Intro to WordPress

by Chris CounteyJanuary 3, 2017
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WordPress is a free website builder with a huge online support community. For non-coders and for many of the classes you will find here, WordPress can help creating amazing new websites in a short amount of time.

WordPress.com vs WordPress.org

WordPress can sometimes be confusing because it can mean two things: WordPress.com, where you can create a free blog and WordPress, the code that is actually used to build sites.

The free version of WordPress.com offers many of the latest themes and handles all of the hosting and security for you. But if you want to do really cool things with WordPress, you need to host the code yourself. That may sound scary or complicated, but it’s a lot easier than you might think.

In fact, many web hosting companies offer 1-click WordPress installations. I’ll provide more instructions in another post, but the option to install can usually be found in the cPanel or the Softaculous installer, as shown below.

WordPress Themes

WordPress themes generally control how a WordPress looks. As of January 2017, BuiltWith.com estimates that over 17 million websites are built with WordPress, including this one. BuiltWith is a pretty amazing tool that shows the technical profile of a website, including what content management system it uses, like WordPress.

But I thought WordPress was a blogging platform…

Blogging is definitely one use for it, but WordPress can be used for much, much more. New WordPress themes are published every day, with an estimated 10,000 themes available for download. To see an example of WordPress doing a lot more than publishing blogs, check out my online arcade, built using a simple plugin and a premium theme.

Free WordPress Themes versus Premium Themes

WordPress.org is the hub for all things WordPress. From there you can download the latest version of WP, plugins and, of course, themes. There are about 2,400 active free themes available on WordPress.org. The same themes are also available within the WordPress admin section itself, under the Appearance tab. If you’re new to WordPress, this might still be Greek to you, but I’ll get to that tutorial later.

Free WordPress Themes

Free WordPress themes have come a long way in terms of design and complexity. They might not be quite as awesome as premium or paid themes, a free WordPress theme can fit the bill for almost any type of website you want to create. Many free themes are also “light” versions of premium or paid themes.

Premium themes, like the one I use for this site, can help a non-coder build a really amazing website that goes miles beyond a blog or digital portfolio. However, I recommend that you experiment with free themes until you find one that looks and functions the way you want it to, before spending the money for the real deal.

Cost aside, free and premium WordPress themes provide the same type of customization options. Adding and managing themes can be complex, so I’ll cover them in their own posts.

WordPress Plugins

New WordPress Plugins are added every day, but what exactly are they? Simply put, plugins add functionality to WordPress. Under the hood, WordPress is built in the programming language PHP. Luckily, you don’t need to know programming to install plugins that make your website do amazing things. Plugins are used by many of the web’s content management systems to help non-coders take advantage of the latest internet trends.

However, some of the more popular WordPress plugins like to keep it simple. For example, there are free plugins available to help the average Joe:

  • Add a contact form
  • Block spammers
  • Add advanced site search features
  • Enhance a website’s security
  • Add more engaging commenting systems
  • Connect their websites to social media, like Facebook and Twitter.

If you want to really extend WordPress’s power, plugins can also do the following:

  • Speed up a website
  • Create social networks and forums
  • Create games
  • Connect to other websites
  • Allow visitors to create accounts
  • Allow visitors to upload pictures, videos, and their own stories

And probably the most widely-used plugins allow non-techie types the ability to create full-service online stores.

Featured image source: https://colorlib.com/wp/shortcodes-can-add-life-wordpress-themes/

About The Author
Chris Countey
I am a Technical SEO Manager in Philadelphia by day and gamer by night. All opinions and bad jokes here and on social media are my own and do not represent the beliefs of any organization.

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