WordPress LogoWhat is WordPress?

OK, so WordPress is not a social network but it is a great platform to create a blog and develop a website. Blogging should be a definite element of your social media strategy as it will ensure a fresh stream of new content, which search engines love.

As I’m working with several clients on their websites at the moment and am a great fan of WordPress, I thought it would be a good time to cover a few of the questions I get asked. Some background, first…

In the Beginning

In 2003, Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little created WordPress.  It was a small piece of code that basically enhanced the style and appearance of everyday web writing. While it was an inauspicious start, no one could have predicted where WordPress would be today.

WordPress was born out of a desire for an elegant, well-architectured personal publishing system built on PHP and MySQL and licensed under the GPLv2 (that’s it for techy stuff!).  It started as just a blogging system, but has evolved to be used as a full content management system (CMS), and so much more, through the thousands of plugins and widgets and themes available – more on these later!

WordPress is an Open Source project, which means there are hundreds of people all over the world working on it. (More than most commercial platforms.) It also means you are free to use it on your website without paying anyone a license fee.

There are two versions of WordPress, WordPress.com and WordPress.org, what’s the difference between them?

About WordPress.com

This service lets you get started with a new and free WordPress-based blog in seconds. It varies in several ways and is less flexible than the .org version you download and install.  What it does do is provide the WordPress platform PLUS hosting.  It currently hosts over 60 million websites.

WordPress.com is a great place to start if you are looking to set up a simple website and blog and just want to learn how to use and experiment with the functionality. If, however, you want to develop a full website that can be tailored to your business’ individual needs and requirements then you’ll need to graduate on to WordPress.org.

About WordPress.org

WordPress.org allows people to download WordPress and use their own hosting.  It is completely customisable and it allows anyone to easily run a blog or website without coding knowledge. There have been over 30 million downloads of the latest version.

WordPress DashboardIf you can use MS Word, then you can use WordPress.   Once it is installed, you can log into the “dashboard”.  The dashboard contains everything you need to build your site.  You can add posts, pages, menus and much more to your website.

Your shell is loaded onto your domain name host. I like to describe it as the naked mannequin in a shop window which you then need to dress. After all, your website is going to be the online shop front for your products or services.

Themes and PlugIns

The next stage is to choose a Theme. Basically dressing your mannequin.  The overall look of your site is controlled by Themes.  There are over a thousand free themes to choose from (and many more paid options), simply changing your theme can instantly change the entire style of your site. A good theme will make the difference between a professional-looking site and one that isn’t. So start with a good theme and then add professional (or semi-professional) graphics. I’ll cover themes in more detail in a later blog – the Theme on this site is a paid option.

To further tweak your website you can use plugins.  Think of plugins as the accessories for your website/mannequin. Plugins are add-ons to customise your site even further and there are thousands to choose from.  Some plugins will help with your search engine visibility, others will show you real time traffic stats on your site.   In fact, for pretty much any function you can think of there is a plugin to add it to your site.

How much does it cost to build?

If you choose to host your blog on WordPress.com it doesn’t cost you anything. However, your website address will look like www.wordpress.com/yourwebsiteurl. This isn’t great for branding or for driving traffic.

If you use WordPress.org the framework is still free. You will need to pay for your hosting which will give you a personalised website and email address. You also may need to pay for a Theme though there are free ones.

Of course, there are other website services that offer a template that you can customise. However, I find WordPress a wonderful choice for anyone who is interested in creating and running their own blog or website.  Themes and plugins will let you accomplish almost anything you need plus create styling.  All you need is your own unique perspective, a little time and the drive to learn and master the web’s leading CMS platform.

Done for you

If you’re not interested in building your site and just want to be able to add content and update it, then it will cost you more. There are lots of web developers who can either build your site or help you build your site. I will cover this in another blog as there are certain aspects you do need to be in control of. Next, I’ll take a deeper look at Themes and PlugIns. These make a real difference to the look, feel and performance of your blog.

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