Wordpress blog setup, mini-HOWTO
First, set up the blog. Admins are helpful here. They set it up, give you ftp access, tell you passwords and stuff, and get you to step one. From there, you're (mostly) on your own.
Find a theme that looks sort of like what you want. There are LOTS of themes. You'll really regret not doing your homework on choosing a theme. Google is your friend. Installing themes is easy, but you won't be happy with many of them. At first, you'll probably want to install half a dozen and play around a bit before you make a final decision.
Using the ftp access you have, take a look at the PHP files, and especially style.css. The PHP files contain the code that talks to Wordpress, and that queries the database. The CSS contains the style descriptions. For each element (class) type in the PHP (or even HTML) files, the CSS file will describe what it's supposed to look like. It's fairly self-evident what and where you can tweak things, even if your theme is not well-documented. Again, anything you don't grok, Google groks. Set up basic stuff, choose colours, tweak the layout, add or move a header graphic... make the blog yours.
Throughout, test on multiple browsers so you can see what you're doing.
Set up your sidebar widgets the way you want them. They appear simple, but you'll discover they're very powerful little beasties. Several plugins add new widgets, too.
By now, you'll have some idea of how the pages fit together and how the CSS stuff (and maybe the PHP stuff) actually works. It's mysterious, but not entirely unintelligible.
Add the tracking code for google, technorati, amatomu, and so on. They all come with instructions. You might want to have a post or two up there by now, so you can better see what's happening.
You can leave your RSS feed the way it is, or you can go to feedburner.com to set it up there. Feedburner is more complicated, but it can track your feed subscriptions and give you other features you might want.
Then find the Pluginstaller Plugin. Install it the hard way. That's the last time you have to do that -- from now on, you use the web interface only. The only drawback is that you may not be able to modify plugins you installed via the web interface, but if you're not a tweak-obsessed hacker, you seldom need to modify plugins beyond what you can do using CSS.
At this point, asking the admins to make a full backup might be useful and safe practice.
Find a collection of plugins to do cool stuff. Start with the Wordpress Stats plugin. There are lots of recommendation sites out there. Install them one by one, and make sure they work. You may need to modify and tweak some code until it works the way you want it to work. If something breaks, uninstall the last plugin you installed and ditch it. Life is too short to debug other people's code when you're clueless and have no intention of contracting the clue either. And the admin's life is too short for you to break things as badly as I did the once ;-)
Here are the plugins I use. If you don't know if you need it, don't bother with it:
- [+] Akismet (anti-spam, installed by default)
- [+] All in One SEO Pack
- [+] Better Comments Manager
- [+] Category Cloud Widget
- [+] Diagnosis
- [+] Extended Live Archives
- [+] FeedBurner FeedSmith
- [+] Google Sitemaps
- [+] MyBlogLog Widget
- [+] Permalink Redirect
- [+] Plugin Output Cache
- [+] PlugInstaller
- [+] Similar Posts
- [+] Sociable
- [+] Subscribe To Comments
- [+] TD Word Count
- [+] WordPress.com Stats
- [+] WP-Footnotes
When you're done, you'll feel like you deserve your drinking problem.