WordPress is awesome. Seriously.
WordPress is a powerful, FREE and open-source content management system (or CMS) platform for creating websites and blogs. It powers 27% of the Internet as it is often used to build personal websites, e-commerce sites and various platforms for all types of people and organizations.
For the longest time, I wasn’t much of a WordPress user. I didn’t understand what features it provided other than being an easy to deploy blog platform with an endless selection of theme options. I guess this lack of understanding kept me away from looking deeper into WordPress’ amazing features and endless functionality.
As a web developer, it was inevitable that I would finally sit down and work with WordPress as a developer and implement some of its awesomeness into my projects.
Content Management System?
What is a content management system?
A “Content Management System”, otherwise known as a “CMS”, is software used to organize and managing a collection of various types of digital content. Most WordPress users are simply bloggers, where a CMS is used to create, edit and manage blog posts. Outside of the blog-sphere, a CMS could also be used to update news articles, edit sales copies, add new features to a webpage, update landing page slogans and more. The options really are endless.
Aside from being a great way to manage your digital content, WordPress also has a HUGE backing of support due to its open source status. That means you have tons of documentation, forums and tutorials that can help you in a bind when completing new projects or fixing bugs.
WordPress also has an option to install and use third party plug-ins. A plug-in is a piece of software that enhances WordPress’ core functionality or adds on new features such as a shopping cart or custom WYSIWYG editors. Some are free and some are paid.
And my favorite part about WordPress:
It’s great for creating a pseudo-full stack website without a ton of technical knowledge about the back end. That means for new users who are not tech savvy can deploy a website with minimal knowledge of databases and/or a back end scripting language. How awesome is that?!
Before I dive into creating custom WordPress themes, I do want to talk a bit about themes in general. I’m in no way an expert in UX/UI design, but I do have an art background and have some fundamental understanding of how it would apply to UX/UI designs.
First, what is a theme?
A theme, or “skin” as some people call them, is a pre-designed layout that includes custom color palettes, fonts and maybe some additional features like a photo carousel or landing page slider. At its core, a theme is just a way to keep the stylings consistent when navigating from one webpage to the next, on the same website.
Themes can be found on WordPress.org for a free or in the Appearance section of your WordPress Admin Dashboard. While they are great for people who getting started, they probably aren’t as flashy and cool looking as the paid themes you might find elsewhere on the web. Paid themes, also known as premium themes, can cost as much as $99 or more, but are often worth it for WordPress users who don’t want to deal with the design aspects themselves. Paid themes also often include some additional built-in functionality that would not be available in free themes.
Which is better?
It just comes down to what you’re creating and what your budget and timeframe looks like.
If you’re strapped for time and need to deliver something quickly, grab a theme and go. If you’re working a client to create a custom theme, then perhaps a theme from the Internet isn’t the way to go. I’ll talk more about WordPress theme development in my next entry. With WordPress, you have options and options are always good!
Getting Started with WordPress
There are tons of tutorials on creating your first website using WordPress. While this write-up is in no way a tutorial, I wanted to create an informative entry to explain what WordPress is and how it’s changed the way I develop.
I’ll give you the basic rundown of what you typically need to get started with a WordPress website today. I recommend checking out free video tutorials on YouTube for you visual learners and any of the standard read-along tutorials you’d find on Google for everyone else.
There are two ways to get started with your first WordPress website:
The first one is to go over to WordPress.com to get started quickly. WordPress.com provides a quick and easy way to deploy a website in minutes, using one of their tiered plans. WordPress.com includes hosting and little to no database setup. That means a non-techie user who wants to get their site up can quickly throw together something with little assistance.
There is a free plan for users who don’t want to sign up for any of the paid stuff.
The paid plans offers more bandwidth, storage, removal of ad’s and more.
Wait, didn’t I say WordPress is free?
WordPress, the software is indeed free. The WordPress software can be found at WordPress.org. This takes me to option number two…
The second way to get started with WordPress is to install it onto your personal host. Most web hosts have an option in their cPanel to install and deploy WordPress. It takes just 5 minutes or less to set up and you don’t have to pay WordPress a dime.
Of course you’ll have to pay for your own web host and manage the host yourself. However, it could potentially save you a lot money in the long run as well. I would recommend that you are somewhat comfortable with basic web technologies to go this route. There will be a little bit of configuring to do with the database, domain name setup and navigating of the cPanel (which is sometimes confusing!).
If you’re not sure which method works best for you, I highly recommend going to YouTube and checking out some quick videos on both a WordPress.com setup and a WordPress setup on cPanel.
Both methods described above include access to WordPress’ selection of free themes. Premium themes can be purchased pretty much anywhere on the web, installed into WordPress’ Dashboard and activated in minutes.
Whew! This is a long write-up already. In the next entry, I’m going to talk about WordPress theme development. I’m a developer, so it only makes sense if I talk about how to develop something right?