You can always try www.rpmseek.com
or other such sites in order to see whether there are new rpm packages for your distro already. They are usually much less hassle. But if you find yourself in the position that you have to compile, usually it's a three step thing (whether it is you can find out by reading the INSTALL file which comes with the source tar or whatever).
First you usually have to enter [./configure] (no brackets of course) in the directory where the source is located (having unpacked a tar.gz or other archive first).
There might be parameters you have to give to this command but the few I have done yet didn't need any (even though one INSTALL gave an example with parameters which didn't work on my system, had I not used those it would have workedthe first time around...).
Next, when there are no bad error messages (you might get notified of other things you have to install first though) you run the command: [make]. When that is through without error, the next command is: [make install]. After that the program should be installed if there is nothing missing.
But RPMs are much faster, so I'd check for those first. Compiling is done because the programmer doesn't know your distro, but RPMs are usually specially made for your distro so there's a lot of configuration that doesn't need to be done anymore.