What is WordPress? Explained for Beginners.
WordPress is an open-source content management system (CMS). It’s a popular tool for individuals without any coding experience who want to build websites and blogs. The software doesn’t cost anything. Anyone can install, use, and modify it for free.
At its core, WordPress is the simplest, most popular way to create your own website or blog. In fact, WordPress powers over 43.3% of all the websites on the Internet. Yes – more than one in four websites that you visit are likely powered by WordPress.
WordPress began in 2003 when Mike Little and Matt Mullenweg forked a little-known blogging tool known as B2/cafelog. Little and Mullenweg sought to create a better blogging platform, built on the original B2 code base, but with more robust features and more consistent development.
The result is WordPress. First a tool for blogging, WordPress quickly grew to be an extensive content management system (CMS) able to handle a variety of websites.
On a slightly more technical level, WordPress is an open-source content management system licensed under GPLv2, which means that anyone can use or modify the WordPress software for free. A content management system is basically a tool that makes it easy to manage important aspects of your website – like content – without needing to know anything about programming.
The end result is that WordPress makes building a website accessible to anyone – even people who aren’t developers.
What Kinds Of Websites Can WordPress Make?
Many years ago, WordPress was primarily a tool to create a blog, rather than more traditional websites. That hasn’t been true for a long time, though. Nowadays, thanks to changes to the core code, as well as WordPress’ massive ecosystem of plugins and themes, you can create any type of website with WordPress.
For example, not only does WordPress power a huge number of business sites and blogs, it’s also the most popular way to create an eCommerce store as well! With WordPress, you can create:
- Blog – A blog is a special type of website devoted to sharing thoughts, photos, reviews, tutorials, recipes and so much more. Blogs usually display the most recently-published content first.
- E-commerce website – An e-commerce website allows you to sell goods or services online and collect payment via an online payment system. You can download and install a WordPress e-commerce plugin to extend the default functionality of WordPress so you can have an online store on your website.
- Business website – Many businesses will benefit from having an online presence in the form of their own website. If your business needs a website for customers to learn about your company and what you have to offer, WordPress is an excellent option. Customers can contact you, ask for a quote, schedule an appointment and much more.
- Membership website – A membership website allows you to put content behind a paywall or an account login. To access pages or posts, users must login or pay for the content. WordPress can also handle membership websites with additional plugins.
- Portfolio website – Show off your artwork, design skills and more with a portfolio website built on WordPress.
- Forum website – A forum website can be a helpful place for users to ask questions or share advice. Believe it or not, many forum websites run on WordPress.
- Event website – Hosting an event? WordPress makes it easy for you to share your event details and sell tickets.
- E-learning website – Students can take online courses, track their progress, download resources and much more from an e-learning website. With a special kind of plugin called a WordPress LMS plugin, you can offer online courses from a WordPress website.
- Wedding website – Share the details of your big day with a wedding website built on WordPress. With an array of WordPress wedding themes, you can get a website up quickly and easily.
What’s The Difference Between WordPress.org and WordPress.com?
If you’re just getting started with WordPress, there are a few important things to know. First up, you’ll need to know the difference between WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org.
The difference between WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org can be a little confusing if you are new to using WordPress.
- WordPress.com is the hosted version of WordPress, where you can create a WordPress.com account to make a blog or website.
- By default, your website’s URL or domain will include the word “WordPress,” like myblog.wordpress.com.
- Paid upgrades include a custom domain, Google Analytics integration, more storage space, the ability to add your own plugins and themes and more.
- WordPress.com is owned by Automattic, a company founded by one of the original WordPress creators, Matt Mullenweg.
- WordPress.org is where you can download the WordPress software to install on your own server or web hosting account.
- The WordPress software is open-source, so it is free to download and use.
- To use the WordPress.org version of WordPress, you’ll need to have a domain name and web hosting, purchased from another reputable company like Liquidweb.
- Most web hosts offer a WordPress “quick install” or done-for-you installations of WordPress to help you get started if you don’t want to install WordPress yourself.
- WordPress.org is the non-profit foundation of Automattic.
Most of the time, when people say “WordPress”, they mean the self-hosted WordPress available at WordPress.org. If you want to truly own your website, self-hosted WordPress.org is almost always the best option.
Why Use WordPress?
WordPress is the beloved platform for many bloggers and businesses. In fact, more than 43% of all websites online use WordPress. Here are a few reasons why WordPress is so popular:
1. WordPress is open-source.
WordPress is an open-source platform. This means anyone can modify the source code and redistribute the software. It’s designed for people to contribute their ideas to improve the platform. There’s an open-source community that helps make WordPress even better.
2. WordPress is easy to use for a beginner.
WordPress doesn’t require a computer engineering degree. It’s actually built for non-technical people. The user interface is intuitive and friendly. To add a new design to your website, you can simply download a theme. If you need to add a new function, like a contact form, you just install a plugin. Web development tasks that used to take hours to complete can be done in a matter of minutes.
3. WordPress is SEO-friendly.
It’s not enough to just build a WordPress website. You want people to find and visit your website through search engine optimization. With SEO plugins, like Yoast SEO, you can boost your rankings with internal linking suggestions and meta description templates.
4. WordPress supports all media types.
WordPress doesn’t limit any major media types. So, you can use any combination of text, images, and videos on your website. In this competitive market for consumers’ attention, it’s good to know that the platform gives you creative freedom.
5. WordPress is secure.
Security is a major concern for businesses. With the number of data breaches happening every year, you want peace of mind that your data (and your customers’ data) will be protected. As long as you keep plugins updated and passwords secure, WordPress is one of the safest and secure CMS platforms. The platform offers several features to safeguard your website, like logging out idle users and adding two-factor authentication.
6. WordPress is free to use.
WordPress is completely free. It won’t cost you anything to use the software. However, you will need to pay a third-party hosting provider to make your website available online.
As a website building platform and CMS, WordPress boasts an impressive feature set. Here are just a few of the many features of WordPress.
- SEO – Search Engine Optimization (SEO) begins at a technical level and WordPress delivers an exceptional code base for SEO. SEO allows your website’s content to be found via common search engines such as Google or Bing. Check out these free WordPress SEO training videos to learn more.
- Speed – WordPress is a lean website framework that is constantly striving to remove code “bloat” that slows down the loading speed of a website.
- Mobile-friendly – Most WordPress themes are now mobile-friendly or responsive out-of-the-box.
- Media file library – WordPress includes a built-in media library where you can upload and embed media files such as images or videos into your pages or posts. You can even perform basic edits to your images within WordPress.
- Easy-to-use user interface – WordPress is very easy to use with no complicated settings. If you can use a WordPress processor, you can use WordPress. WordPress also has a focus on accessibility.
- Custom menus – WordPress makes it easy to create navigation menus with links to your pages or custom links.
- Built-in blog – Adding a blog to your website is as simple as publishing a post.
- New in WordPress 5.0: The WordPress Block Editor – WordPress 5.0 introduced the new Block Editor, also known as the Gutenberg WordPress Editor. The new editor transforms the way you edit WordPress pages and posts. Now you can design and arrange your content with a more flexible “drag and drop” approach.
Is WordPress right for me?
If you’re wondering why WordPress is such a widely used website content management system, here are some of the benefits of WordPress as a website platform:
- Simplicity: WordPress allows you to publish and build your website content quickly. Even as a beginner, you can easily use WordPress.
- The cost is free – The actual WordPress software available on WordPress.org is free to download and use. You will, however, need to pay for web hosting and a domain name.
- Flexibility: WordPress allows you to create many types of websites from personal blogs and online stores to online magazines and newspapers.
- Easy to use – If you can use a word processing software like Microsoft Word, you can use WordPress to build and manage a website.
- Open-source software – WordPress is open-source software that is licensed under the GNU General Public License (GPL), meaning it isn’t owned by a single company or entity. Hundreds of developers and users collaborate and contribute to the software to make it better. The spirit of open-source means constant improvements, accountability and free usage for everyone.
- No need to know code – WordPress removes the requirement of needing to know how to code in order to build a website. While WordPress utilizes a variety of coding languages, there’s no need to know any of them to use WordPress.
- Extendable with WordPress plugins – The core WordPress software can be extended with WordPress plugins. WordPress plugins are bits of software that you can upload to your website to add more features (such as e-commerce, SEO, backups, contact forms and more). There are thousands of free WordPress plugins available on the WordPress.org plugin directory and a thriving premium (paid) plugins industry.
- Highly customizable with WordPress themes – WordPress themes provide the design and layout of your website. With a click of a button, you can change the entire look of your website by applying a new WordPress theme. More advanced WordPress themes are more like WordPress page builders, giving you even more control of your layouts.
- Website security – While no website platform is 100% secure, WordPress security continues to improve with a vigilant security team of core developers and users. Common WordPress security issues are usually due to user error, rather than the software itself.
- A thriving community of users and developers – When you have a WordPress website, you can also get involved in the greater WordPress community through your local WordPress Meetup, WordCamps and more. The WordPress community has a reputation of being incredibly welcoming, helpful and innovative.
- A premium plugin and theme industry – While there are loads of free plugins and themes, most serious WordPress website owners invest in premium (paid) plugins or themes. Why? Your purchase of a reputable premium plugin or theme helps pay for the ongoing development and support of the plugin or theme, including new features, security patches and more.
WordPress Is Free And Open Source
One of the biggest benefits of WordPress is that it’s free, open-source software. While you will need to pay a little bit for hosting, you will never have to pay just to use the WordPress software, which isn’t the case with alternatives like Squarespace.
Beyond that, you can also find lots of open-source plugins and themes to change how your website looks and functions. Speaking of….
WordPress Is Extensible
Even if you aren’t a developer, you can easily modify your website thanks to WordPress’ huge ecosystem of themes and plugins:
- Themes – these primarily change how your website looks.
- Plugins – these primarily change how your website functions. Plugins can be something small, like a contact form, or huge, like creating an eCommerce store.
- WordPress Widgets – Want an events calendar on your site? There’s a widget for that! There are many types of widgets; each performs a particular function to improve the overall user experience. Choose from on-page elements, such as a navigation menu, search bar or a menu to display your most recent blog posts. The location of widgets on a page varies from theme to theme. They can fit discreetly into sidebars or widget-ready areas allocated on your web page.
Currently, there are over 50,000 free WordPress plugins and 5,000 free WordPress themes, as well as tons of premium options. That to say – you have plenty of choices! Here is a hand-picked list of the best WordPress plugins.
What is a WordPress Plugin?
A WordPress plugin is a package of additional code that you can upload to your website to add new features, functionality or integrations.
- Plugins can be added via the Plugins menu in your WordPress dashboard.
- Using the built-in search function, you can find a free plugin available on the WordPress.org Plugin directory.
- Plugins can also be packaged as zip files that you upload through the Plugins menu uploader in your WordPress dashboard.
WordPress Plugin Tutorials
Here are two video tutorials on WordPress plugins:
- What are WordPress Plugins? – WordPress plugins are bits of software that can be uploaded to extend and expand the functionality of your WordPress site. In this tutorial, we cover the basics of WordPress plugins.
- Installing WordPress Plugins – Installing WordPress plugins on your site is a simple process.
Must-Have WordPress Plugins for All WordPress Sites
All WordPress websites will benefit from these must-have WordPress plugins.
- WordPress backup plugin – WordPress doesn’t have a built-in backup function, so having a WordPress backup solution in place will save you a ton of headaches should you lose any data on your website. Having a backup plan is also crucial to mitigate a security breach or hack. BackupBuddy is the original WordPress backup plugin to backup, restore or even move your website to a new host or domain.
- WordPress security plugin – A WordPress security plugin such as iThemes Security works to fix common security holes and harden your website against attacks.
- WordPress SEO plugin – A WordPress SEO plugin like Yoast SEO can help you add additional SEO (Search Engine Optimization) features and functionality.
- WordPress form plugin – Add robust forms to your website such as contact forms, surveys, upload files, accept donations and more with a form builder plugin like Ninja Forms.
- WordPress e-commerce plugin – If you want to sell goods or services on your website through an online store, a WordPress e-commerce plugin such as WooCommerce is a must-have.
What is a WordPress Theme?
A WordPress theme provides the design “framework” of your website. Most WordPress themes provide:
- The overall design (the look, feel and style) of your site
- Site-wide font styles
- Color scheme
- Styles for blog posts and blog archives
- Page layouts (or templates)
- Widget locations
- Additional stylistic details
Some themes operate like WordPress page builders, allowing you to create your own page layouts without code.
- Themes can be added via the Appearance > Themes menu in your WordPress dashboard.
- Using the built-in search function, you can find a free theme available on the WordPress.org
- Themes can also be packaged as zip files that you upload through the Appearance > Themes menu uploader in your WordPress dashboard.
WordPress Theme Tutorials
Here are two WordPress theme tutorials:
- What is a WordPress Theme? – A WordPress theme provides all of the front end styling of your WordPress site. Most WordPress themes provide the overall design or style of your site, font styling, colors, widget locations, page layouts (or templates) styles for blog posts and blog archives and additional stylistic details.
- How to Install a WordPress Theme – In addition to the default theme included with your WordPress installation, you can also install your own WordPress theme to change the look and style of your site.
Free WordPress Tutorials
If you are a WordPress beginner, there are helpful WordPress tutorials to help you get started and learn WordPress. From how to access your WordPress login screen to how to add a WordPress post or page, these video tutorials cover all the basics.
- Your WordPress Login – Once WordPress has been installed on your web server, you can access your WordPress login page from two different URLs.
- Exploring the WordPress Dashboard – The WordPress Dashboard allows you to control all of the behind-the-scene details of managing your site. Once you find your way around the dashboard, you’ll realize it’s really easy to use and navigate.
- Using the WordPress Admin Bar – the WordPress Admin Bar or toolbar. The WordPress Admin Bar is a shortcut area that allows you to access the behind the scenes controls when you’re on the front-end of your WordPress blog or website.
- Exploring WordPress Settings – WordPress offers a ton of settings for customizing how your website functions. In this tutorial, we cover WordPress Settings in depth.
- WordPress Posts vs Pages – When it comes to creating content for your WordPress site, you have the option to choose between creating either a post or page. Both have their respective uses and can add very dynamic elements to your site.
- Creating a WordPress Post – This tutorial covers how to add your first WordPress post.
- Adding Links in WordPress – The WordPress post and page editor makes it easy to add hyperlinks to other web pages from your content. This tutorial covers how to add links in your content.
- Adding Images in WordPress – Using a visual element like an image or photo is a great way to spruce up your post or page content. Learn how easy it is to add images in WordPress.
- Using the WordPress Media Library – In this tutorial, we walk through using the WordPress Media Library. The WordPress Media Library contains all the files you’ve uploaded to your WordPress site, with the most recent uploads listed first.
- Formatting WordPress Posts – In this tutorial, we cover some of the basics of formatting your WordPress posts with the built-in WordPress post editor.
- Scheduling WordPress Posts – Scheduling WordPress posts is an easy way to control when your content is published. In this video, we show you how to use the built-in WordPress post scheduler to add a time to publish.
- WordPress Categories & Tags – WordPress categories and tags are a way to add an organizational structure to your WordPress posts. This tutorial covers how to use categories and tags.
- Creating a WordPress Page – Creating a WordPress page is very similar to creating a post. Just remember that pages are intended for static content, while posts are time-based.
- Applying a WordPress Page Template – Some WordPress themes include page templates that change the way your pages are formatted on the frontend (the visible part of your website). By using page templates, your WordPress theme can give you some flexibility for how your pages look and where certain page elements are located.
- Creating a Custom Menu in WordPress – Not sure how to best use menus in your WordPress site? In this short video, we share some tips and tricks to get your site navigation up and running in no time.
- Managing Comments in WordPress – Comments add a more interactive discussion element to your website, allowing visitors to comment on posts or pages. This video shows you how to manage comments on your website.
- Creating Users in WordPress – Creating users in WordPress allows you to add users with different roles and access privileges to your site. Once created, a user will be able to log in to your site with a username and password.
WordPress Is Easy To Install
Think you need to be a tech genius to create your own website? Think again! If you can click a few buttons, you can install WordPress on your site.
Nowadays, most web hosts either:
- Offer to preinstall WordPress for you so that your site is ready to go right away.
- Give you dedicated tools that make the install process very beginner-friendly.
Can I Install WordPress On My Personal Computer?
Absolutely! There are several good reasons why you might want to install WordPress on a local computer. You are building a new site from scratch, install a new theme or plugin or you just want a safe space to experiment with your existing website, without fear of breaking it.
In this case, we recommend a free tool called DevKinsta that allows you to install WordPress on your Mac or PC.
WordPress Is Flexible
We’ve touched on this already, but WordPress is great because it lets you create pretty much any type of website. Better yet, your website can also evolve with you.
Want to add a forum to your existing WordPress site? No problem – just install the bbPress plugin! Want to add a social network? No worries! Just use the BuddyPress plugin.
You’re never locked into a specific set of functions – you can always adapt and evolve.
Who Uses WordPress?
WordPress is used by individuals, big businesses, and everyone in between! On an immediate note, we use WordPress! So the very site that you’re looking at right now is powered by WordPress. Lots of other well-known entities use WordPress as well. Here are some of our favorite examples:
The official Whitehouse.gov website is powered by WordPress:
Microsoft uses WordPress to power its official blog. It also uses WordPress to power blogs for specific products like Windows and Skype:
The Rolling Stones
Even famous bands love WordPress! The Rolling Stones’ website is powered entirely by WordPress:
Why Should You Use WordPress?
Ok, so over 43.3% of all the websites on the Internet are using WordPress, including well-known entities like the White House and Microsoft.
But what about you? Why should you use WordPress?
Well, no matter what type of website you want to create, there are plenty of reasons to use WordPress. Here are some of the biggest: