WordPress is a powerful open-source, content management system (CMS) written in PHP and MySql. It was founded by Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little in 2003 and has become one of the most dominant CMS’s on the market. With WordPress controlling just under 60% of the CMS market, WordPress has become the world’s go-to CMS leaving other CMS’s like Joomla, Drupal, and Magento in its wake.
WordPress.com vs WordPress.org
Beginner WordPress users often confuse WordPress.com with WordPress.org, but the truth is that both platforms are quite different. WordPress.com is a publishing platform with tiered monthly payment plans. WordPress.com is run by a company called Automattic and the payment plans they have listed on their site run anywhere from $0 a month to $25 a month.
In exchange for the monthly service fee, wordpress.com provides you with features like hosting, themes, spam protection, advanced galleries, forms, email subscriptions, polls and sophisticated comments just to mention a few. Most importantly, they provide a content publishing platform with which you can host your website.
WordPress.org, on the other hand, is free to use for the most part and leaves a lot more room for customization than WordPress.com. Most of the install and management of a website powered by the wordpress.org platform are left to whomever will be managing the website. With wordpress.org there is no monthly fee to pay to use the service. Also, you can extend the functionality of the platform with the use of plug-ins, which cannot be done with WordPress.com.
In the case of using wordpress.com, the features the platform provides are the features you are stuck with. For instance, as at the last time we checked, wordpress.com does not provide support for the use of Google analytics or any other external analytics service. Users of wordpress.com usually have to go with wordpress.com’s in-house analytics service to track visits to their site.
However, using WordPress via wordpress.org involves installing the files necessary to build your website from their website at www.wordpress.org onto your local hard drive, setting up a complimentary database and then uploading the necessary files onto your hosting provider’s servers. Once this process has been set up successfully you are presented with an admin page which is more or a less a gateway to the dashboard from which you can manage the content you intend to publish to the web.
The Log In Page
The Admin area of a WordPress website is more or less the back-end portion of your site. To get to this area of your WordPress website, simply type in www.yoururl.com/wp-admin into your browser. This brings up a log in page as shown in the image shown above. You will be prompted a username and password which gains you access to the dashboard area of your WordPress website.
Once you are past the admin area of your website, you get taken to the dashboard of your WordPress website. This is where you perform all the behind-the-scenes work that powers the portion of your website that your viewers will see (i.e the front-end of the site). From the dashboard you can install the themes you want your website to adopt, install widgets, read comments people have left on your website, install and activate plug-ins and put up posts and pages for your site and even assign administrative privileges to people that will post content to the site i.e. if there is more than one person posting to the site.
Themes provide a way of customizing the look and feel of your website. Once your WordPress website is installed you will find there are some basic themes that come bundled with the platform, however, to get themes with more robust features, you will either have to download one for free or purchase one at Envato Market. This is where you will find most of the themes that you can use for your WordPress site. The good news about themes is that they usually have user ratings that can let you know if they are good to download or not and the theme developers also provide support should anything come up during the installation or use of your downloaded theme.
Once you have downloaded a theme, you will likely need to customize it to suit your needs. The problem, however, that arises with just downloading a theme, customizing and putting it up for use is that for the theme to stay properly functional, the theme developers usually send software updates for the downloaded theme.
These updates can be downloaded from the admin area. If the updates are however a major upgrade to the theme, you could find yourself losing all the customizations you performed on the theme you downloaded originally.
This is where a child theme comes in handy. A child theme is a theme you create to avoid the aforementioned scenario of losing your theme customizations as a result of an upgrade. Child themes retain the customizations you put in place while maintaining the characteristics of the original theme (WordPress developers call it the parent theme) you originally downloaded. If a child theme is properly set up, you can customize it and not lose any of your customizations when the parent theme goes through a major update.
Every WordPress website has its user interface designed in a consistent way. On the left-hand side or right-hand side and sometimes both sides of the website, there is usually real-estate on the website reserved for sidebars. WordPress uses widgets to add content and other types of functionality to the sidebars of your WordPress website. Some of the features you can add include: a search bar, an area reserved for your social media outlets, custom text, an email subscription form, contact forms or any other feature that adds user functionality to your website. Widgets can be added or removed on the theme customizer in the admin area of your website.
Another method of extending the functionality of a WordPress website is through the use of plug-ins. Plug-ins are software written to improve the performance and usability of a WordPress website. Plug-ins are available only on wordpress.org powered websites and not on wordpress.com powered websites as mentioned earlier.
The truth about plug-ins is that they are necessary to improve your website’s functionality but you also have to be careful to make sure over-use of plug-ins do not slow down your website’s performance. To Install and activate a plug-in on your WordPress website simply go to the plugins section in your dashboard or administrative area and from the pop-up menu, click on “Add new”; that should bring you to an area of your website where you can search for and add the necessary plug-ins to your website. Remember not to over do it with plug-ins and add only the ones you think are necessary. A couple of plug-ins you should install and activate include Akismet for spam protection, a backup plug-in to help you recover your lost files if you somehow lose your website files, and a security plug-in to protect your website from getting hacked.
Posts And Pages
Posts and pages are the ways in which you organize the content that you intend to place on your website.
A page is best suited to non-hierarchical content; i.e., if you have content for your websites like an “About” section or a “Contact” section, then a page would be best suited to displaying these types of content. However, if you have a blog entry which will be governed by a hierarchical parameter like the date you published that content then a post would be the better option to use. Pages are not constrained by the chronology of a blog post, hence are used to present timeless content about yourself, and the organization of your website.
Pages and posts do have one area in common in that they both have titles and content. The theme developers for whatever theme you install always make sure pages and posts, while serving different functions, maintain a consistent look throughout your website.
One of the main benefits of using a WordPress website is the fact that multiple users in the same or different locations can manage a website with each user being assigned access levels based on their contributions to the website. To add a new user, you will be asked for a username, email, first name and last name of the user you intend to add and finally what role you want to assign to the new user. These roles WordPress assigns to a new user include being a subscriber, a contributor, an author, an editor, or an administrator. Each role comes with a different level of access for the user it is assigned to.
We have gone through the ins and outs of one of the most powerful CMS platforms in use today. WordPress is so powerful that some of the most prolific content providers in the world like CNN, TechCrunch, The New Yorker and Sony Music use it to publish and manage their content. If WordPress is put to use properly it could take all the pain usually associated with hosting a website out of it. If you ever need to build a WordPress website, please give one of our WordPress ninjas a shout at syntaxNinjas.com. If you already have a WordPress site or are just curious about the platform please stop by WordPress at codex.wordpress.org
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