You’re thinking about starting a blog. You do a quick Google search and read through the results. Page after page, all these people are talking about something called ‘WordPress’. Well, what is WordPress and what does it have to do with you as an aspiring blogger?
What is WordPress?
WordPress is something us nerds call a Content Management System, or CMS for short, and it does exactly what it sounds like it does: it manages content! Back in the early web days if you wanted to put up a website, you had to code every page in HTML and its functionality was very limited. It was a pain for anyone, but especially for non-technical people.
WordPress allows you to add pages and posts to your site in much the same way you’d send an email or text message. It’s very easy to use, and also very powerful. Most importantly, WordPress is FREE. Both in terms of price and liberty. You can download and install WordPress on pretty much any web server and you can modify it to suit your exact needs. You never need to pay anyone or ask permission.
That’s why WordPress is probably the most popular content management system on the internet. Millions and millions of sites run it.
What is WordPress.com and WordPress.org? Are They Different?
Yes, they are different. If you don’t know what WordPress is, this can be a little confusing. You might have heard of or even visited a site at WordPress.com. WordPress.com is probably something most people are at least vaguely familiar with. But there’s also WordPress.org.
Usually on this site if I mention WordPress, I’m talking about what you find over at WordPress.org. WordPress.org is home to the actual WordPress software. If you want to download WordPress the blogging app, you go to WordPress.org.
WordPress.com is how the company who makes WordPress earns money. They realize a lot of people won’t want to pay for web hosting and learn all the technical bits. They just want a place to write their thoughts. So WordPress.com is an easy solution for those people. You just go there, choose a username and start blogging. The experience is very similar to using the WordPress software you download from WordPress.org except you’re very limited. You have to pay for extra features, like customizing your theme, using your own domain name, etc.
It can work for some people, but the real power comes from hosting WordPress yourself.
How Does WordPress Work?
To use WordPress, you need a web host. Something like Bluehost or Dreamhost will do. Nowadays, every decent web host will even have a quick install feature for WordPress. You click one button and it auto-installs everything you need. So it couldn’t be simpler these days.
Hosting is real cheap, too. The cheapest is definitely Bluehost. One site will run you just $3.95 per month or you can host unlimited sites for $6.95 per month (good if you have lots of blog ideas you want to test). I personally use Dreamhost because I’ve never had any problem at all with downtime. My sites stay up and they stay fast and that’s just the way I like it. That will run you $8.95 per month (but you can get a huge discount by using my discount code BDGDISCOUNT at checkout)
Once you have WordPress installed there will be a frontend and a backend. The frontend is what your visitors see. It’s your actual website. The backend is what you see. It’s what you use to manage your site: add, edit, and delete posts; upload images and documents, manage users, and on and on.
What is WordPress: Themes
WordPress keeps the content of your site separate from the appearance of your site so you can easily change how your posts and pages appear without messing them up. The files that make up the appearance of your WordPress site are called “themes”.
When you login to WordPress, you’ll find plenty of free themes available in the theme directory (Go to Appearance > Themes > Add New), but, let me tell you, WordPress’s premium themes are absolutely killer. They cost a little money, but once you decide on the one that’s best for you, you can use it forever. Premium themes are incredible. They make your site faster, cleaner, cooler, more powerful.
One of the most popular themes for WordPress is the Genesis framework by StudioPress. All of StudioPress’ themes are amazing and they all use Genesis as their foundation. If you use Genesis, you can be sure that your site is performing at the absolute best it can possibly perform (and it will look damn good doing it.) Check out some of these StudioPress themes built on Genesis:
All of the themes above could run on the exact same WordPress installation without messing with any of the existing content. It would just rearrange. You can also start to see how powerful WordPress is: it can power a site for a real estate agent, a restaurant, a startup, or a personal blog. You should definitely check out all of StudioPress’s offerings.
What is WordPress: Plugins
Probably the number one reason that WordPress is such a popular blogging platform is that there is a massive marketplace of plugins for it. If you want WordPress to do something that it can’t do, chances are there’s a plugin that makes it do exactly that. You can make a WordPress site mimick Reddit or Pinterest, show your Twitter feed, list tour dates for a band, and on and on, all without having to know how to program. I mean, this stuff is powerful.
There are tons of free plugins to use. For example, on this site I use Yoast’s SEO plugin which allows me to make sure each post will have maximum visibility on Google. I also use one called WP Super Cache which makes the pages load faster.
The most interesting plugins, in my opinion, are premium. They can really make your site come alive. You can turn your site into a store or sell subscriptions to your content. If you’re just starting out, one premium plugin you should look at is Popup Domination, which helps you setup a pop up email list that can get you tons and tons of email readers. Absolutely recommend that!
Should You Use WordPress?
If you’re just starting out, yes absolutely use WordPress. You won’t find a community bigger and more helpful than the WordPress community. If you’re taking it on yourself to learn blogging from the inside out, then you’re going to run into lots of little snags and problems. With WordPress, you can be almost certain that someone has hit that snag before you and written about it. It just speeds up the learning process when you have thousands and thousands of answers for all your problems rather than having to dig really deep into Google results and hope something pops up.
Use WordPress. You will be incredibly satisfied with it and it will really jumpstart your blogging endeavors!