What is WordPress? A Comprehensive Guide for Beginners
Creating a new website is not an easy task. You want to build something your visitors will love, but you don’t want the setup to take so long or be so technical that you need a developer for every copy update.
While seeking for a possible solution, perhaps you’ve come across WordPress many times. But the problem is: you have no idea what WordPress is and how it can help your business.
Don’t worry, this beginner’s guide will show you everything you need to know. Without further ado, let’s dive right into it!
Table of content
- What is WordPress?
- A brief history of WordPress
- 7 reasons why you should use WordPress
- What types of websites can WordPress make?
- Who uses WordPress?
- Differences between WordPress.org and WordPress.com
- 5 steps to get started with WordPress
- The bottom line
What is WordPress?
First and foremost, WordPress is a free and open-source content management system (CMS). It’s a useful tool for individuals without any coding experience who want to set up websites and blogs. The outstanding point is the software doesn’t cost anything, and anyone can install, adjust, and modify it for free.
WordPress powers both the frontend of the website (the visible part of the website that your visitors see on the web) and the backend (the interface where a user logs in to make changes or add new content). Eventually, WordPress makes building a website accessible to anyone - even people who aren’t developers.
Related topic: 6 Best E-commerce CMS for Online Businesses in 2020
A brief history of WordPress
The first version of WordPress was created by Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little in 2003. It began as a relaunch of a previous project called b2/ cafelog, initially built by Michel Valdrighi, who is a contributing developer to WordPress now. Matt realized an opportunity to improve the functionality of a website without modifying its core source code. And this is how WordPress was born.
After several iterations, WordPress 1.0 was launched to the public in 2004. It was codenamed “Davis” because Matt has an affinity for jazz artists, like Miles Davis. Similar to the platform today, this version contained multiple categories to group your website content and comment moderation.
WordPress is now a growing and flexible community of developers, bloggers, and designers. In 2017, WordPress redesigned its user experience with a new editor named Gutenberg. The latest version, WordPress 5.0 (Bebo), includes a new and improved showcase theme. Major industries will continue to see the value of the platform.
7 reasons why you should use WordPress
As a matter of fact, WordPress powers over 37% of all the websites on the Internet, Yes, you heard it right! - more than one in four sites that you access are likely powered by WordPress. Below are a few reasons why you should use this fantastic platform.
WordPress is open-source and free
WordPress is an open-source platform that is licensed under the General Public License (GPL), which means it isn’t owned by a single entity or company. Hundreds of users and developers collaborate and contribute to the platform to make it better. The spirit of open source means continuous improvements, accountability, and free usage for everyone.
The actual WordPress platform available on WordPress.org is free to install and use. However, you will need to pay for web hosting and a domain name.
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WordPress is easy to install for beginners
It’s quite easy to get started on WordPress, even if you’ve never dealt with a CMS or built websites before. It doesn’t require you to be a computer engineer or developer. Beginners are welcome!
The user interface is friendly and intuitive. All you need to do is to pick a theme, install one or two plugins, and jump right into creating different pages and other content. Web development tasks which used to take hours to complete can be done in a matter of minutes.
WordPress is SEO-friendly
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is all about making sure your website gets the amount of traffic it deserves from Google, Bing, and so on. With WordPress, you can access a lot of powerful SEO plugins, such as All in One SEO Pack, Yoast SEO, The SEO Framework, and more.
Actually, WordPress automatically creates title tags and meta descriptions for all of your pages and posts. This allows search engines to know about your cont, and it’ll get you indexed and potentially moved up in the rankings.
WordPress is secure
Security is a considerable concern for most businesses. With the number of new security threats popping up every year, you’ll want peace of mind that your data (and, of course, your customers’ data) will be protected.
As long as you keep passwords secure and plugins updated, WordPress is one of the safest CMS platforms. The software offers different features to safeguard your website, such as logging out idle users and adding two-factor authentication.
WordPress supports all media types
WordPress doesn’t limit users in any media types. So, you can take advantage of any combination of text, images, and videos on your website. In this competitive market for grabbing consumers’ attention, it’s good to know that the platform gives you creative freedom.
WordPress offers thousands of themes and plugins
Themes are templates that you can use on your website to alter its basic design, while plugins add both new features and functionality to your website. There are currently over 5,000 free WordPress themes and 50,000 free plugins, as well as tons of premium options. So, you have plenty of choices!
In most cases, you can find excellent free options for whatever style of features you want to implement on your site. That’s in stark contrast with other CMSs, where some of the best “extras” lie behind paywalls.
WordPress has a huge and friendly community
We’ve talked about how popular WordPress is. However, it is also worth mentioning that there’s a thriving community of people using the platform and not just developers. When you own a WordPress website, you can get involved in the greater WordPress community through your local WordPress Meetup, WordCamps, etc.
A quick search can reveal a great number of online communities built around WordPress itself. It means if you have a question of any concern about using the CMS, you’ll have plenty of supporters you can turn to for answers. The WordPress community typically has a reputation for being incredibly helpful, welcoming, and innovative.
What types of websites can WordPress make?
At the outset, WordPress is just a small and blogging-focused platform. As time flies, thanks to changes to the core code and WordPress’ massive ecosystem of themes and plugins, you can create any type of website with WordPress.
Below is just a small selection of the type of websites WordPress is ideal for:
- Blogs. Due to WordPress’s origin in the blog space, its features for this purpose are rich. They have become more sophisticated, polished, and mature. If you’re going to create a blog or personal website, you’ll find plenty of tools to quickly manage and grow your WordPress.
- Online portfolios. With the right theme on WordPress, you can showcase your skills and achievements or display your work and past projects. You can choose a theme with a built-in gallery, or install plugins for portfolio sliders or carousels.
- Business websites. Whether your company is large or small, you can provide contact details, share information, incorporate your branding, and promote a strong online presence. WordPress gives you easy tools to quickly launch a website and then extend it as your business grows.
- E-commerce websites. If you’re managing an online store (or planning to), there’re lots of WordPress tools, like the WooCommerce plugin, to make the job simple. It allows you to manage products, payments, and deliveries in the back end while your visitors have enjoyable shopping experience on the front end.
- Membership sites. WordPress offers plugins to create membership sites if you want to monetize your efforts by restricting premium content to members only. You’re able to manage payments, set up member levels, and monitor signups.
- Community hubs. You can easily create forums, knowledge bases, fan sites, wikis, or other places for like-minded people to gather online.
- Affiliate sites. If you’re looking to create an affiliate marketing website, or monetize your site in some other way, the WordPress community offers a number of dedicated solutions.
In case you are still not sure what type of website you want to create, you can always start small and then scale up over time. It is, in fact, not hard to begin with a simple blog, and turn it into an affiliate or business site whenever you’d like. Besides, it’s possible to create a site that fulfills various roles, for instance, an E-commerce website with an accompanying company blog, together with a connected storefront to promote your products and services.
Who uses WordPress?
WordPress is widely used by individuals, big businesses, and everyone in between. In reality, many famous blogs, music sites, news outlets, Fortune 500 companies, and celebrities are using WordPress. You might know some well-known brand names such as NBC, USA Today, Time, Disney, Spotify, Airbnb, TechCrunch, and even the Pioneer Woman.
If you’re curious about who used WordPress, head on over to the WordPress site showcase, and you’ll certainly be impressed by the number of famous sites and people using WordPress to power their websites.
Differences between WordPress.org and WordPress.com
If you’re new to the WordPress space, chances are you’re wondering what the difference is between WordPress.org and WordPress.com. This part will explain the key differences and help you pick the best one for your needs.
But first, we should define what they are. So, let’s have a quick look at what it really means to use WordPress.org and WordPress.com.
WordPress.org, typically called self-hosted WordPress, is the free and open-source website software. You can install on your own web host to build a website that’s 100% your own. It doesn’t cost you anything by itself, but you need to have a hosting account (a web server) to use it, which often comes with a price tag.
WordPress.com is defined as the hosted version of WordPress. It’s free to get started, and you don’t need any external hosting or external domain name. All you have to do is access WordPress.com, sign up for an account, and build your site or blog.
Most of the time when people talk about “WordPress,” they mean the self-hosted WordPress available at WordPress.org. If you truly want to own your website, self-hosted WordPress.org is almost always the best option.
Now let’s look closer at how they differ.
Firstly, theme customization. WordPress.org allows you to upload custom themes and experiment with different themes or even modify them to your needs. However, you can’t do that in WordPress.com. Only themes existing in the WordPress theme directory are permitted unless you upgrade to their premium plan.
Secondly, plugins. You can install any plugins, allowing you to add new features or functionality that your website needs in WordPress.org. But, WordPress.com doesn’t allow any custom or commercial plugins. This can somehow limit your use of WordPress as a CMS.
Thirdly, maintenance. With WordPress.org, you’re responsible for updates and backups, while WordPress.com takes care of everything for you.
Fourthly, control. You take full control over the database, files, and domain on WordPress.org. You’ll be able to edit or change all of your files, codes, and data. Nevertheless, you have little or no technical control on WordPress.com. Some of your data are not accessible. They can delete your website at any time if they think it violates their Terms of Service.
Fifthly, monetization. WordPress.org allows you to monetize in any way you want; there are no limitations whatsoever. But you can’t do that on WordPress.com, except for the premium plan. Also, on the free plan, WordPress.com will even display their own ads on your site and you can’t disable them.
Lastly, cost. The WordPress.org software itself is 100% free, but if you want to make your site visible to the public, you’ll need to get web hosting and a domain name. Besides, WordPress.com offers both free and premium plans, with the premium plans going for $4-$45 per month.
Below is a summary table to help you clearly differentiate WordPress.org and WordPress.com
|Definition||Self-hosted site + own domain name||Site hosted by WordPress + WordPress.com subdomain|
|Plugins||All plugins allowed||No plugins allowed|
|Control||Full||Little or no|
|Cost||Free itself, but web hosting and a domain name needed||Free and premium plans|
As you can see clearly, both WordPress.org and WordPress.com have their own set of pros and cons. It all relies on what you expect from your website, how much your budget is, and what kind of website you want to launch.
However, some points that might help you decide:
- If you only want to launch a personal project, either for sharing your thoughts, hobby site, etc., do it on WordPress.com. You can start for free with an easy setup process, and you don’t need to worry about any maintenance at all.
- If you want to launch a more serious website, such as a project site, a business site, a pro-blogging project, do it on WordPress.org. This is also your best choice if you want to monetize your website or get an unlimited number of possible customizations.
5 steps to get started with WordPress
By this point, hopefully, we’ve convinced you that WordPress is well worth trying out. And as you’re reading this, you’ve probably chosen, or are considering choosing WordPress. But perhaps you are not sure how to begin. This section will help make the process easier by guiding you step by step on how to get started with your WordPress site.
Please note that, as we stated above, there are big differences between WordPress.org and WordPress.com, and we’ll be sharing tips for .ORG specifically.
Step 1. Choose the best hosting for your site
You’ll need access to a web server to save your site’s data and files, which transmit information across the web to anyone who visits your site. This means purchasing a hosting plan.
There are, in fact, many types available, depending on your specific needs and the type of website you’re creating. Some of them include:
- Shared hosting. It’s a budget-friendly option that has enough resources to host a new website. Most shared hosting offers one-click WordPress installation, a reasonable amount of bandwidth and storage, and sometimes a few perks (such as Google Adwords coupons or even a free domain name).
- Managed VPS (Virtual Private Servers). You still share a server with others, but the server is now partitioned into sections, so you have your own mini server for better privacy, security, and website operation.
- Managed WordPress Hosting. The hosting company will fully manage your server for you. Many managed hosts offer scalable hosting plans, so you can start small and upgrade your server as your business grows.
Step 2. Choose a domain name
A domain name is technically the part of a URL that identifies IP addresses (which identifies computers or devices on a network) and web pages. Simply put, it’s your web address. Try to pick a domain name that reflects your site’s purpose and simple enough for visitors to remember easily.
Every domain name generally has a suffix, such as .org or .com. You can register any domain name you want that hasn’t been already taken - for an annual fee. Some hosting providers will give you free domain registration for the first year. In the sign-up process, hosts will also automatically check if the domain is available for you to use. You can directly purchase a domain name from popular registrars like NameCheap or GoDaddy.
Step 3. Customize your site
This step is important because you’ll want your website to look professional and be easy to navigate. You’ll also want it to match your site’s purpose, which is why you can find tons of niche WordPress themes.
If you would like to check out different themes, two good places to consider are:
Once you choose the perfect WordPress theme, you can install it on your site by clicking on Appearance > Themes > Add New and either:
- Search for the theme if it is available for free at WordPress.org
- Upload a zip file if you purchase a premium theme
When you have installed and activated your theme, most developers let you further customize its looks using the WordPress Customizer. You can access the Customizer by heading over to Appearance > Customize.
Step 4. Add plugins for more features
Depending on how you’re using your site and your theme’s functionality, you’ll likely need to install and activate various plugins. Plugins can add small features, like a contact form, or huge features, like turning your site into a fully functioning E-commerce store.
There are tens of thousands of both free and premium plugins available, but we divide them into two main categories:
- Must-have plugins that all WordPress websites need, no matter what your site is about
- Niche-specific plugins that add specific functionality to your needs. Not all sites need them, but you might want them to flesh out your site.
Here are some basic plugins that we believe all WordPress sites need:
- Backup plugin. It’s essential to back up your site regularly to keep your data safe. We recommend UpdraftPlus for a free option or VaultPress for a premium option.
- Security plugin. Of course, the core WordPress software is already secure, but a useful security plugin will help you lock things down even more. Some free versions such as Wordfence or Sucuri are worth trying out.
- SEO plugin. A Search Engine Optimization (SEO) plugin can help your site rank higher in Google. Two good free options include Yoast SEO or Rank Math.
To install a WordPress plugin, click Plugins > Add New and browse for a plugin, or you can install plugins you have purchased from other sites by clicking on the Upload Plugin button.
Step 5. Start creating content
At this point, you’re done with the foundation of your website. You have the WordPress software installed, your theme set up, and a few plugins that will drive your site to success. Now, you’re ready to create your content. A good spot to begin is your website’s “core” pages, such as your homepage, “About” page, contact page, and so on.
In addition to pages, you can start writing your first posts if you’re running a blog. Once you hit the Publish button, your blog posts will go live on the designated Blog page.
The bottom line
WordPress is largely popular because it’s a perfect solution for a wide variety of applications. Both beginners and seasoned developers can make use of it to create small blogs, booming business sites, and other amazing things. What’s more, it’s surprisingly simple to get started with.
We hope this article answered all your questions about WordPress. The best way to truly experience the power of WordPress is by using it. So, give it a try, and let us know what you think in the comment box below.