Like most excited newbie’s, I wanted a site, a multiuser site and I wanted it now. In the recent past I had a Yahoo site up and running, but soon ran face first into it limitations, so I moved on and discovered Orble.com , where I resided for a couple of years and others solved tech problems. There, I created several blogs and posted several hundred posts [nearly a thousand actually] but eventually, our relationship soured. Orble management promised to share earnings generated from my blogging efforts with me, but I only wanted ownership of my material and let them keep their money. However, when they started censoring my work in a heavy handed way, I left their ranks, confident that I could set up my own operation.
Soon afterwards, I chose a domain name or three, registered them through GoDaddy and hosted them with Host Gator and sort of got them running as single user domains but what I really wanted was a community portal but didn’t know what that involved. I had not bothered to learn how to manage my sites or to read up and learn or study about Word Press, because I had ‘experience’ and confidence in my innate abilities in spite of the fact that my day to day management details had been passed to a acquaintance via DNS forwarding to his servers. You can read more here about my prime mistake: Keeping Notes Can Save Your Behind well, guess what, preplanning could have helped save my behind also; because I have observed that behavior in a great many other newbie’s, with that in mind, I am sharing these suggestions.
Step 1: Search for Word Press installation information from your computer, save an image or a site that inspires you, get a book on Word Press basics and do some reading until you have an idea of how to solve problems or to at least recognize a problem.
Step 2: Plan what you want your site to look like and what its primary function is to be. You will do yourself a huge favor by drafting a plan of how you envision your end environment will generally look, and build it up slowly. Here is the link to a search on the topic WebSite Sketches this is a starting point to clarify your idea.
Step 3: Decide whether or not you want to bother or have the experience to host your site locally, because to accommodate higher traffic loads, a commercial hosting service will serve you better. I do not recommend GoDaddy for newbie’s, they will host WP sites, but do not make a habit of supporting individual WP installation problems; their staff generally are not trained to be of any real assistance with WordPress issues.
Step 4: I suggest that you install WP with you host and make use of the default TwentyTen theme to begin with, get it running smoothly and then add plugins or widgets that meet your needs.
Step 5: Try another theme and upload it and its child theme (if available) , and experiment with them one at a time until you find something close to what you are looking for in a theme.
Step 6: When you have settled on a theme, decide about using plugins to add features you may want. Go through the list of available plugins for WPMUDev and Buddypress and upload only those that may be useful to your concept, installing them but do not activate them immediately. After your basic site is stable, activate plugins one at a time and test each individually, if a plugin works for your plan and doesn't cause problems leave it activated, and then try activating another plugin until you have weeded out the best from the rest and then delete those you don't plan to use.
Step 7: You can use settings, plugins and even widgets to limit or improve your user’s choices and their dashboard options. Remember, without enough freedom, you will likely not have many users and their help to promote your website.
Step 8: Learn, learn to ask questions, learn to look for web answers, learn to utilize WPMUDev manuals, live support, and ebooks or conventional books to get the basics down pat or you will face a very arduous learning curve and things do not need to be that tough.
Here are some links to WPMUDev and Buddypress Plugins you might consider.
The active links are provided because, as a beginner/newbie, these would have kept some of the pressure I felt to a minimum. Take care, and most of all, have fun.