What is WordPress?
WordPress is the World’s most popular blogging software. WordPress software is free and open-source, features lots of themes, plugins, a visual editor, and an active and supportive user and developer community.
CMS vs. Blog
WordPress is best known as a blogging tool, but technically it’s a CMS, or content management system. A CMS is more than just a blog, and in fact, it doesn’t have to be used for blogging at all. A CMS is primarily a tool for managing the files, media, and code that make up a website. As such, it offers an alternative to managing these things directly from the server or command line. Most modern CMS’s also include tools for managing the people who work on the site, such as contributors, authors, editors, and administrators.
Even with all of WordPress’s capabilities as a CMS, you wouldn’t be blamed for wanting to use it just to blog. The term “blog” originated from “Web log”, which was a chronological approach to creating a website, with regular posts and updates that were typically viewed from most recent to oldest. Modern blogs are typically multimedia sites with text, images, and even video. Blogs are no longer just a glorified online journal. Many also contain online stores, forums, galleries, and vibrant communities of contributors or commenters.
As you might imagine, there are many ways to blog, and many types of CMS’s. You can blog the old fashioned way by posting regular content to a website of your own design. You can choose from one of WordPress’s competitors. Even with other options, WordPress’s market share remains huge, and its community is growing. That’s because it offers a few advantages over other CMS’s or DIY approaches:
- WordPress uses familiar interfaces, similar to a word processor, so that just about anyone can jump in and start using it
- The WordPress software itself is free
- A huge library of add-ons is available to help you do more than just blog
- WordPress’s popularity allows for it to have a huge community where you can find inspiration, help, and paid services
How does it work?
Although WordPress is easy to use, many newcomers struggle to get started. Before you can get serious about using WordPress, you need web hosting. Web hosting is a lot like virtual real estate — it’s a virtual place to put your sites and files. Once you’ve got web hosting, you’ll need to install WordPress to your server. A few hosts, such as pair Networks, offer installation tools or have hosting packages with WordPress pre-installed. Your day-to-day use of WordPress will typically require using WordPress’s “dashboard” for most operations, including everything from making posts to uploading images and media to customizing your site’s look. Finally, your users — or maybe just you — will create the articles and other content for your WordPress site.
Most of your WordPress work will be performed from within the WordPress dashboard. The dashboard is WordPress’s control panel and handles all of the major functions of WordPress. You can write, edit, and publish posts and pages. You can manage your users, moderate comments, upload and edit media, and organize your content into categories. You can update your software, find and install new add-ons and themes, and edit the functionality of your site and its add-ons.
Your web host will probably also provide you with a control panel, so it’s good to understand the differences between your host’s control panel and WordPress’s dashboard. Your web hosting control panel typically handles things relevant to your hosting account, and in that control panel you can expect to do things like pay for your account, manage your email, register domains, and view your server usage.
Your host’s control panel is one of the places you can go to install WordPress, but there are several options. Installing WordPress yourself, directly to the web server using the command line, offers you the most customization but is by far the most difficult approach. A software manager, like pairSIM, installs software for you, and even manages updates. However, a software manager offers a little less customization than a full DIY approach. Finally, there are pre-installed versions of WordPress that come with specialized WordPress hosting. pair Networks offers such a solution with its WP Enthusiast and WP Professional accounts. For these accounts, WordPress is already installed, core updates are automatic, and WordPress is run on servers that are optimized for running WordPress quickly and securely.
Reading about the need for web hosting, you might be thinking, “I thought WordPress was free.” It’s true that the WordPress software is free, but along with web hosting, there are a few things you might need to buy in order to really make the best of WordPress. You’ll also want a custom domain name for your site to be reached at. Any content that you don’t own or don’t create yourself will need to be licensed or purchased. Some premium or high-quality add-ons might come at a price as well.
Why not WordPress?
WordPress is a great solution for many bloggers and businesses, and there are some big-name sites that use WordPress. However, it’s not for everyone. There are a few considerations if you’re thinking of going with WordPress.
Because WordPress is so popular, it’s a big target, too. It’s important to keep your WordPress updated regularly so that security patches and bug fixes are in place to help protect your software. A managed WordPress solution like pair’s WP Enthusiast and WP Professional accounts will take care of WordPress updates for you.
If you rely on a lot of add-ons for your site, you’ll need to be especially careful to keep those updated, and will need to find alternatives if an add-on is outdated. Luckily, the most popular add-ons have great support, and it’s rare for a popular add-on to become outdated.
If you want the best WordPress experience, you’ll want to subscribe to a WordPress-optimized account like our WP Enthusiast and Professional lines. However, it’s important to be wary of unscrupulous hosts claiming that their servers are optimized for WordPress. Find out what your host is really offering, and whether they’re just sticking a label on something that’s not actually that special.
Finally, if you’re just in need of a simple landing page or two, there might be even easier ways to accomplish your goal. Consider a drag-and-drop site builder like Weebly, which is available with all of our Shared Hosting accounts. These builders have less flexibility and extensibility than WordPress, but are even more accessible and are typically easier to use.