So you have WordPress installed! Congratulations! Now what? I find myself installing WordPress quite often, so I'll share with you my "first steps" after a fresh install to get WordPress set up to my liking. This involves changing settings, resetting the theme, and some universally useful plugins.
At the time of this writing, WordPress 2.6.5 was just released. You know, "for future reference".
Remove the default "admin" account
I don't feel comfortable leaving an account in WordPress with a name that every single other WordPress blog in the world started with, even if it does have a secure password. Go under Users and add a new account with Administrator level privileges. Then Log Out and log back in with the new account.
Now you can go back under Users and delete the default "admin" account. The default "Hello World" post has "admin" as its author, so you'll be warned when deleting that user and asked what you would like to do with that post. Might as well just re-attribute it to your new user.
Add your authors
If you are going to be having multiple authors or multiple administrators with access to the back end of WordPress, you might as well get them set up now.
Turn Visual Editor off
This is just a personal preference, but I mention it now because it is a part of User management. Each user has an option for using the Visual Editor or not. I personally hate the Visual Editor, as switching back and forth between Visual and Code view can screw stuff up, especially if you do stuff like embed YouTube videos or add source code to posts.
Now is the time to go through the Settings area and set things to your liking. Most of it is purely subjective like your Tagline, how you want dates formatted, and your Time Zone. But there are some absolutely vital things to get set correctly in here right away.
This setting is the most vital of them all in my opinion. Choose a permalink setting that you like and that you don't see your self changing.... ever. The last thing you want to do is decide six months down the road that you don't like http://yourdomain.com/?p=345 anymore and change it. It's not catastrophic anymore, as WordPress is now smart enough to resolve to the correct place, but it's not going to help your Google juice.
Remember that you can control the "slug" of your posts as you are writing them as well. I believe it's generally a good idea to keep them short and to the point.
You'd have to be nuts to not offer RSS at all on your blog, but you do have some important choices to make. Personally, I leave the it at the default of showing 10 posts with full content. But others can have different opinions on this, especially new clients who can have opinions like "if they want to read our content they can come to the site". This becomes important after that first article, so now is the time to decide about RSS. (good read on this).
While we are on RSS, right away you should "burn your feed" with FeedBurner. It may feel kind of weird at first having people subscribe to an address that isn't local to your server, but the advantages outweigh any problems. It's about the best you are going to get for getting analytical data (like how many subscribers you have) for your RSS feed. Plus you'll be able to offer email subscriptions, track post popularity, and the feed page itself makes it easy for people to subscribe in their feed reader of choice.
All goes well, you'll start attracting commenters right away! It is good to make some decisions on this right off the bat. Do people have to register first? Are all comments held for modification first? Can people comment if they have had a successful comment first?
You should also be aware that comment spam on WordPress is epidemic. Fortunately, you barely have to worry about it because WordPress ships with the Akismet plugin which does a pretty fantastic job of stopping spam. You'll need to activate it from the Plugins area. You'll then need to enter your WordPress API key to activate it, which you get from signing up for a WordPress.com account. I signed up for mine ages ago, and have used the same API key for every WordPress blog I've ever installed.
Plugins are largely dependent on the blog and it's needs, but there are a few I like to install on every single blog.
The default email notifications for WordPress are kinda fugly. The clean notifications plugin makes them a lot nicer and friendlier. Or you could use something like IntenseDebate and handle comments that way.
I absolutely hate the media uploading stuff built into WordPress. Half the time it doesn't work and when it does it's slow and annoying. For one thing it applies a bunch of class names to images when you insert them into posts. I didn't ask for that, and I can't turn it off. Booo. I use the IImage Browser plugin on all my blogs for an image library. It's absolutely the ugliest thing ever but it works great.
Now that you are up and running on on FeedBurner, you might as well use the FeedBurner FeedSmith plugin to make sure that all your subscribers are getting the feed from there. That way you'll have as accurate as statistics as possible and if someone has trouble with the feed, you won't have to think about which feed it is that's having trouble.
Google Sitemap Generator
Completely painless, requires no upkeep. Install the Google Sitemap plugin once and forever you'll have a nice Google-compliant sitemap so that you can rest assured Google is crawing the entirety of your site.
They say it's good for SEO to pick either www.yoursite.com or yoursite.com and stick with it. I personally prefer the no-www version. The no-www plugin enforces that preference.
I personally really like the WordPress Automatic Upgrade plugin, which has helped me keep my WordPress version up to date on all of my blogs painlessly. I'm not going to generically recommend it because I've heard of problems with this and having a plugin manage your core upgrade scares some people.
Some folks swear by the WP Super Cache plugin. I am probably in the ballpark where it would have helped me some days if I had it, but I have literally attempted to install this 3 or 4 times in the life of CSS-Tricks and it has borked something (usually the RSS feed) and despite LOTS of troubleshooting efforts could not get it to work. We also tried it on Script & Style and it ended up borking something. So... buyer beware on that one.
Oh yeah, and I remove Hello Dolly =)
No matter what the final plan for the theme is, it is definitely not leaving the default theme in place. I've seen that big blue rounded rectangle more times than I care to. If you are going to be theming from scratch, do yourself a favor and download Starkers (blank WordPress theme), rename the folder to what you'd like your theme to be named, upload it, and activate it.
We've already covered adding FeedBurner to track RSS reader data, but we need something for real web traffic data. WordPress makes it awesomely easy to add tracking code to pages since every single page within WordPress is built dynamically and uses the header.php and footer.php file. I personally use Google Analytics (introduction here). So I add a profile to my account, get the code, and chuck it in footer.php.
Of course all this stuff is my personal preference, but I feel it's pretty solid advice. Do you have anything to add, or a system all of your own?