I made this brief overview to introduce first time users to WordPress.
What is WordPress?
WordPress is software to run and manage a website.
WordPress provides your website that visitors will see, as well as a management interface to edit the site content.
WordPress.org and WordPress.com
WordPress.org is the official website for the WordPress open source software project, where you can download the code for WordPress to run on your own server. You probably won’t need to download the WordPress code, because the web host that you pick should have a one-click install for you.
WordPress.com is a managed version of WordPress where you can create a website for free and pay for extra features. You are limited to the themes and plugins that WordPress.com supports.
Choosing a host
WordPress is installed on a computer running 24/7 connected to the internet to run a site. Companies will host a WordPress site for anywhere between $2 and $20,000 per month.
Some features to keep in mind while shopping for a web host:
- Do they limit the number of visitors to your site?
- Do they provide HTTPS? Your website should serve, and hosts should offer it for free. There is no reason to charge for HTTPS or SSL certificates.
- Do they back-up your site regularly?
- Do they provide software updates for WordPress?
- Do they have good customer support?
- Does the host provide full-page caching to make your site fast?
Hosting plans typically fall into one of these tiers:
Shared hosting is a cheap, basic option to run a WordPress site. It may have limited features (e.g. full-page caching, reliable support, site back-ups, automatic software updates or support for lots of visitors). $1-10 per month. Try DreamHost’s Shared Hosting or SiteGround’s Shared Hosting.
Managed WordPress hosting is a host that specializes in WordPress with good features (e.g. full-page caching, knowledgable support staff, site back-ups, automatic software updates and support for lots of visitors). $20-30 per month. Try Dreamhost’s “DreamPress”.
Enterprise WordPress hosting is for high-traffic sites (millions per month) that want best-in-the-business assistance and offer professional code review, 24/7 support and unlimited traffic. $100-25,000 per month. Pagely, WordPress.com VIP.
WordPress pages have a title and body content. They can be found at a specific URL (e.g. yoursite.com/about could be your About page).
The Body Content Editor
Add body content to a page in the rich text editor. Use the toolbar buttons to format and align text.
Click the Add Media button to upload and embed images, audio, video, and other files from your computer into the body.
You can paste URLs from other sites like Twitter, Youtube and Instagram right into the editor body, which turn into embedded media like this:
Blog posts have a title and body content just like pages. The blog homepage displays all blog posts going backwards in time.
A blog post can be assigned to a category like Music. Categories are a way for visitors to find related content in the blog, e.g. by looking at all posts in the Music category.
Visitors can leave comments on your blog post.
User accounts identify people who can log into the site. A user is given a role that limits what they can do. e.g. An author can write, but can’t edit another user’s content.
A Theme outputs the site’s visitor facing pages. You can manage a site’s theme under the Appearance > Themes menu item. You can switch between various themes, which may include different designs, fonts and page layouts.
WordPress comes with official “bundled” themes named after the year they were made like Twenty Sixteen. More free themes can be downloaded from the official Theme repository. Companies also sell themes which you’ll have to buy from their website.
Widgets are pieces of content (like a site search or list of recent comments) that fit into a side column on your site or another widget area that the theme defines. Widgets can be managed in Appearance > Widgets.
A menu is a list of links which can be placed on your site in an area that the theme defines.
The Customizer is a way to make changes to your site and preview the changes live. You can switch themes, modify widgets, menus and more without making the changes live until you’re ready.
Plugins provide extra functionality to WordPress. One of WordPress’ philosophies is to be Clean, Lean and Mean, meaning it provides a basic experience to suit 80% of its users. Want more specific features? Look for a plugin that does what you need.
You can search for and install plugins from the official WordPress repository. Companies also sell plugins which you’ll have to buy from their website.
WordPress Software Updates
Major versions of WordPress include one “dot” value, e.g. 3.5 and 3.6 are separate major versions. Major versions include big features and bug fixes every 4 months. Releases are announced on the WordPress.org blog. Web hosts are starting to automatically upgrade WordPress sites as major versions become available, and make sure nothing breaks.
Minor versions of WordPress include two “dot” values, e.g. 3.5.1 and 3.6.2 are separate minor versions. Minor versions include security updates and bug fixes. WordPress will automatically upgrade to new minor versions as they become available.
Plugins and themes are updated manually.