What is WordPress and How Does It Work?
A Beginner's Guide To Learning WordPress

Dale McManus

Co-Founder & Web Developer

Jun. 22, 2018

Hey, my name is Dale! My partner Alex and I have helped tens of thousands of people build beautiful websites around the world. In this simple, step-by-step guide, you’ll learn about the world’s most popular content management system (CMS), WordPress. Let’s dive in!

  • Level of Expertise:
    Beginner
  • Time To Complete:
    20 Minutes
  • What You Get:
    Working Knowledge

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If you’ve looked into website platforms at all, you’ll know that there are several you can start a website with and WordPress is at the top of most lists. Today, we’re going to cover what is WordPress and how it works.

As always, we have a video guide for this available on our YouTube Channel and below:

If you liked the video and want more tutorials on creating a professional website you can also subscribe to our YouTube channel!

Pressing onward…

What is WordPress?

wordpress org homepage

At its core, WordPress is open source software you can use to build your website or blog and publish it on the internet.

It’s a particular kind of software called a Content Management System (CMS), which is basically a tool that makes it easy to manage important parts of your website – like content, colors, and contact forms – without needing to know any programming.

Created all the way back in 2003 as a collaboration between Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little, over the years it’s gained a huge following and now has an amazing community behind it.

That community of software engineers and designers from around the world contributes not only to the core WordPress code, but they also help the platform by making plugins that let you extend the functionality of your website and themes that let you quickly and easily change its look and feel.

With the help and support of all those people, WordPress has become one of the most popular website publishing programs in the world – 30% of the internet is powered by WordPress; that’s a lot of freakin’ websites!

Best of all, it’s completely FREE to use!

For all these reasons and more (see below), WordPress is a fantastic platform for beginners looking to build their first – or 100th – website.

How does WordPress work?

Since the earliest days of the internet, websites have been built using programming languages like HTML, PHP, and CSS to format text, lay out pages, display images, collect contact information and so on.

Your web browser then reads this code and translates it into the web pages and apps that you use every day.

But there are tons of people like you (and us) who don’t know a thing about programming and really don’t want to (it’s so hard to do!).

That’s where CMS software like WordPress comes in.

In just a few minutes, you can install WordPress on your web server and start adding all the pages, pictures, text, and buttons you want – with just a few clicks, without writing a single line of code.

Don’t believe us?

Checkout our WordPress Tutorial for the step by step and see for yourself just how easy and awesome WP is!

Who uses WordPress?

katy perry wordpress website

Years ago, when WordPress was just getting started, it was mostly just a tool for creating simple blogs, which were mostly just personal journals back then (not the super helpful resources and engines for generating income that they are today).

Thanks to the help of all those software engineers constantly making improvements and expanding functionality over the years, you can create just about any kind of website you can imagine with WordPress.

Kinds of Websites Built with WordPress

  • Blogs
  • Portfolios
  • Online Resumes
  • Forums
  • Business Websites
  • eCommerce Stores
  • Membership Sites
  • Social Networks

Basically, if you can dream it, WordPress can help you build it!

And WordPress isn’t just for beginner website builders like you, a ton of famous blogs, Fortune 500 companies, news outlets, and celebrities use WordPress every day.

Popular Websites that Use WordPress

If you’re looking for even more inspiration, check out the WordPress Showcase to see even more top sites using the platform.

Why use WordPress?

It’s one thing for big corporate websites, blogs and celebrities to use WordPress – that’s strong proof it’s worth using.

So is the fact that 30% of the internet is powered by WordPress

But what about you, the beginner just getting started?

Why should you use WordPress?

Here’s why:

WordPress is Free and Open Source

Like we mentioned above, WordPress is open source and it’s free.

That means three things to you:

  • There are tons of people constantly working to make WordPress better
  • You can get started on the cheap (you’ll just need to pay a little bit for hosting).
  • It’s easy to customize WordPress to make it exactly the way you want it.

WordPress Is Extensible

Even if you aren’t a software developer, you can quickly and easily customize your website with WordPress’ huge list of themes and plugins to change the entire look of your website or make it work with other tools like MailChimp and Google Analytics.

Themes let you change the look and feel of your website; you can choose from over 11,000 free and paid ones to make your website look exactly the way you want it!

Plugins change how your website functions. With over 55,000 to choose from, you can easily add contact forms, shopping carts, photo galleries and more to your site.

WordPress is SEO Friendly

Right out of the box, WordPress includes most of what you’ll need to make sure your website is Search Engine Optimized so it can be found in search engines, which is crucial to your website’s long-term success (and income potential).

Plus, there are tons of theme and plugin options to help make optimizing your website easy!

WordPress Is Easy To Install

As WordPress has become more popular, website hosting companies have lent a hand by making it super simple to install WordPress.

Nowadays, most web hosts will either offer to preinstall WordPress for you or give you tools that let you do it yourself with just a few clicks – so you can have your website up and running fast!

WordPress Is Flexible

Like we mentioned above, WordPress can be used to build just about any type of website – it’s a solid, constantly evolving platform by itself and the themes and plugins can make it do just about anything you want.

But another big plus for WordPress is that you build your website all online (it didn’t use to be that way!).

Wherever you are in the world, as long as you have an internet connection, you can work on your site.

WordPress is Easy to Use and Learn

With WordPress, you don’t need to hire a web designer every time you want to make a small change to your site.

You don’t need to hire a web developer every time you want to add some new functionality.

If you know how to use basic tools like Google Docs or email and can click buttons, you can build and run a WordPress site.

WordPress Help is Always a Few Clicks Away

But as you grow, you might run into a few snags or want custom features you can’t quite find the right plugin for.

If that’s the case, you’ve got options!

Because WordPress is so popular, it’s easy to find help with any issue you have from tons of WordPress specific:

  • Blogs
  • Forums
  • Youtube Tutorials
  • Facebook Groups
  • Web Developers
  • Website Designers

WordPress Lets You Control Your Content

Lastly, WordPress lets you control your own content.

Other platforms like Squarespace and Wix limit what you can do with your website and lock you into using their services on their terms.

With WordPress, you can not only tweak all the text, images, buttons, etc., you won’t ever have to worry about your website getting shut down because a company closes or claims you’ve violated their terms of service.

Speaking of which, we should probably clear something up you may be wondering about…

WordPress.com vs WordPress.org

As you’ve been learning about creating your own website and the WordPress platform, you’ve probably come across “WordPress.com” and “WordPress.org.”

Kind of confusing, we know. Here’s the difference:

  • WordPress.com is a for-profit, paid service that uses the WordPress.org software to let you create simple websites using their platform; it’s completely free (no hosting fees) and easy to use but you lose most of your flexibility and control.
  • WordPress.org, aka “self-hosted WordPress,” is the free and open-source CMS software that you can install on your own hosting to create a website that’s completely yours.

Most of the time, when we say “WordPress” we mean the self-hosted WordPress.org software.

And even for beginners, we highly recommend going that route.

While WordPress.com lets you create a free website with their web hosting, several catches:

  • Your website can be deleted at any time if WordPress.com feels you’ve violated their TOS
  • You can’t monetize with ads
  • You can’t use plugins
  • You can’t use your own theme
  • You don’t own your domain name (instead of “your-name.com” you’ll get “your-name.WordPress.com” which looks unprofessional)

With WordPress.org, you download the software to host it yourself, which lets you:

  • Use plugins and themes
  • Use your own unique domain name
  • Monetize anyway you want
  • Completely customize your website

All it takes is a little bit of money for hosting and some extra work to build the way you want, but trust us, that’s well worth it!

How to Create a WordPress Website

If you’re looking for an easy-to-use tool to help you build your website or blog (without learning to code), WordPress is for you.

With tons of plugins, themes, and worldwide support, it’s the go-to for just about anyone looking to create a website!

We hope you found this intro to WordPress helpful – if you’re itching to get started building your own site check out our guide and get going in less than 30 minutes!

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