What Is WordPress? A Beginners Guide

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So, what is WordPress? You will have heard the name, and you may have been told that it’s something you should be using. The reason for this will, in part, be because many other people are using WordPress. In fact, it is the platform used by over a third of all websites currently online.

But what is WordPress, and why should you be using it? Well, in short, it is a content management system (CMS), which makes it relatively easy to make a website. From controlling how it looks and functions as well as create new pages, all in a straightforward way.

It used to be the case, that if you wanted to create a website, you would need to know some code to produce the simplest of sites.

You needed to learn some HTML, a system of tags, which would allow you to format text, set your page layout, define the colours used, and so on.

This HTML code would then allow web browsers to understand how to display the page as you had intended. Now, with WordPress, you do away with the need to ever see any of this HTML code, let alone learn and add it yourself.

With WordPress, you are given a web-based editing suite which allows you to add the text of the webpage, images and whatever else, then set the layout you want.

The Creation of WordPress

What Is WordPress?

The details about the creation of WordPress are lost in the mists of time. No, not really. It was created in 2003 by Mike Little and Matt Mullenweg collaborating to produce an offshoot of an earlier software project called b2.

It is an open source software project which can be added to by anyone and enjoys an active community of developers which push the software forwards. The open source nature of the software means that it is free and continues to be developed.

But that isn’t particularly interesting. What is interesting are the creative choices made possible by this software. WordPress makes customising your site straightforward with access to a large selection of plugins.

WordPress Plugins and Themes

A WordPress plugin is a piece of software which can be installed on your site to add new functions or features. These programs should integrate seamlessly with the rest of WordPress to improve your visitors’ experience on the website.

There are thousands of free plugins available through the WordPress directory. If that isn’t enough, there are more to be found from commercial software producers as well.

Yoast SEO – Search Engine Optimisation is a necessity which every site needs if you want to reach your target audience effectively. This plugin helps you optimise your content so that you will find your pages higher in the search engine results.

Contact Form 7 – This plugin allows you to easily create contact forms and place it on your site.

W3 Total Cache Speed is a ranking factor when it comes to search engines. It is also something which could drive away your visitors if they have to wait too long for your page to load. W3 will optimise your load times with a claimed 10 times improvement.

Akismet – This plugin helps prevent comment spam and usually is already installed within WordPress just waiting to be activated.

Jetpack – Developed by the same people who are behind WordPress itself, this plugin offers a suite of important features. This includes optimising your images, better security, social sharing options and many more.

Limit Login Attempts – As the name implies, this will prevent hackers from breaking into your WordPress setup with a brute force password attack.

MailChimp – The MailChimp plugin gives you integration to the list building software. It allows for the creation of opt-in forms. They have a free option to create an email list, which probably explains why this plugin is so popular.

Google XML Sitemaps – Having a sitemap allows Google to crawl your site more accurately and indexing your pages faster. This is very simply done with this plugin, all you need to do is activate it, and the sitemap is created.

Another way of customising your WordPress site is by changing the theme used. Just like the plugins, there are an almost bewildering array of themes available for WordPress.

This allows you to really get your site looking the way you had envisaged. Once you have chosen a theme, there are many options to customise it further.

Many themes are available for free with still further offered as paid options from developers. There are themes designed with every type of website in mind, so many in fact that choosing can be quite a difficult task.

WordPress.com vs WordPress.org

WordPress.com and WordPress.org offer a different service and shouldn’t be confused. The org site is a hub for open source software. It is where it can be downloaded as well as a place to find out more about the project or get support.

If you get the software from this site, you will still need to host it somewhere and register a domain name so that people can find it. So even though the software is free, you will still, most likely, need to spend something if you are serious about your online presence.

When you make the choice to use WordPress on your site, you may not even need to go to WordPress.org to download it. This software is such a popular platform that often web hosts provide packages with this software already installed or created in the hosting account with one-click.

The com site is a commercial venture using the software and offering hosting packages. Their entry-level hosting is free but does have advertising, and you will be using their domain name.

Most of the time, when people discuss WordPress what they are actually referring to is the open source software and not the hosting site. This is because if you have the software hosted on your own server, you have more options and more control of your site as well as being able to use the platform better.

Checkout our Wix vs WordPress comparison if you are considering your website platform options.

The Many Uses of WordPress

WordPress was, for a long time, mainly seen as a blogging platform. This is how it was originally developed, but it has moved on significantly since then. There have been many version releases over the years, which opened the software up to being used for more than was initially envisaged back in 2003.

As you might expect, the blogging capability of the software is particularly good, making it easy and fast to add posts to your site. Beyond that, the types of websites which can be created using the software are almost endless.

Just some of the common uses:

  • Blog
  • Portfolio gallery
  • E-commerce
  • Forum
  • Chatroom
  • Directory
  • Membership site
  • Business website
  • Knowledgebase
  • Auction
  • Review site

One of the most popular uses of WordPress is for e-commerce. The WooCommerce plugin was developed in 2011, and its release saw rapid growth in its install numbers. It is now estimated to be powering 42% of all online stores.

It is easy to understand why WooCommerce quickly became the dominant platform for online stores. The plugin builds upon the flexible and well-known WordPress software to create something which is easy to use for anyone familiar with the content management solution.

Why You Should Use WordPress

There is a reason why WordPress is the most popular content management system out there, and it isn’t because it is fashionable. Can software even be fashionable? No, it’s used by a third of websites because of the flexibility it gives you amongst other things.

WordPress is normally relatively easy to install. Your hosting company may even install it for you; then it is up to you to customise it to suit your requirements. This will mean finding a theme you like, adding a few plugins and then adding the pages you need on your site. Once that is done, it is time to create your content.

Your WordPress site can change and adapt to your needs. It is easy to add additional functionality when you need it. Find the plugin that performs the task you want to add to your site, and in a few moments, you should have the feature up and running.

The plugins and themes make most things you want to do with your site possible. Since this is such a popular software solution with a lot of people using it, there are therefore a lot of people are developing for it too.

Unless you are reinventing the wheel, someone will have already tried to do what you want to do on WordPress before. This means there will be a plugin you need, or more likely a small number to choose from.

As WordPress is such a commonly used platform, there is a lot of help out there if you run into trouble. However, issues can always arise with a particular plugin or theme that could cause you headaches and site problems. Despite the platform being relatively easy to use, things aren’t always as simple as you might hope.

Hopefully, this has answered the question, what is WordPress? And give you a better understanding of what it can do for you. Soon you will be joining the vast numbers of users of this platform and discover why people love it so much. Want to ensure your website is secure, backed up and managed for you? Take a look at our WordPress Maintenance Services.

Gavin Pedley

Gavin Pedley

Gavin is the guy behind award winning ThriveWP. He has over 17 years of experience creating, developing and managing WordPress websites.

Gavin regularly shares his expertise via the ThriveWP blog and Youtube channel, where he creates informative and helpful WordPress tutorial videos.

Connect with Gavin at FacebookLinkedin or Twitter.

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