WordPress is a framework designed to help you easily and affordably startup a website. WordPress is technically a Content Management System. A content management system is simply a computer system designed to help you create, organize and publish digital content. In this case, digital content is almost anything you find on the internet. Let’s spend a few minutes to go over how WordPress works and answer the question often asked by new webmasters – “What is WordPress?”
WordPress powers a good chunk of the internet, over 30% by some estimates. It’s not just small sites, either. Some very large sites use WordPress. Companies like Walt Disney, BBC America, and TechCrunch using WordPress. Many companies and individuals use it because it’s affordable (WordPress itself is actually free), almost infinitely expandable, and easy to use. Some common uses for WordPress include
- Online stores/e-commerce
- Business sites
- Online directories
How to Expand WordPress
You can make a pretty functional blog or business site with WordPress out of the box. To add functionality, WordPress uses a concept called plugins. These are programs that you can download from the internet to add functionality. These are often free, or free for basic functionality but paying for more advanced functionality. Sometimes they add new functions or they allow you to integrate with other systems like payment systems.
You can even build your own plugins (or have someone like us build it for you.) There are tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of plugins out there. Some common functions include things like asking it easier to build pages, create a mailing list, sell products, and almost anything else you can think of. WordPress also uses a concept called a theme. The theme helps to give your website its look and feel. It helps to make it responsive (changes format between different devices) or to change colors, add new fonts, and similar functions. Themes can be free or come at a cost, just like plugins.
You can even have someone make you a custom theme just for your site. We recommend against that though. These sites are often beautiful and work just like you want, until later. Developers regularly update WordPress, themes, and plugins to add functionality and to close up security holes. This often adds new capabilities, fixes bugs, and fixes security problems. A custom theme won’t do any of this (unless you pay for the developer/designer to do it) and often updates for WordPress and plugins will break these custom themes.
Unfortunately, a good portion of our business is fixing custom designs for clients who want changes to their site or who need to upgrade their WordPress or plugins. The better approach, in our opinion, is to pay once for a capable theme and use its capabilities to get the design you want and that will support you forever.
Getting Started with WordPress
You will need a host to get started with WordPress. Your host stores the website files and publishes them on the internet. The host is a company that provides you with a server, or computer, that puts your website on the internet. The host should keep your server up and running, secure and updated. They should also keep your site backed up, though we wouldn’t rely on that.
For a starting site, your best option is probably a shared hosting plan. A shared hosting plan is where the host takes one computer and divides is up between several websites. The benefit to this is that they can offer hosting for a lower price, especially for new sites. As you get more traffic, you may need to look at other options for hosting.
The quality of your host can make a big difference in a reliable, hassle-free website. One of the hosts we recommend is Siteground. Siteground is affordable, reliable, and fast. The caching is nice and not often found on the cheaper shared hosting plans. It helps to speed up your website. It also has a powerful, but the intuitive interface on the shared hosting plans, which is really nice.
Regardless of who you go with, do some internet searches for reliable companies that provide good support and capability. Many of these hosts pay a lot for this advertising, which is fine, but their service and performance is less than ideal. Many of them offer something called managed hosting where they purport to do everything. In our experience, these plans become more difficult the moment you need to do anything more advanced. We typically recommend a shared hosting account.
Once you have hosting, many of them make a button press to install WordPress. From there, you can get started. Have fun!