What is WordPress? A Guide for Beginners


What is WordPress?

If you’ve been considering options for creating your own website or blog, you may have come across recommendations for WordPress. If you’re not familiar with WordPress and you’re wondering “What is WordPress?”, this article will cover all of the important details so you can decide if it is the right choice for you.

WordPress is a content management system (CMS) that allows anyone to set up and manage a website without the need to code. WordPress gives you an admin dashboard where you can log in to update content, add new content, and even make design and layout customizations.

With the help of WordPress, anyone can quickly and easily set up a website, even with no technical skills or experience. Additionally, WordPress is open-source and free to use, which makes it suitable for businesses and organizations of all sizes.

The initial release of WordPress was way back in 2003. Over the years, there have been countless improvements and additions to get WordPress where it is today. Powering more than 39% of all websites (source), WordPress is the world’s most popular CMS.

What is WordPress?

What Can You Create With WordPress?

One of the main reasons for WordPress’s incredible popularity stems from its versatility. The original version of WordPress was simply a blogging engine. Subsequent updates have allowed it to become a full-featured content management system. Today, it can be used for just about any type of website.

Today, you can use WordPress for many different types of sites, like:

  • Blogs (including Kikolani)
  • News websites
  • Business and corporate websites
  • Non-profit organizations and community websites
  • Ecommerce websites and online shops
  • Portfolio websites
  • Personal websites
  • Restaurant websites
  • Hotel websites
  • Forums and bulletin boards
  • Job boards
  • Membership websites
  • Event websites (including weddings)
  • And just about any other type of website

WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org

WordPress.com

It’s important to understand the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org.

  • WordPress.org is the free open-source CMS that you can install on your own website. When you use it, you’ll need your own web hosting account. Almost every web host offers an easy option for installing WordPress. There are even some web hosts like WP Engine or WPX Hosting (see our review) that work exclusively with sites powered by WordPress.
  • WordPress.com is a commercial hosted service that uses the WordPress.org CMS. If you pay for WordPress.com, you will not need a separate hosting account.

For the purposes of this article, we’re talking about WordPress.org. The features and functionality of WordPress.com are much more limited. We highly recommend WordPress.org because it gives you full control.

For more details, please read WordPress.com Versus WordPress.org: Which Version is Right for Me?

What is a WordPress Theme?

Elegant Themes - Divi

As a WordPress user, you’ll select a template that you want to use. The template will determine the layout and design of your site. WordPress refers to these templates as “themes”.

Thousands of WordPress themes are available and new themes are released literally every single day. Some themes are free and others must be purchased (these are referred to as “premium themes”). In general, premium themes will provide more functionality and options, they’ll often provide a higher quality of design, and most premium themes include customer service from the developer of the theme.

Free themes can be a good choice for personal or non-commercial websites. Most businesses prefer to purchase a premium theme. If nothing else, the customer service from a theme developer can prove to be very helpful. This is especially true for those who are new to WordPress.

What is a WordPress Plugin?

WooCommerce

WordPress provides the core functionality to manage your website, but you can also download and install plugins that will add some sort of specific functionality.

Some non-essential functionality is left out in order to keep the code lean. When you want to add some functionality, you’ll simply use a plugin.

For example, WordPress doesn’t include eCommerce functionality by default, but you can use the free WooCommerce plugin or one of several other eCommerce plugins.

Like WordPress themes, plugins can be free or premium. There are existing plugins that exist for just about any purpose you can think of from adding eCommerce functionality to integrating your website with social networks to adding optin forms that will collect email addresses from your visitors.

Plugins are a key part of WordPress’s versatility. You can use WordPress for many different types of websites thanks to the plugins that are available.

WordPress Features

While there are too many details to possibly cover in one article, here are some of the key features that should be pointed out:

  • User-friendly admin dashboard – WordPress websites are easy to manage thanks to the powerful dashboard. There is a little bit of a learning curve since there are so many things you can do from the WordPress dashboard, but in a short amount of time, you’ll be very comfortable with the dashboard.
  • Custom navigation menus – Create header, secondary, and footer menus for your website and get control over the links that are included. You can also create custom menus that will be used in other locations on your site, like the sidebar.
  • Mobile-friendly – Both the dashboard and the front-end of the website will be easily accessible on a mobile device as well as a desktop. For the front-end of the site, the theme that you’re using will impact the look and functionality, but there are thousands of mobile responsive themes that provide an excellent user experience on any device.
  • Automatic updates – New versions of WordPress (as well as themes and plugins) are released from time-to-time. It’s important to keep your site up-to-date, but all you need to do is click the “update” link in the dashboard. Some hosts will provide completely automatic updates that require nothing from you.
  • Search engine optimization – WordPress allows you to build websites that are search engine friendly. Some SEO features are included in the core version of WordPress, and you can also use free plugins like Rank Math or Yoast SEO for additional options.
  • Design and Layout Customization – From the dashboard, you’ll be able to customize the look of your site, at least to some extent. The exact options that are available will depend on the theme that you’re using. The Gutenberg editor also provides some options for basic layout changes within the page or post content.

When it comes to customizing your site, it’s important that WordPress itself is not a drag-and-drop builder like Wix or some other platforms. You’ll be able to customize colors, fonts, and some other details from the WordPress dashboard, but the range of these options will depend on your theme.

Looking for complete control over the layout of your website? See Divi vs. Elementor vs. Beaver Builder to learn more about the top WordPress page builders.

Why WordPress is a Great Choice

With nearly 40% of the internet powered by WordPress, there are obviously some convincing reasons for choosing it as your content management system.

  • Large and active community – With millions of people using WordPress and developing for WordPress, the community is easily one of the most important factors in its popularity. Developers in the community are responsible for the amazing variety of themes and plugins that are available. And if you need to hire a developer to help with your site, it’s easy to find WordPress experts.
  • Very easy to install and set up – Installing WordPress only takes a few clicks of the mouse. The exact details will depend on which web host you choose, but all of the leading hosts make it extremely easy to get your site up and running on WordPress.
  • Constantly updated – New versions of WordPress are released a few times per year. There are also minor releases for bug fixes or security issues between those major releases. WordPress users benefit from this because the platform keeps getting better in terms of user experience and the features that are available.
  • Unlimited possibilities – With the core functionality included in WordPress and the amazing collection of themes and plugins that are available, you can use WordPress for just about any type of website.
  • Host it anywhere – You can use WordPress with your choice of web hosts.
  • Familiarity – Since WordPress is so incredibly popular, many people are already familiar with it. If you’re hiring freelance writers, virtual assistants, a social media manager, or anyone else who will be contributing to your website, there is a good chance they already know how to use WordPress.
  • It’s free – Despite all of the amazing features and benefits of using WordPress, you don’t have to pay anything for it. Regardless of whether you’re using it to power a business website, personal website, or non-profit website, there is no cost to install it on your site.

WordPress Frequently Asked Questions

What is the History of WordPress?

Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little founded WordPress in 2003. Thousands of community members now contribute to its continued development.

Do I Need to Be a Developer to Use WordPress?

Definitely not! WordPress aims to make it easy for anyone to manage a website, regardless of technical skills.

How Much Does it Cost to Build a WordPress Website?

There is no cost to download and install WordPress, but the costs of building and running the website will be impacted by a number of factors. You could purchase hosting from a low-cost provider like Bluehost or Hostgator and get your website online for as little as a few dollars per month.

If you want to purchase a premium theme, they usually range from about $50 – $100. The cost of hiring a designer/developer to create a custom theme will vary widely depending on who you hire.

Is WordPress Secure?

While there will always be some risk associated with using a content management system, WordPress takes security very seriously. Fixes are quickly released whenever a significant bug or security concern is found.

The most important thing you can do is be sure that you update WordPress, your plugins, and your theme whenever updates are available. There are also a number of security plugins you can install to help protect your site.

Is WordPress Available in My Language?

Probably! WordPress is available in well over 100 languages. Check this page for details.

Can I Migrate My Website from Another Platform to WordPress?

Yes, WordPress includes an importer tool that allows you to move content from an existing site. Please read this article for details.

Can I Change the Look of My WordPress Website?

Yes, you can make customizations to your existing layout or design with the WordPress customizer or you can change to a different theme. The exact customization options that are available to you will depend on the theme you’re using. If you’re looking for full control over the look of your site, see our top recommendations here.

Final Thoughts

WordPress is an excellent platform for individuals, businesses, and organizations looking for a coast effective way to manage a website, without sacrificing functionality.

I used WordPress for the first time in 2007, and over the years I’ve used it on more than 100 websites between my own sites and client sites. I can confidently recommend WordPress an outstanding option for others as well.

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