get a domain name.
4. Locate a host for your new website.
5. Install WordPress.
And now it’s time to…
6. Create a WordPress.org log in.
This will be different from your .com log in. The trick here is to use a different email for your website than you did for the free wordpress.com account. If you try to use the same email, you’ll end up with a lot of grief over “this email is not associated with this account” anytime you want to comment on a blog. Your host can provide email along with your website, you can sign up for a gmail account, or you can ask your Internet provider.
Why do you need a different log in? Well, the WordPress.com is NOT the same as WordPress.org. Similar names, very different locations. On .org, you’re a webmaster. You’ll create an “admin” log in. On .com, they’re the webmaster. You’re a visitor with special access to your room but no keys to all the other rooms.
Once you’re logged in as the admin on your WordPress.org site, head on over to the dashboard. You’ll notice it looks a lot like the .com side.
At this point, your site isn’t live. The only way anyone will see it is if you send them a link with the IP address, so don’t be afraid to play around with it. Make sure you write down this address! (Hint: It’s in the admin panel of your web host.)
7. Import your data.
Remember that file you saved to your desktop? It’s time to put that to use.
Go to your dashboard, and select Plug Ins > Add New. Do a search for “Wordpress Importer.” Install it, and activate it.
Now go to the Dashboard and select Tools > Import > WordPress. Then select “choose file” and select your saved file. The plug-in will take all the data and import it to your new site.
This won’t be perfect, but it’ll be close enough. Some issues will most likely arise based on the theme you select and whether you had designated Featured Images. Take a deep breathe, and realize it’s better than starting from scratch.
Once the file import is done, view your site. You should see the Twenty Eleven default theme populated by your blog data. It probably doesn’t look perfect. If your data isn’t there, be sure to refresh your browser by pressing CTRL + F5. If it’s still not there, verify that you imported the right file. If all else fails, contact your web host for assistance. They can look on their side and see if your files made it. You can too, if you know FTP, but sometimes it’s worth it to ask for help.
Decorate Your New Digs
8. Pick a theme.
This is one of the biggest reasons you switched from .com to .org, so that you can frolic in all that the .org world has to offer in the way of themes and customization. Picking a theme sounds simple, but will probably take the longest amount of time. There are so many options! Unlike .com, themes don’t come pre-loaded for you. You can search from within your dashboard, or head out to the internet to find one.
Don’t be cheap. Buy a good quality template from a company who offers complete themes. Some to look at are http://themeforest.net/, http://www.theme-junkie.com/, and http://www.elegantthemes.com/. These sites let you see the whole theme and even a live demo so you can really get to know what they offer.
Choosing a theme is serious business. It’s time to take a step back and really think about what it is you need and want on your website. You didn’t have that many options on .com, so this will feel a bit overwhelming. Or a bit like a kid in a candy store, depending on your view of technology in general. Either way, be patient with the process.
Download the ones you like to your desktop, and then install them onto your new site via the Appearance > Theme dashboard menu item. You’ll see a “Manage Themes” and an “Install Themes” tab. Click “Install Themes,” and then either search for a new one from this page or click “upload” if you have some on your hard drive you want to use. WordPress will unpack and install the theme files for you.
View your site. It’s perfect right? No?
A common problem you’ll run in to is a lot of themes require that you designate a “featured image” per post. If your old theme didn’t, then you’ll see blank boxes where you should see images. It’s an easy but time-consuming fix. Simply go to each post and select a “featured image.” Yes, it’s a pain. But in the end, it’s what makes a great theme stand out.
Remember, all of these themes are customizable. If something isn’t landing or flowing like you wanted, first check the theme options and play with everything they give you to play with.
Tweak. View site. Tweak. View site. Drink. Tweak. View site. Tweak. View site.
If it’s still not working, you can select a new theme and try again or delve into the wonderful world of CSS.
House Warming Party!
9. Assign your domain name.
On the dashboard, go to Settings > General. There are two options called “WordPress Address (URL)” and “Site Address (URL).” Right now, they are most likely populated with an IP address. It’s the address your web host gave you for your website. Now is the time to point your domain name to this particular address. In both fields, put in your domain name. For example, mine is http://www.melindavan.com.
Then wait. It takes awhile to populate the servers around the world with the new instructions. Be sure to refresh your own browser or you won’t see it update. Eventually it should make the rounds and you should then be able to type in www.YOURNAME.com and see your shiny new site!
If this doesn’t work, and you end up with an error, give your web host a call. You probably need to change a DNS (domain name server) instruction somewhere, and this is definitely something they can help you with. It’s an easy fix, but it’s not always easy to find.
I can’t stress enough to be patient with all of this. Set aside time to focus on it. Plan to spend a few days getting it all just right. Once you have it set up, it will be pretty much maintenance free. I haven’t visited the dashboard in months now, other than to add content. Which, after all, is why you went through all this pain.
Put out the welcome mat! Invite people to come see your new site. Sit back, have a glass of wine, and enjoy the satisfaction. You did it!
Melinda VanLone is a science fiction/fantasy author with a Master’s degree in Publishing. She spent too many years to confess to working in graphic design and production before moving on to explore life as a writer. She’s a Photoshop expert, technology addict, and MMORPG lover. Melinda’s current work-in-progress, The Demon You Know, will be published in 2012. You can visit her website at http://www.melindavan.com/.
REMINDER FROM MARCY: My first class with WANA International kicks off on June 30th. Register for Get Rid of Boring Blog Titles Once and For All by clicking here.