usable in any place a human can be used



Today at work I had the joyful experience of installing WordPress on my development machine. My 9-5 is working in the .Net arena so my machine is set up with IIS 7, MSSQL 2008, Visual Studio 2008, a cutting edge Microsoft stack. So when I was told to install WordPress to do some testing, I knew I would have to install a LAMP stack (minus the L) and then the WordPress software, I prepared myself to do battle.

Actually I had the feeling that this would be pretty easy, I use to work in LAMP and MAMP and WAMP stacks all day long so I could at least skip over the, "how the hell do I start?" phase and jump in head first.

I headed over to XAMPP and grabbed the latest Windows installer. 44 megabytes later I double clicked, selected my destination directory, C:\ (XAMPP automatically makes a folder called xampp to put itself in, I've made this mistake more than once and ended up with my install in C:\xampp\xampp), and clicked install. It churned and churned and I took the opportunity to grab a Diet Dr. Pepper. 5 minutes later I had a fully functional WAMP machine at my fingertips.

I double-clicked the XAMPP Control Panel icon and fired up Apache and MySql, clicked the Admin button and was whisked away to http://localhost/. After some security configuration, clicked security, entered a password, simple enough, I turned my sights on WordPress.

I pointed my web browser at the WordPress Download Page grabbed the zip and clicked through to the handy guide

The handy guide lived up to its name, especially the Famous 5-Minute Install.

In about 15 minutes I was able to painlessly install Apache, MySQL, PHP, Perl, and WordPress. It cost me nothing, and it all just seamlessly worked. In short it was the model install experience.

Installation can be easy to overlook, you write your app coding and coding away and you never think about getting it set-up. What often makes it worse is that as programmers we normally don't think much of complicated tasks or dialogs that would scare the average user. Installation is your software's first impression, and you know what they say about first impressions, try not to be a jackass.

When installations work right you should feel more and more comfortable as you follow the steps, WordPress is a great example. Every step I could see more and more of WordPress shining through, it didn't just work, it was intuitive and actually made me want to use it. Every step assured me that I had done the right thing and helpfully pointed me to the most important things to know for the next step. There was no technical jargon, just do exactly this, type here, click here, enjoy! It was short, simple, and sublime.

So in this world of web applications where we no longer think about installation, if you are going to make your end-user install something, make sure that you do the following

  • Provide plenty of up-to-date documentation
  • Make the process as simple as possible
  • Provide feedback, both positive and negative
  • Centralize your installation process

Follow this advice and someday someone will write a blog post about how much of a joy it was to install your software.


  1. Curious. Did you take a look at the web installer? Reports say it's a great way to install applications but I haven't heard about wordpress' install through it.

  2. @Rick I've used the web platform installer before on other things, its pretty good for what it does, but it seems to just double-click the installer for you. I was soured on it because SQL Express would only install through it and the server I was setting up refused to allow me to install it. But it seems like an ok piece of software.