What is WordPress? Start Here (2023 Beginners Guide)

Whether or not you’re in the website business, chances are high that you’ve heard of WordPress at some point. The reason is simple: it’s the most used platform to build websites. With 43% of the market share, it seems like every other website you come across is built with WordPress. In this post, we’ll explain what WordPress is, its features, the types of sites you can create with it, and its benefits. Let’s dive in.

WordPress is a content management system (CMS) that is built using PHP and MySQL. It is open-source, which means everyone can use it. It’s also constantly improving, which makes this a reliable option for building your website.

How it Works

WordPress mainly focuses on the backend of your website. It creates the foundation for you to build the front end of your website. These are the two important things needed to have a functional WordPress backend on your website:

1. WordPress Core

WordPress core consists of the files and code needed for the WordPress installation. Without WordPress core, your website won’t work. These need to be installed before anything else.

2. Database

There needs to be a database supporting your website as well. Luckily, most good hosting providers come with one-click WordPress installs. During this install, they automatically generate a database for your website. If you were to install WordPress on your website manually, you’d need to create the MySQL database as well.

Who Created it

WordPress is owned and operated by Automattic. It was created in 2003 by Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little. WordPress grew mainly because of its open-source nature. Because of the community of developers contributing to WordPress, it grew into the most-used platform for creating websites nowadays.

Who Uses it

As mentioned before, WordPress is open-source. This means anyone can use it and modify it to their convenience. This makes WordPress a go-to for building a wide variety of websites. Generally, WordPress is used mostly by:

Main Features

We’ll get into the advantages of WordPress further down the post, but let’s highlight some key functionality of WordPress. Once WordPress is installed on your website, you’ll get access to the WordPress dashboard. This is what that looks like:

You’ll navigate different parts of your website using the sidebar on the left.

Built-in Page, Post, and Project Custom Post Types

WordPress is very intuitive. It provides you with a streamlined structure you can use for your website. There are some recurring post types that you might need for your website. Pages is one of those. Think of it this way: whatever type of website you create, chances are high that you might need more than 1 page. Some websites have hundreds of pages on them.

The need for multiple pages creates an organized way to create and organize them. That’s why there’s a custom post type assigned for pages. You can add a new page and manage the existing pages in this area. You can perform bulk actions, set parent pages, and more.

The same counts for posts (particularly helpful if you run a blog or blog area on your website), and projects.

Grouping these under a particular custom post type also helps you style them. You can create templates and assign them to a specific post type. Many premium themes, like Divi, provide you with a Theme Builder that allows you to do just that. You get to style every aspect of your website and basically create your own “theme,” in many cases, without needing a single line of code thanks to full site editing.

WordPress plugins allow you to add extra functionality to your website. Thousands of plugins are available in the WordPress repository or by third-party developers. Each one has a specific focus and depends on what type of site you need, but there are some essential plugins that any WordPress website owner can benefit from. These include plugins for SEO, backing up your website, caching, analytics, and adding social media.

Dynamic Menus

You can also create dynamic menus for your website, which is useful for learning management systems and membership sites where you want to restrict content at the user level. These can include menu items for logging in and out, ecommerce menu links, and more.

Media Library

WordPress comes with a media gallery where you can add images, audio and video files, pdfs, and more to use within your website. You can also edit media files and add metadata for titles, captions, alt tags, and more through the media gallery. If you want added functionality for your files, you can install one of these media gallery plugins.

WordPress.org vs. WordPress.com

When talking about WordPress, we usually refer to WordPress.org (unless specified otherwise). While these two come from the same source, they have some notable differences. We have a separate post that goes into detail on what the differences and similarities are.

But in short, WordPress.com is entirely separate from WordPress.org. It is a hosting plan provided by the creators of WordPress.org, Automattic, and is a suitable solution for bloggers starting small. WordPress.com is much more limited than WordPress.org, with many more rules for ad placement, themes, plugins, and more.

WordPress.org, however, refers to the WordPress open-source software you can install on any website you build, no matter what hosting provider you choose. You also own your website and its data, and you can easily transfer it to another host if you want to. It’s the most-used content management system (CMS) in the world and is highly customizable.

What Kind of Websites Can You Build With WordPress?

Whether you’re a beginner or not, you can build a wide range of websites using WordPress. Let’s go through some of the most popular options WordPress is used for.

When WordPress was introduced in the early 2000s, it was primarily a blogging platform. Therefore, it’s an excellent platform for communicating your message. You can write and publish posts within minutes and easily share them on your social media platforms for greater exposure. Although there are other blogging platforms, such as Blogger and Medium, no other platform is as customizable.

Using WordPress to showcase your work is a great choice if you’re a photographer, graphic designer, or web developer. Out of the box, WP allows you to embed videos, image galleries, and other media, so creating a portfolio website is a breeze. You can use a generic WordPress theme to feature your work or a portfolio theme, such as Bridge, to give the world a glimpse into your creative body of work.

Learning Management Systems (LMS)

In addition to more broad-spectrum websites, WordPress can create the most elaborate learning management systems. With LMS plugins such as LifterLMS or Learndash, you can create courses, quizzes, and lessons, add a paywall, and sell access to your content.

Alternatively, you can create an LMS using Divi, using one of our layout packs, and the Restrict Content Pro plugin.

WordPress is a great choice if you’re looking to build a membership website. Through a membership plugin such as MemberPress, you can create membership levels, assign content to those levels, and make money.

Forums are excellent for building an online community of like-minded individuals. Using WordPress and a forum plugin like CM Answers, you can easily bring your forum to life in a few steps. CM Answer’s PayPal and Stripe integration allows you to monetize your forum, providing a good way to earn extra income.

Why You Should Use WordPress

There are many reasons why WordPress is the most popular tool to build a website. Let’s go through some of the most important ones.

First of all, WordPress is free. It’s open-source, so you won’t have to pay a dime for it. To create a website that matches all your criteria, however, you’ll likely need to buy premium products that go with your WordPress website.

So, yes, WordPress is free, but depending on your customization needs, there are hidden costs like themes and plugins. And let’s not forget hosting. Any website you want to share with the World Wide Web must be hosted somewhere. Some free hosting options exist, but you’ll most likely want something more fitting. If you’re looking for a suitable host, make sure to check out our top recommendations when it comes to WordPress hosting.

Extensive Customization Options (themes, plugins, etc)

As previously mentioned, WordPress comes with nearly unlimited customization options. WordPress is the most customizable CMS on the market, using themes, plugins, custom CSS, and HTML. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned web developer, you can use WP to build the website of your dreams.

Easy to Use

Another benefit of WP is its ease of use. For new users, there is a learning curve. That said, it doesn’t take long to learn WordPress. Once you get the hang of creating posts and pages, you’ll be amazed at how easy it is to build a website.

Extensive documentation (WordPress Blogs, Tutorials, etc)

While the platform does have a slight learning curve, there are countless tutorials and blogs out there (like ours) to help you along the way. This is especially true for our own theme, Divi, which has an extensive documentation library with more than 90 easy-to-follow tutorials that will help you become a WordPress guru in no time.

SEO Friendly

One of the reasons WP is so popular is because of its SEO-friendly nature. Out of the box, it comes with features that make Google happy. For example, WP alerts Google whenever you upload new content to your website. Because of this, WP websites are more likely to get a bump in the SERPs faster than a static HTML site would. Combining WP’s built-in features with a quality SEO plugin like AIOSEO allows you to add keywords, metadata, and rich snippets. You can also add a good SEO tool to track your keywords, analyze rankings, and look for opportunities to improve your search engine rankings.

WP is pretty speedy out of the box. That said, it will need some help if you use video, images, or other media content. Thankfully, there are excellent speed optimization plugins, such as WP Rocket, that will make your website a speed demon. Another way to ensure your site’s performance is by choosing a fast WordPress host.

WordPress Hosting Options

Choosing the right hosting is one of the most important decisions you’ll make for your website. With the right hosting, your website will be fast, secure, and stable. Without one, you risk losing visitors due to slow loading times. Not only that, you expose yourself to malware, bots, hackers, and downtime.

What is WordPress Hosting?

WordPress hosting is a type of hosting that is optimized for WordPress. Generally, WP hosts use specific technology geared towards WP websites, which includes the necessary security, speed, and performance requirements. Most quality hosts include one-click WP installs, backups, free site migration, caching, and security features such as a web application firewall (WAF), DDoS protection, and malware detection.

Types of WordPress Hosting

Several types of hosting are available for WordPress, including shared, managed, cloud, and VPS. Small informational sites may be able to get away with shared hosting, but for those looking to build their business over time, it’s a good idea to choose a host that can grow with you, like SiteGround or Cloudways.

Top 3 Hosts

There are dozens of hosts available for WP, but we highly recommend a few.

SiteGround is our go-to for hosting. It’s optimized for WordPress, is based on Google Cloud, and has speed enhancements like caching, a free CDN, and custom PHP to improve page loading speed. You can’t go wrong with an affordable starting price of $14.99 monthly and features such as free migration, SSL, and business email. They also offer advanced security features, including daily backups, malware and DDoS protection, and a web application firewall.

Pricing: Starting at $14.99 per month.

Founded by the same people who created WordPress, Pressable is the ultimate solution for managed hosting. They offer a 100% uptime guarantee, so you’ll never have to worry about your site going offline. Additional features include a proprietary CDN to enhance site speed and an automatic server failover that switches your site to a new server at the first sign of trouble. There’s also 24/7 support, daily performance monitoring, free backups, staging and SSL, and hack recovery assistance should you need it.

Pricing: Starting at $25 per month.

The last host on this list is well-suited for site owners who plan to grow their business over time. Based on a modular pricing structure, Cloudways allows you to choose your server’s location, the amount of ram and bandwidth you need, as well as storage. The interface does take some getting used to, but we have extensive tutorials to help you along the way. Even though it’s considered managed hosting, more advanced users will appreciate being able to configure their server settings themselves.

Pricing: Starting at $12 per month.

Resources for Building a WordPress Website

By now, it is probably clear that WordPress is a community effort. Many users use WordPress daily, and countless WordPress creators try to help those users build the website they need. Let’s look at some of the best WordPress themes and plugins you should check out if you’re new to WordPress.

Best WordPress Themes

Just like there are different types of websites, different themes fulfill the needs. Generally, you get the option between two types of themes:

Especially the latter option is popular nowadays and usually goes hand in hand with a visual builder like Divi.

Depending on what type of theme you’re looking for, you can browse through our different posts with recommendations. Some of the most popular theme types are mentioned here:

Best WordPress Plugins

Every WordPress website has at least one plugin installed on it! But preferably, you’ll at least go for security and SEO plugins. There are other optional WordPress plugins, such as a YouTube plugin.

You can view all the top recommended plugin posts here. Make sure you pick out the plugins you need. In this case, more isn’t better. You want to prioritize the speed of your website, so carefully curating the plugins you decide to use on your website is a must!

Final Thoughts

We hope this post has helped you understand what WordPress is. One thing is for sure: WordPress is here to stay, and with its easy learning curve, understanding at least the basics is a must. You can build any website you imagine with WordPress, and it’s open source! If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to comment in the comment section below!

Featured Image via Kris_Anfalova / Shutterstock.com

This content was originally published here.