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WordPress migration tip

This is largely a note to myself, but I hope it will be useful for anyone else who helps to administer a Domain of One’s Own project.

I get a lot of requests from OU Create users to migrate a WordPress site from one user’s account to another or to create a forked version of a site.

The first part of this is relatively easy. Either download an existing backup of the site or go into the File Manager and create a zipped copy of the file structure for the site.

Next go into phpMyAdmin, select the database for the site and then export a copy.

Now, go to the cPanel for the new copy of the site. Make sure there is a domain/subdomain/or subdirectory ready to receive the files for the site. Upload and unzip the files.

The harder part is manually uploading the database. Go to MySQLDatabases and create a new DB and a new user. Assign the user to the DB and make sure to keep a copy of the password you set up for the user.

Now go back into the files for the new site. Open wp_config.php and update the lines that define the DB_NAME, DB_ USER, and DB_PASSWORD (usually something like lines 23-29 of that config file.

Last, you need to upload and update the DB. Go into phpMyAdmin, and you should see the DB you created a few minutes ago. Select this DB, and then import the copy of the DB from the old site. If successful, you should see all the tables and information from the old site.

Here’s the last bit that I learned today. There is a SQL command that will change every occurrence of the old URL for the site to the new URL for the site. I found this on a post at a site called WPBeaches.com:

UPDATE wp_options SET option_value = replace(option_value, 'http://www.oldurl', 'http://www.newurl') WHERE option_name = 'home' OR option_name = 'siteurl';

UPDATE wp_posts SET guid = replace(guid, 'http://www.oldurl','http://www.newurl');

UPDATE wp_posts SET post_content = replace(post_content, 'http://www.oldurl', 'http://www.newurl');

UPDATE wp_postmeta SET meta_value = replace(meta_value,'http://www.oldurl','http://www.newurl');

In the site that I just migrated, that updated over a thousand values in the DB. As soon as I ran that, I was able to load the new forked copy of the site at its new URL.

*Edit: After initially writing this, I found one more thing that needs to be changed in the settings. Login to your WP dashboard and go to Settings->Media. There, you will likely need to change the path for where you want your media stored.

Last fun little tip. Go back to the cPanel, and click on WP like you’re going to install a fresh copy. There is a dropdown to the right of the ‘install this application’ button. One of the options there is “import existing install.” On the next screen, choose “From this account.” Then you will get a settings screen with a dropdown of domains, subdomains, etc. You can select the domain or subdomain where you just manually installed WP, and then click import. Now, you’re manually installed WP instance will show in your ‘myApps’ list from Installatron, and you can use the backup, cloning, delete, and auto-login features.

WP Campus 18: Playing on the Web

Playing and learning involve experimentation, getting dirty, and breaking stuff. Both on the web and IRL, I want people to test a toy or a technology or a theory in order to see what it can provide and where it will break. In one of the opening lightning talks at WordPress Campus 18, Donna Talarico challenged us to play and explore as we develop our web projects.

In my presentation, I talked about how Domain of One’s Own initiatives encourage play and experimentation by giving faculty, staff, and students a place to build and experiment with the web. At the end of each year, we bring people together to celebrate the best new websites for the Creaties, our own version of the Webbies.

When we were developing the idea for this celebration, and as we’ve iterated it, Adam Croom, Anoop Bal, Keegan Long-Wheeler and I wanted to try to use the event to build a community that could play together. We try to draw people out to tell us about the challenges they faced as they were building them, the experiments they tried out, and the clever things that worked along with those that didn’t.

Rachel Cherry and her team did an excellent job of organizing WordPress Campus. One of the many things I liked was that they recorded many of the presentations and encouraged us to put together some sort of artifact to open the discussion for everyone was wasn’t at the conference. I built a WP site that lays out a lot of my presentation and shares some of the resources and thought that went into the Creaties. I hope you’ll take a minute to watch the presentation or play with the site, and let me know how your school can play with the concepts of DoOO and the Creaties and adapt them for your campus.

Getting Started with WordPress in OU Create

It’s back to school season, and for me that means helping students and faculty set up websites.

The Office of Digital Learning at the University of Oklahoma provides a service called OU Create which provides a web domain and server space for students, staff, and faculty to build websites. Working in partnership with Reclaim Hosting, we provide a LAMP environment and 5GB of storage where users can install WordPress or any other PHP-based web app (Drupal, Omeka, Joomla, etc.) or upload their own HTML site.

For most of our users, exposure to OU Create starts with me entering their classroom and talking to them about WordPress and how they’ll use it for their course. Faculty in Journalism, History of Science, Geography, Composition, and a host of other  departments are asking their students to write online to share what they’re learning with a broader, more authentic audience.

To get started in WordPress, students take the following steps

  1. Sign up for an account in OU Create
  2. Install WordPress—about 90% of our users have at least one WordPress site. The classes that are using custom HTML or SQL generally are starting with more coding experience.
  3. Write a post and a page to get familiar with the editor(s)
  4. Setup their website’s menu
  5. Play with themes
  6. Share a link to their site or a post

OU Create

To sign up for an OU Create account, users go to create.ou.edu and click on the big blue “Get started” button

screen shot of the OU Create landing page
OU Create landing page

From there, they enter the same credentials they use to access their email or any other OU system. If this is the first time a student has logged in, she will be prompted to pick a domain. Most users choose the free .oucreate.com subdomains. Most people register something with their name in it so that they can use it as a portfolio type website. Something like http://johnstewart.oucreate.com would be common. Alternatively, users can choose a top-level domain (johnastewart.org) but this costs $12/year for domain registration.

Once they’ve registered a domain and gone through the payment and terms of service screens, the users is pushed into a control panel. This is usually where we loose people.

Screenshot of the AddOn Domain function in the cPanel for Reclaim Hosting
OU Create Control Panel (cPanel)

There are lots of options represented by different icons. Users can register further domains and subdomains, add email accounts related to their domain, manage their files and security settings, and all sorts of other things. 

However, to keep it simple, we generally encourage students to click on the WordPress icon to start installing that app for their site.

Installing WordPress

Once a user has clicked on the WordPress App, they get a bit of information about WordPress as an App. There are screenshots of WordPress menus, some information about the file size of WordPress and its configurations, and also a “Install this App” button. Once the user clicks on the “Install this App” button, they are taken to a form to configure the settings for WordPress.

WordPress settings configuration

Users need to make sure they are installing WordPress in the desired domain. The default settings will take care of code updates and backups for them, so the only other things they need to change are the administrative username and password and the site title. If a user forgets to change these settings, they can always access them again by clicking on ‘My Apps’ from their control panel and then editing the settings of this or any other app.

Posts and Pages

The key to WordPress is deciding what type of site you are going to run. Most of our students will be using it as a blog, while most faculty tend to prefer a more static ‘About me’ type website. For blogging, students will want to create Posts. We also generally encourage them to update their ‘About’ page.

Setting up WordPress takes a while, but creating a post is super easy. This YouTube video provides an excellent walkthrough:

YouTube video walkthrough on creating posts in WordPress

Posts are great for course assignments. They are meant to be timely, news-item type submissions and can include video, images, audio, text, links etc.

One of the keys to getting WordPress to look good is including ‘Featured Images’ in your posts and pages. You can add a featured image in the post settings on the right side of the screen as you’re adding a new post. These are the big images that would show up at the top of a post and might represent the post in social media. In this theme, called Garfunkel by Anders Noren, the featured image shows up in the home page preview for each post. Most themes are built around the featured images. 

Garfunkel WP theme by Anders Noren

The other thing we talk about is the page. WordPress Pages are meant for more static information that’s pertinent for visitors to a website. The ‘About’ page is the default and most common page. You might also imagine a resume and maybe links to other work for a student. A faculty member might create a publications page or a teaching statement. 


Menus are particularly important for helping users get around a site that has several pages or categories of posts. By default, a WordPress site does not have any menus, but they are very easy to set up. There are a number of YouTube tutorials for menus, and this one is pretty succinct:


Once you’ve got a blog post and a page, you’ve set up your menus, and you’re comfortable moving around in WordPress, it’s time to decide how you want your site to look. A lot of users will start playing with themes before they write a post or page, but this can be problematic. Themes are sets of style sheets that will be applied to content. If you try to style content, before there is any content, you are basically multiplying by zero.

Once you’re ready to play with themes, you can click on Appearance>Themes to see the 4-6 themes that come preinstalled in OU Create’s WordPress installations. If none of those are particularly appealing, you can click on Add New to jump into the sea of 20,000+ WP themes that are available. Here again is a YouTube tutorial for making sense of this superabundance of style:

YouTube video on setting up WordPress

In this video about themes, the host, Tyler Moore, mentions a plugin called Elementor. This plugin is used by a lot of themes to create a visual, drag-and-drop interface that feels a bit like SquareSpace. Elementor is a freemium plugin with good functionality in the free tool. There are pieces that are great in the premium tool, but I don’t think they’re necessary for 99% of users. You can learn more about installing and using Elementor in the video.


The last step for most of our users is making some sense of the links for their website. For most students, they’ll be interested in three kinds of links:

  • The homepage for the website is just the domain that you registered with OU Create; this is probably yourname.oucreate.com
  • To login to your site, you add “/wp-admin” to the end of your domain: yourname.oucreate.com/wp-admin
  • To share a post that you wrote with your professor or a friend, you’d can copy the url when you’re viewing your post. However, you want to be careful you don’t share the link that you use to edit your post when you’re logged in. You want to share the link that allows visitors to view your post. Usually this will have the format domain/category/post. If you haven’t set up categories for your posts, then the category will be “uncategorized.” So the link for a post will probably look like:
    yourname.oucreate.com/uncategorized/the-name-of your post

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