Recently, I was having a conversation with a friend about website development and I mentioned that I now use WordPress for all of my sites. “What is WordPress?”, he asked.
And that got me thinking. Those of us who spent our lives fiddling around building websites may tend to assume that just about every person on both this and neighbouring planets already knows the answer to the question “What is WordPress?”
But, after asking around a bit, I now realise that this is not the case. And, of course, in retrospect, I realise that a great many Internet users would have no particular reason to know what WordPress is and the platform might be well outside their sphere of experience.
If you fall into that category, this article should bring you up to speed very quickly and give you some hopefully interesting glimpses into the heady world of website publishing.
What is WordPress?
So then, what is WordPress? WordPress is a powerful and immensely popular site creation tool and content management system that makes publishing and managing just about any type of website a great deal faster and easier. The post you are reading right now is on a WordPress powered website.
How WordPress Works
WordPress is actually an extremely complex and ever-evolving piece of software. But, for the purposes of this discussion, we can break it down into three main components that all work together.
Everything you publish via WordPress – text, images, everything – is stored in a database. When a visitor comes to your website, the appropriate information is pulled from the database and displayed. This takes place transparently in the background.
Thankfully, unless something major goes wrong or you want to perform advanced tasks, you may never have to directly access the database. In fact, you could probably run WordPress for years without needing to delve into the rather daunting innards of its database.
As noted, when you or one of your visitors accesses your site, your content is lifted from the database and displayed. Exactly how your content is displayed depends on the theme you or your web designer has chosen.
The WordPress.org website explains WordPress themes like this:
A WordPress Theme is a collection of files that work together to produce a graphical interface with an underlying unifying design for a weblog. These files are called template files. A Theme modifies the way the site is displayed, without modifying the underlying software.
In other words, you can change the entire appearance of a WordPress site in just a few clicks by activating a new theme.
And, there are thousands of themes available, many of which are completely free via the WordPress Theme Directory.
As well as this constantly growing repository of free themes, there are thousands more premium themes that you can purchase if you want a certain look or functionality for your site.
Once you’ve installed a theme, you can then customise it to suit your needs and tastes. Usually, themes can be customised in many different ways. So, even sites that have the same theme installed may look very different once their owners have customised their chosen theme.
You can also greatly extend the functionality of WordPress by installing little pieces of software called “Plugins”. As with themes, there are thousands of plugins for WordPress, many of which are free.
WordPress.org describes plugins like this:
Plugins are ways to extend and add to the functionality that already exists in WordPress. The core of WordPress is designed to be lean and lightweight, to maximize flexibility and minimize code bloat. Plugins then offer custom functions and features so that each user can tailor their site to their specific needs.
Some plugins such as those that allow you to create online forums or membership sites are quite complex. Others are designed to do simple tasks such as displaying social media buttons to your visitors.
Plugins can be accessed via the WordPress interface and installing them is very simple. They can help you to get your site to perform and behave just as you want it.
Publishing On WordPress
One of the great things about WordPress is that it allows you to quickly and easily publish content such as blog posts even if you do not know how to build a website or use coding languages such as HTML. This is just one of the reasons why a great many web designers – myself included – use WordPress to build websites for clients.
Once your web designer has handed over your site, you can then login and create new posts and pages. You’ll be able to use a simple editor that allows you to add text, images, videos, and other elements. If you’ve used word processor software such as Microsoft Word, you will quickly grasp the basics of how to use the editor. And, Gutenberg, the brand new WordPress editor that will soon be standard in all WordPress installations, makes publishing content even easier.
You can save a post that you are writing as a draft so that you can come back later. And, you can preview the post so you see what it will look like when published. When you are ready, you just hit the “Publish” button and your post will go live on your website.
Here’s a screenshot of this article in the editor prior to publication:
WordPress Training Videos
If you choose me to build, host, and manage your website for you, I’ll include a comprehensive set of training videos that you access directly from your website’s admin dashboard. Once your site is created, publishing new material and editing existing content on the WordPress platform is quite straightforward. And the training videos will help you get up to speed in no time.