Sep 03, 2021
What is WordPress? An Overview of the World’s Most Popular CMS
WordPress is a content management system (CMS), software used to build, modify, and maintain websites.
It is also the most popular CMS on the market, powering 65.2% of websites whose CMS we know. That translates to 42.4% of all websites – nearly half of the internet.
Let’s briefly go over the four main reasons why WordPress is so popular:
- It’s free. Although users will need to secure web hosting and a domain name before getting to use it, the WordPress platform itself is entirely free to download and use.
- It’s highly flexible and customizable. WordPress has many applications – from blogging and creating an online portfolio to building an eCommerce store. WordPress also welcomes community developers. As a result, many theme and plugin options are available in the official WordPress library and third-party depositories.
- It’s a scalable platform. WordPress can handle websites of any size as long as the web hosting plan has the necessary resources. There’s no need to migrate to a different platform once the website takes off.
- It’s relatively easy to use. Compared to hand-coding a website from scratch, WordPress requires significantly less technical knowledge. Tweaking it with code is still an option, but it’s possible to build beautiful, fully functional websites with just the graphical user interface.
This article will contain an in-depth overview of WordPress. We’ll discuss the differences between WordPress.org and WordPress.com, what exactly WordPress has to offer, and the types of websites you can build with the platform.
Difference between WordPress.org and WordPress.com
If you look up WordPress on Google or other search engines, you will come across two related websites: WordPress.com and WordPress.org. This might get confusing for beginners since both sites are similar in their names and branding but differ in purpose and target audience.
WordPress.org houses the free content management system software used to run a self-hosted version of WordPress.
To build a self-hosted website, you must first register your domain name and purchase a web hosting plan. The type and quality of your chosen web hosting plan will determine the performance of your website.
Additionally, users can exercise more control over the web server space they’re renting from the web hosting provider by self-hosting.
The self-hosted version of WordPress allows for the full potential of WordPress. Users can look up and install any WordPress theme or plugin they want – even ones they’ve made themselves.
The self-hosted version of WordPress is excellent for users who value high flexibility, customization and plan to scale their websites in the future.
WordPress.com is a hosting company that uses a website builder based on the WordPress content management system for all the websites it hosts. Unlike its self-hosted counterpart, WordPress.com is hosted, which means that it manages the web servers that store its users’ websites.
Users who sign up for the service for free are required to use a branded domain name, such as yourwebsitename.wordpress.com. To use a custom domain name, one must upgrade to a paid plan.
The free version also has other limitations. For example, users can’t install any WordPress themes or plugins.
Overall, hosted WordPress.com is more suitable for users who want to create a website quickly and don’t mind limited flexibility and customization.
WordPress is a content management system that’s packed with features. In the following sections, we’ll go over the most important ones.
Admin Dashboard and Settings
The WordPress admin dashboard is also known as the admin area. It allows administrators and authorized contributors to modify a WordPress website and perform maintenance.
The default way to access the WordPress dashboard is to go to yourdomain.com/wp-admin and log in by typing the username and password set during the WordPress installation process.
The admin dashboard contains all the website management features, such as the content editor, theme customizer, plugins, and widgets. We’ll go over each of them in the following sections.
Important! In case you forgot the password to access the WordPress Dashboard and the recovery feature doesn’t work, you can change it in the site’s Database by using phpMyAdmin.
The content editor or the text editor is where users can add, edit, and publish WordPress posts and pages. Learning to use WordPress’s content editor will be a breeze if you are already familiar with word processors like Microsoft Word.
The newer version of the editor, Gutenberg, simplifies content creation on WordPress even more.
The Gutenberg editor allows users to add blocks – content components that include various text and media formats and design elements. For example, users can easily add an image gallery to a post by using the appropriate block.
After creating the content, users can assign tags, a featured image, and a meta description to the post or page using the settings sidebar. Many of these sidebar settings can positively impact search engine optimization (SEO).
The theme editor or customizer allows users to customize their current theme or design template. Users can make various changes, such as uploading a logo, customizing the navigation menu, and setting a custom homepage.
Every theme has different degrees of customization. Keep in mind that if you install a free theme, the customization options will likely be limited. Premium WordPress themes generally offer robust customization, functionality, and support.
Consider installing a page builder plugin for a more seamless and intuitive design process. Page builders add drag-and-drop functionality to the theme editor that’s great for beginners. Some examples of page builder plugins are Elementor and Beaver Builder.
Plugins and Widgets
Plugins are add-ons that extend a WordPress website’s functionality. By installing plugins, users can add features that aren’t present in the core WordPress software. Many of the plugins are created by developers within the WordPress community.
The official directory currently contains over 58,000 plugins – there is a WordPress plugin for virtually any situation. There are those for strengthening website security, speeding up a website, increasing search engine optimization, adding forms, and more.
When it comes to pricing, there are free and premium WordPress plugins to choose from. Free plugins usually offer basic functionality, while paid ones have more features and may include customer support.
Here are some of the best WordPress plugins to install on a WordPress website:
- WooCommerce. An open-source WordPress plugin that adds eCommerce functionality.
- Visual Composer. A drag-and-drop page builder plugin that offers pre-made design elements, simplifying the process of designing a WordPress site.
- Yoast SEO. An SEO plugin that adds SEO indicators to the WordPress text editor, which helps articles rank higher on search engine results pages (SERPs).
- Wordfence Security. A firewall and security plugin that protects a WordPress site from malware, spam, and other malicious attacks.
On the other hand, Widgets add extra content and structure to a website. WordPress has several default widgets, such as archives, gallery, and recent posts, and users can add more by installing plugins.
What Kinds of Websites Can I Create with WordPress?
WordPress is a highly versatile platform that you can use to create all kinds of websites – the possibilities are seemingly endless. In the following sections, we have listed the most common ways people use WordPress.
WordPress started as a blogging tool, and blogs are still one of the most common types of websites built on the platform. Starting a blog can have many benefits – it is an outlet for self-expression and a way to connect with others and make money.
Artists, photographers, musicians, writers, and other creative professionals can use WordPress to build their online portfolios. An easily accessible online portfolio can significantly increase the chances of landing jobs and projects.
There are many portfolio themes available in the official WordPress directory and third-party depositories. Premium themes for portfolios usually include additional features such as premade image galleries, lightboxes, and grid formats.
WordPress is extremely popular among businesses of any size – from small enterprises to large corporations. If you run a business, WordPress is an excellent platform on which to build your business site.
Creating professional-looking business sites is straightforward due to a variety of premium and free themes and plugins for nearly any function.
WordPress is also the platform of choice for many charities, churches, and nonprofits. That is because of its low operational and maintenance costs as well as a relatively flat learning curve. Features like donation plugins further accommodate the needs of such organizations.
WooCommerce, the most popular WordPress eCommerce plugin, implements crucial online store features, such as shopping carts, checkout pages, one-click refunds, marketing tools, an order management system, and other add-ons.
Popular Sites Using WordPress
Let’s go over some popular websites built on WordPress and examine how you can apply their design features and tricks to your site.
The New Yorker’s site employs serif fonts to achieve a simple yet classy look in line with the magazine’s print counterpart.
Online versions of publications don’t have to fully emulate the print version. However, transferring some of the familiar qualities into the online space creates a more consistent brand experience.
TechCrunch is the go-to website for people interested in cutting-edge technology and startup news. The website achieves a clean and minimalist look by employing sans serif fonts with plenty of white space.
The website uses a sticky navigation menu that remains visible as the readers scroll. You can apply this design element to make it easier for visitors to explore your website and locate the content they want to read.
Sony Music’s website is an excellent example of successful commercial brands making use of WordPress.
The website design is eye-catching and bold, achieved by using an image slider of Sony Music’s artists, embedded videos, and all-cap text for the headings and menu items.
Sliders are a dynamic yet space-efficient way to highlight your content – you can use them to showcase multiple images.
If you’re building a website for your band, consider adding an audio player to allow visitors to preview your content easily.
WordPress also powers the official website of the White House. This site is an excellent example of professional and user-friendly design, which is essential for government websites.
The site maintains a classic look by employing serif fonts for the headings. At the top of the page, there’s a sticky navigation bar with an expandable menu through which users can access other sections of the site.
The White House website also has accessibility features, with buttons that turn on the high contrast mode or enlarge the text. Such options contribute to the best possible browsing experience for all visitors.
It’s not surprising that Beyoncé’s website runs on WordPress – the platform is incredibly popular with artists, photographers, and musicians.
Beyoncé’s site focuses on visuals. The homepage contains a gallery of fullscreen images. Clicking on each reveals additional information and social media sharing icons.
WordPress allows Beyoncé to deliver an engaging visual experience to her fans. Consider using fullscreen images similarly on your site to showcase your work in the best light.
WordPress Pros and Cons
Using WordPress has many advantages, but there are some possible downsides to it, as well. Make sure that you know what to expect with the platform before building your website on it.
Here is a list of pros and cons of using WordPress:
- Low cost. Users only need to pay for a domain and web hosting. The WordPress core software and many of the themes and plugins are free.
- Easy installation and update process. Most web hosts offer instant WordPress installation tools. Updating the software to the latest version can also be done quickly via the WordPress dashboard.
- Simple to manage. Users don’t need programming knowledge to write and edit posts, upload and edit images, manage users, add custom menus, or install themes and plugins.
- Custom design. Users can easily create a custom design with thousands of ready-to-use WordPress themes. There are specific themes for nearly every niche, including restaurants, medical practices, podcast websites, and food blogs.
- Custom functionality. Make use of plugins to add features to WordPress. There’s likely a plugin for any task, from SEO to event booking.
- Helpful community. The WordPress community is global, and there are support forums with helpful WordPress experts. In case you encounter a problem, a Google search will help you find a solution quickly.
- Open-source software. An open-source project like WordPress is open to the public. As a result, WordPress developers voluntarily work to improve the core code, and new plugins and themes are created to fulfill emerging needs.
- Security concerns. As WordPress powers more than 42.4% of the web, it’s inevitably the platform most targeted by hackers. Installing a WordPress security plugin and applying other best practices can reduce the risks.
- Third-party content. Since most WordPress themes and plugins are created by third-party developers, some may be buggy. Before installing a new plugin or theme, always read its description and reviews.
- Page load time. Too many plugins may slow a site down. To fix this, uninstall unnecessary plugins and clear the website’s cache.
How to Start a Site with WordPress
If you’re convinced that WordPress is the right platform for you, it’s time to begin building your website on it.
If you have a website on WordPress.com, migrating to WordPress.org is simple. All you need to do is export all of the content from the WordPress.com site before following the steps below.
Here are the steps to create a WordPress site:
- Buy a domain name. Check the availability of the domain name you want using a domain checker and purchase it from a domain registrar.
- Choose a hosting service provider. Make sure to choose a reliable hosting provider that has good customer reviews.
- Buy a web hosting plan. Choose a web hosting plan that fits your needs and budget. To get a hosting plan that’s optimized for WordPress, take a look at our WordPress hosting plans.
- Install WordPress. Most hosting providers offer a one-click WordPress installation tool on the web hosting control panel.
- Customize the website. Choose a WordPress theme that fits your brand and content the best, install the plugins you need, add widgets, and tweak the design using the theme customizer.
- Start creating content. Create the essential static web pages and start publishing blog posts.
- Promote the website. Drive traffic to your brand new WordPress site using various methods, such as SEO, social media marketing, and email marketing.
If you want to know more on how to get started and create a website with WordPress, check out these articles:
- How to Set Up eCommerce on WordPress
- How to Start a Blog
- How to Secure WordPress
- 30 WordPress SEO Tips to Increase Search Engine Ranking
- How to Properly Set Up WordPress AMP
Should I Use WordPress?
Whether or not you should use WordPress depends on your needs. If you need a flexible and scalable platform for your website, it’s a great choice.
WordPress is an incredibly versatile website platform that allows users to build all kinds of sites. If you want to start a blog, attract new clients with an online portfolio, post video tutorials, or create a business website, you can use WordPress to do so.
It’s excellent for beginners, too, as it’s significantly more accessible than coding a website from scratch. There are many online courses and resources to learn WordPress as well as a large and active community.
We hope this article has helped you get to know what WordPress is. If you have any questions or remarks, leave them in the comments section below.