What is WordPress?

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Why WordPress?

WordPress is a popular content management system (CMS) and website builder that allows users to start their own blog, build and manage personal or professional websites, and even sell products online. It enables anyone, even those with limited to no coding and web design experience, to create feature-rich websites, blogs, or online stores for their unique purposes.

With so many CMS options on the market today, you may be weighing up your choices and wondering, ‘Why WordPress?” Or you might have a brand new WordPress site but don’t understand all its different components and features. It’s also possible that you’ve managed your WordPress site for some time now but need some help with fine-tuning its engine to leverage all the platform offers.

If you are new to WordPress, this guide will get you up to speed on WordPress’ history, the types of sites you can build on the WordPress platform, as well as various components that drive the CMS, and more.

Need help maintaining or growing your WordPress site to its fullest potential? Get in touch today about SiteCare’s WordPress maintenance services.

 

39.5 percent of all websites use WordPress.

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How did we get here?

The history of WordPress

WordPress has come a long way since its first release in 2003. Created by Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little, it was initially intended as a fork of b2 — WordPress’s precursor project estimated to have been installed on approximately 2,000 blogs by May 2003.

Today, WordPress powers approximately 39.5 percent of all websites (a significant jump from 35 percent in 2020). WordPress is also by far the world’s most popular CMS choice, with a market share of 64.1 percent. In comparison, the world’s second most popular CMS, Shopify, has a market share of just 3.2 percent.

WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org

When we talk about WordPress, we are generally referring to the free, open-source software that is available for anyone to download on WordPress.org. It is distinct from WordPress.com, which is a for-profit software-as-a-service website builder that uses the WordPress CMS software. As a website building and hosting platform, WordPress.com offers “free” (i.e. ad-supported) websites to users. They also offer additional paid tiers (Personal, Premium, Business, and eCommerce) that grant users ad-free hosting and access to more features and functions that best suit their personal or business objectives.

Another way to think about the differences between the WordPress software and WordPress.com is by asking “who is your hosting provider?” When you download the free, open-source software on WordPress.org, you can choose any hosting provider you want. When you create a WordPress.com website, your host is WordPress.com.

What is possible with WordPress?

When it comes to the types of websites that can be built and designed on the WordPress CMS, the sky is just about the limit. The more common types of WordPress websites include blogs, photography and portfolio websites, nonprofit and government websites, online learning sites, and ecommerce websites. Below are some examples of each.

Blogs

Once known as weblogs, blogs are commonly used for publishing informational and topical content online. Blogs can function as online diary entries for top influencers or as a repository for news articles, brand-specific information, videos, and other digital content.

The Economist and The Times, for example, are well-known UK newspapers using the WordPress CMS for their digital publications. In the U.S., NBC News, Business Insider, and Bloomberg all use WordPress.

Other examples of some well-known businesses and brands using the WordPress CRM for blogging purposes are TED, TechCrunch, The Walt Disney Company, and Facebook Newsroom.

http://TechCrunch%20Website%20Homepage

Ted Blog

The TED blog shares news and updates about upcoming TED Talks and Conferences.

Tech Crunch

TechCrunch uses WordPress to report on tech businesses and startup companies, many based in Silicon Valley. Its blog posts include the latest in startup tech news, and content ranges from articles, to videos and audio clips.

The Walt Disney Company

This multimedia conglomerate uses its blog for publishing news articles and listing career options, social responsibility initiatives, and all things to do with its investor relations, including reports, investor events, and FAQs.

Facebook Newsroom

As the name suggests, this blog catches readers up to speed on all developments related to Facebook’s online offerings. You can find out about Facebook’s latest privacy controls, as well as browse through topical posts on technological advancements and improvements for its services and apps.

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http://Studio%20Moross%20Website%20Homepage

Portfolio and photography websites

Artists, photographers, and designers of today can significantly benefit from showcasing their creative portfolios using WordPress. WordPress is perfect for categorizing and presenting high-resolution design and photographic portfolios, with a range of out-the-box themes and features, including front-page image sliders, custom header images, galleries, and videos that are easy to search and navigate.

Studio Moross is an example of a multidisciplinary design company using WordPress to display digital campaigns created for top musicians, brands, and organizations such as The British Film Institute, Nike, and Kylie Minogue.

 

 

Ecommerce websites

WordPress offers bloggers, small businesses, and dedicated ecommerce stores a flexible web builder software, replete with the plugins needed to power and market an online store — with all the included benefits of WordPress’s customizable CMS.

One of the top plugins for using WordPress to sell products and services is WooCommerce.

WooCommerce

WooCommerce is an open-source ecommerce platform — built on WordPress — which boasts an impressive range of extensions and plugins that enable businesses and brands to set up their online stores and sell their services and products online.

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Online learning sites

The WordPress platform even lends itself to running online learning websites. Pairing the WordPress web builder with a Learning Management System (LMS) plugin, such as LearnDash, Sensei, or MemberPress, helps learning institutions and educators create, manage, and even sell their online course content.

Yoast Academy

Yoast is one example of a company that uses WordPress to offer online training. The brand’s Yoast Academy provides both free and paid online SEO courses, focusing on SEO for WordPress.

Udemy

Udemy is an online academy offering 130,000 online video courses on subjects ranging from web development and IT and software to personal development topics such as stress management, parenting and relationships, and career development.

Nonprofit and government websites

In today’s day and age, even nonprofit organizations and national governments need an online presence for sharing information and updates with their constituents and stakeholders.

It’s crucial for an organization as large and influential as the United Nations, for example, to have an online platform from which it can readily share information and updates about its global initiatives.

Creative Commons

The non-profit, Creative Commons, focuses on openly licensed material (both creative and academic works) and the tools and licenses needed for sharing knowledge without censorship or interference from third parties. It aims to ensure no legal barriers to sharing information on the internet required to address the world’s biggest challenges. It also uses the WordPress platform for online fundraising for its various initiatives.

http://Creative%20Commons%20Website%20Homepage
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Components of a WordPress site

Every WordPress website is composed of three parts — the core, the theme, and the plugins.

WordPress core

The WordPress core software is the one component that stays the same across all WordPress websites. Your site’s core WordPress files govern the basic functionality and appearance of your website and administrative interface.

They are the free, open-source files you download at WordPress.org to create your website. When you installed the core software, you have a basic yet functional site that allows you to:

  • Log in and set up different user accounts
  • Create pages
  • Create posts
  • Create a blog
  • Add media
  • Embed video
  • Add categories and tags
  • Add widgets
  • Manage comments
  • Manage favicon settings
  • Manage page errors (404, 403, etc.)

WordPress themes

With WordPress, you will use a template system to manage the appearance of a website. This system allows developers to create what’s known as ‘Themes.’ Themes are a collection of templates and stylesheets that together define your WordPress site’s appearance and visual identity. You can design and develop custom themes for your website, but thousands of free and premium premade themes are built specifically for WordPress. Your theme choice is not set in stone — you can change, edit, manage, and add themes within the WordPress admin area.

Themes are available within the WordPress theme directory, as well as on marketplace sites:

As one of your WordPress site’s essential elements, your theme governs your website’s aesthetics and functionality. As such, it’s necessary to keep your theme updated along with your core and plugins to prevent any technical glitches or security issues.

If you buy a premade theme, keep in mind that you will need to keep up with annual renewals of your theme’s license to receive continued support, updates, and new features from the theme developer.

WordPress plugins

WordPress websites can do just about anything, and plugins are what make it possible. Plugins are pieces of software that you install to extend the functionality and features of your site. There are many different kinds of WordPress plugins available to meet your needs — form plugins, search plugins, ecommerce plugins, SEO plugins, the list goes on.

There’s nothing more frustrating to a user’s experience than encountering a website that doesn’t work the way it should. Why does this happen? For WordPress sites, it’s usually outdated software, including plugins. When the owner doesn’t properly maintain these elements, it can impact the user’s experience on the site significantly.

If you are using a paid plugin, keep in mind that you will need to keep up with annual renewals of your plugin’s license to receive continued updates and new features from the plugin’s developer.

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Where do you find plugins?

There are many websites where you can browse free and premium plugins for your website. The WordPress Plugin Repository, which is run by WordPress.org, is a good place to start, but you can also browse plugins on third-party marketplaces like CodeCanyon, PickPlugins, and MOJO Marketplace.

But what plugins should you be searching for? Let’s take a moment to look at some of the more essential  WordPress plugins — as well as some of our top plugin recommendations.

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Form plugins

If you’re looking for a form plugin, then you almost certainly decided on a visitor call-to-action. Bearing this in mind, these are the key elements any form plugin worth its salt should have:

  • Quick and easy creation ability
  • Support for standard fields like name, email, phone, address, web URL
  • Support for file uploads
  • Protection against spam
  • Customizable email notifications
  • Reliable email delivery
  • Add-ons to extend functionality
  • Gutenberg compatibility

With years of experience under our belt, our professional recommendation for a form plugin is Gravity Forms. Gravity Forms is unique in that it has always been a paid plugin. It has an add-on library that’ll seamlessly integrate with third-party services and software.

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SEO plugins

You’re presented with countless plugin options when building a WordPress website so it can become challenging to determine what you need and what you don’t. In our opinion, an SEO plugin is high on the list of priorities. SEO plugins are crucial for managing your site’s metadata and implementing content strategies to help your site become discoverable to its intended audience. But which SEO plugin should you choose? Here’s what we recommend:

  • Yoast SEO: Considered to be one of the best SEO plugins around, Yoast SEO is marketed as a product that caters to everyone. Professional or beginner, Yoast makes implementing your SEO strategy and optimizing your content simple.
  • RankMath: The search engine optimization plugin for WordPress makes it easy for all users to optimize their content through suggestions built on widely-accepted SEO best practices.
  • All in One SEO Pack: The user-friendly SEO plugin, All in One SEO Pack covers everything the user needs in one straightforward interface.

 

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Site search plugins

One of our customers’ most consistent annoyances is the lack of power behind the WordPress search function. We’ve come to find that SearchWP is by far the best WordPress site search plugin. Compatible with all your website elements and the many ways your content can be presented, SearchWP is the plugin solution with the power to do it all.

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Ecommerce plugins

Building a website to function as an online store is very different from setting up a standard website. If you’re not open to using a platform like Shopify or BigCommerce, then the most significant difference you’ll face is your ecommerce considerations. Thankfully there are WordPress plugins for that. We recommend WooCommerce. A free WordPress plugin, WooCommerce adds ecommerce functionality to your website to turn it into a fully-functioning online store.

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Site backup plugins

Any web development professional will tell you how important it is to ensure your site’s security and invest in a reputable WordPress backup plugin or service. We recommend BlogVault as it covers both backup and security. You can set the BlogVault plugin to perform a routine backup of your WordPress website automatically. It provides easy management of every aspect of your WordPress website — this includes migration, staging, and merging across servers.

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Page builder plugins

There are various ways to go about building pages in WordPress. Specific page templates may come loaded with a theme you buy, but you can also install a page builder plugin.

Page builders are popular because they are straightforward to use — simply drag and drop elements and content onto a page. However, the downside of using a page builder is that they can leave behind a lot of hidden code that bulks up your site’s size and results in slower page speed. Even so, page builders are an excellent option for someone who is DIYing their website.

Here are the most popular page builders on the market right now:

  • Elementor — The ultimate free web page builder, Elementor combines fast performance and visual design to be an all-in-one solution.
  • WPBakeryBuilder — A premium WordPress page builder that makes building your website easy and fast. It’s a straightforward drag and drop style editor that, when coupled with templates, blocks, and plugin extensions, is all you need to create your website.
  • Divi — A premium WordPress page builder that’s marketed to take your website further with its advanced visual builder technology, Divi is the most popular of the page builders available.
  • BeaverBuilder — Popular among end-users and implementers alike, BeaverBuilder is a page builder with a good reputation. Its users tend to enjoy its regular updates, introducing new features and the available extensions that allow for further flexibility.
  • Brizy — One of the newest WordPress page builder plugins, Brizy is exclusively front-end and visual, making it straightforward, easy to use, and a likely choice for beginner users.

Pros and cons of WordPress

As with everything, there are pros to creating a website with WordPress, and naturally, there are a few negatives that come with using WordPress.

The strengths of WordPress

User-friendly CMS

WordPress finds its origins in blogging, and this set it up to become the leading CMS platform it is today. Admins, contributors, and editors can easily navigate through the backend of their WordPress website. Organizing and uploading content is made simple enough for even the most amateur of users.

Plugin repository

With over 54,000 plugins available via the plugin repository, the majority of which are entirely free, WordPress is undoubtedly the forerunner of website customization. These plugins allow you to implement specific changes to your website’s functionality without limitation. There are plugins available for every single change you could dream of making.

Free and open-source

WordPress is freely available and open-source, meaning anyone can use, study, change, and redistribute its source code. Being able to cross-share code saves on development time and even cut costs. Also, using an open-source platform proves valuable when partnering with a WordPress developer as the code already exists and is widely available. You won’t be stuck working with expensive, specialized software or code.

Flexible and adaptive

WordPress is known for powering a wide range of websites. It runs both complex and simple websites for businesses across industries, often with differing needs and expectations. And over its lifetime, WordPress has shown its adaptability and flexibility when meeting and exceeding expectations.

Prioritized SEO

Optimizing your website’s content for search engines is essential. Other platforms make it difficult for users to do it themselves, but not WordPress. Plugins like Yoast SEO, among others, are available to ensure your website performs better and ranks higher.

Responsive websites

The themes available within WordPress, be they free or premium, are generally very reliable and customizable. With the increasing demand for website responsiveness due to the varying user devices, it’s safe to say that these themes are built to be responsive.

The weaknesses of WordPress

Frequent updates

Updates are likely the most crucial part of maintaining a website with WordPress, but they are frequent, timely, and can turn out to be frustrating if not done correctly. WordPress premium themes and plugins are the main reason for updates. Are they avoidable? Yes. But that comes with a security risk that isn’t worth taking. There are times when updates aren’t necessary and could cause more harm than good. To that end, it’s best practice to vet updates — you would need to have some technical skill or knowledge to do this. If you don’t have an in-house developer, we recommend managing a complex or customized WordPress website with a WordPress maintenance agency or freelance developer.

Site speed

Unnecessary generic code can cause site speed issues. This kind of code comes with specific custom themes. Without WordPress knowledge or experience, deciphering which code you can get rid of and which is essential to keep can be difficult. So if you’re a bit confused, you could probably use the help of a professional.

Customization expenses

Customizing anything can get expensive. The same can be said for building a custom website. Unlike its drag and drop competitors, WordPress is incredibly flexible. However, if you’re an amateur with minimal WordPress experience, creating a custom site will become complicated fast.

Security

It’s easy to imagine the security risks that come along with working in an open-source platform. While WordPress core software is incredibly safe, security loopholes in outdated plugins and themes are very attractive to hackers. For optimal WordPress security, it’s crucial to keep your site’s software components regularly updated.

WordPress Competitors

A thriving business in any industry is bound to face some pretty hefty competition. And this is undoubtedly the case with WordPress.

Let’s take a look at their top five noteworthy competitors.

 

Number of WordPress sites vs. competitor sites

  • WordPress — 455 million
  • Wix — 160 million
  • Squarespace — 450,000
  • Joomla! — 2.5 million
  • Weebly — 50 million

WordPress FAQs

  • What is a CMS?

    Short for “content management system,” a CMS is software designed to manage and publish online content on a website. Whether used for handling written content, photos, graphics, videos, music, or all of the above, a CMS is crucial for empowering non-developers to create and maintain a successful website or blog regardless of their technical experience and knowledge.

  • How is WordPress.org different from WordPress.com?

    WordPress.org is where you can download the free, open-source WordPress CMS software.

    WordPress.com is a for-profit SaaS website builder and hosting provider that uses the WordPress CMS software.

  • What is WordPress?

    WordPress is a popular website builder and content management system (CMS) that enables non-technical users to build websites and create and manage their digital or online content.

  • Is WordPress free?

    As open-source software, WordPress can be downloaded for free at WordPress.org. However, there are other costs to consider when building your site, including buying a domain, investing in plugins to increase your site’s functionality, upping your site’s security with a proper security solution, and even investing in a theme for your site,

    WordPress.com offers both free and paid plans. The free version is suitable for basic websites, while the paid plans cater to freelancers, small to medium businesses, and companies wanting to sell products online.

  • Is WordPress for beginners?

    WordPress.com is suitable for all types of users, including those new to website builders and content management systems; this is mostly due to its drag-and-drop editor, which allows you to build a feature-rich website with no coding knowledge or experience. WordPress.com also has a team of ‘Happiness Engineers’ who offer 24/7 email help to first-timers using the free version and real-time chat support to those on paid plans.

  • How do I choose the right WordPress theme?

    WordPress.com has an online theme selector tool that allows you to look for themes based on features, layouts, and styles that suit you. It also lets you search and select a website theme based on the type of website you are looking to build — whether it’s a magazine or business, a professional portfolio, a wedding website, a food blog, or anything else you can think of.

  • What coding language does WordPress use?

    WordPress uses PHP, an open-source scripting language, which is well suited for web development. It also uses HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Most users do not need to learn PHP to use the WordPress CMS or web builder.

  • What should I look for in a WordPress host?

    Reliability, performance, ease of use, customer support, and price are the most important qualities to consider when choosing a WordPress host.

    Want more specific recommendations for a web host? Don’t miss our guide to the best WordPress hosting providers.

  • What are the most common WordPress security threats?

    Brute-force login attempts, DDOS attacks, Backdoors, Pharma hacks, SQL injections, Malicious redirects, Cross-site scripting attacks.

  • Are some WordPress security updates automatic?

    The WordPress Security Team resolves some security threats with automated security enhancements. These enhancements update and install automatically, with no action required from the site owner or administrator.

  • Where can I see WordPress security notifications?

    When a new release becomes available, a notification will appear on your site dashboard to alert you to upgrade your WordPress software.

  • Where can I see what changes have been made to my version of WordPress?

    After a manual upgrade, you will be redirected to the About WordPress screen for details of changes. You will receive an email after an automatic update has been completed detailing the changes.

  • WordPress glossary

    Administrator

    When installing WordPress, the default new user role assigned is the role of the administrator. Administrators can perform every action available on a WordPress website. These users can add or remove users with a different or the same role assigned.

    Backlink

    Simply put, a backlink is a link from one website to another. Search engines use backlinks as a ranking signal for meaningful, authentic, and factually accurate content.

    Contributor

    This term refers to one of the user types assigned to a WordPress user account. Contributors have limited capabilities within WordPress websites.

    CSS

    Standing for Cascading Style Sheets, CSS is a style sheet language that describes HTML documents’ visual formatting and appearance. Every theme available in WordPress has a style.css file. These files contain rules which define the composition of pages generated within WordPress.

    Database

    This term refers to an organized, structured data set. In technical terms, a database is software used to store these organized data sets.

    Domain names

    Users find these web pages by using a site’s domain name, the website address used in a browser to find a specific website on a particular server  — e.g., www.sitecare.com. Typing the domain name into a browser requests content from that website’s server.

    Homepage

    In the web development world, the term ‘home’ or ‘home page’ refers to a website’s main page. Labeling pages within a website helps with structuring navigation and the other user interface elements of a website.

    IP address

    Short for Internet Protocol Address, a user’s IP is the address of their network hardware. It is used to connect your computer to other devices, both within your network and around the world.

    Open-source

    This term describes computer programs that allow their source code to be accessible to everyone. WordPress takes pride in being an entirely open-source software. Meaning that anyone can use, change, and redistribute its source code.

    Permalinks

    This term refers to the permanent URLs of your posts and pages within your WordPress website. There are a few permalink formats to choose from within WordPress’s settings.

    Slug

    This term refers to the user-friendly URL valid name of a post within a WordPress website. Its most common usage is to create a permalink for each post on your site.

    Web hosting

    Web Hosting refers to the service of providing physical storage space, software technology, and expertise to enable online users to access your website quickly, cheaply, and securely.  WordPress Hosting is, therefore, the hosting of WordPress websites by specialist WordPress hosting service providers. These service providers understand how to host fast and secure WordPress sites. They also meet WordPress’s security and technical requirements, including supporting PHP and MySQL.

    Web servers

    Websites need to store their content files in an allocated space on a web server. A web server is a blend of hardware and software that stores, processes, and delivers web pages to online users.

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