What is WordPress?
WordPress is a Content Management System (CMS) that is used to build websites. It was originally used to build blog style websites which is like on online diary of events. So somebody might write about their travels around the world, or about building their own house, restoring an old car, their journey through pregnancy. For this reason WordPress enables you to create two types of page. A information page, maybe ‘About Us’ and ‘Contact Us’ and then posts which are the diary style pages which are created with an authors name and a date. The reason for the authors name is that you can have more than one person contributing to a blog so it is useful to know who submitted the post.
However as time has gone by WordPress is used to create all sorts of websites and not just blogs. WordPress is commonly used to create business websites and ecommerce websites as well. The reason for this is that it is just so easy to use. With very little technical knowledge you can soon have your own online presence.
WordPress is Open Source software which means that it is free to use and free for developers to modify and to create additional pieces of add on software. These add ons are called Plugins because you can just select whichever ones you want to use and plug them into your website to use them. They add all sorts of extra features and usability and there literally thousands that are free to use. There are also paid for Premium plugins but you only have to buy those if you really need them, and in most cases you don’t need them. So WordPress is basically free software that allows you to build your own website. The only things you need to pay for to use WordPress is a domain name and web hosting. I have covered web hosting and domain names elsewhere but in brief your domain name is your website url, it’s address, the thing that mostly ends in .com. It is becoming increasingly difficult ti find a meaningful .com domain name these days as everything gets snapped up quite quickly. You often get to choose a free domain name with a web hosting plan, other wise they generally cost around $10-$15. One of the est known and cheapest suppliers of domain names is namecheap. Have a quick browse at what is available by clicking here Namecheap.
Again web hosting is covered elsewhere but it is basically where your website is stored and where people can access it from. In my opinion the best web hosting company for WordPress websites is Siteground. I use them for all my WordPress websites because they offer the best combination of price and service. You can see them here. Siteground
Installing WordPress For The First Time
When you click on the banner above you will see three pricing plans. For a new website, you just need the entry level ‘Start Up’ plan. Click on the get plan button and just follow the instructions. Next you go to Websites in the menu and click on ‘New website’ and again just follow the instructions.
Siteground is just so easy to work with to create your first website. Once you have bought your hosting and added your domain, just go to the Websites tab and your new domain name appears there. Underneath your website name click on ‘Site Tools’ and in the left hand menu click on WordPress, then on Install & Manage and where it says WordPress click on Select.
You are now installing WordPress onto your new website. The process is very simple and straightforward with just a couple of steps. You will be asked to enter a log in name and password, make sure that you can remember these.
At the end of the process you will have a link to your new website and a link to the admin control panel where you will actually build your website.
Every WordPress website has a theme, the theme is it’s basic design and you can change themes whenever you like to change the look of your website. Changing the theme doesn’t delete your pages, it just displays them in a new design.
A Brief Overview of the WordPress Control Panel
The WordPress Control Panel is consists of a menu down the left hand side and a large panel to the right which displays the content that relates to the menu item that you have selected. What you see in the menu panel depends on what features you have installed and activated but lets look at a typical menu set. Let’s start from the top of the menu list. As you click on each item a sub menu opens up beneath it, again dependent on your particular installation setup.
Dashboard – This is an overview of you WordPress installation. In the sub menu there is one called updates. A red number alongside indicates the number of updates that are required. When you click on updates a list all those updates appears in the main display panel. These can be updates to WordPress itself or to the various plugins you are working with.
Posts – Posts are the diary type pages that you create. They can be used for any page that you want to create but are dated and are displayed on your blog page with the newest at the top. You don’t have to create your content using posts or even display the blog page, but most users do. Most people using WordPress will use Posts to create their additional content that they add on a regular basis, leaving the Pages option for the static more structural pages of your website.
Media – This is where you can access all of the photographic images that you use on your website. The sub menu has the library itself and a button to add new but in reality you usually add images from within the page that you are creating.
Pages – These are similar to posts but they are not dated and will not appear on your blog page, if you have one. Most people use Pages to create the static pages that you have around the your blog pages. So your home page, contact page, about us page are all created here separately from your blog pages.
Comments – This is an option that allows your readers to reply to, or comment on the content that you create in your posts, they cannot comment on your pages, just your posts. It is up to you whether you want to allow people to comment on your posts, it can be switched off, or you can control it by reviewing and approving each comment before it becomes live. Some people like to leave comments on because it allows a more direct connection and dialogue with visitors, and it also keeps the post fresh by allowing others to add more content by way of their replies. Some prefer to have it switched off so that it doesn’t add clutter to the post. The choice is yours.
Appearance – This is where you have control of the look of your website. The first sub menu item is Themes. You can choose from literally thousands of different themes here. You can see which themes are immediately available to you, or by clicking the ‘Add New’ button see more to choose from. You can type anything you like into the search bar and more available themes related to that word will populate the display. For each one you have a ‘Details & Preview’ button and an ‘Install’ button. Installing one makes it available for you to use. You then click ‘Activate’ to make that theme live. Don’t worry you can reactivate your previous theme if you don’t like the new one that you selected. The next sub menu is ‘Customize’, this is where you can make changes within the theme that you have chosen. You ca change the header, the footer, colors, change the text colors add a favicon. This section has so many areas to change that I will create a separate guide to it elsewhere. Next we come to Widgets. Widgets are panels of information that are outside of your main content area. You can choose what,if anything is displayed in these panels from here. The panels are ‘Sidebar’ this is a vertical panel that can appear, either to the right or the left of your main content area. This is sometimes used as a menu area for navigational purposes, sometimes it is used to display advertising banners. There is also the option to have a widget panel below the header. The footer (the panel that sits across the bottom of a web page) is split into 4 columns. You can display text, images and links in any, or all of these columns. Next we come to Menus, you can create more than one menu. By menu we aren’t talking about a restaurant menu. In WordPress a Menu is a Navigation Menu, so that you can display links to your most important pages. The menu can then be placed in a variety of locations. Most websites have a navigation menu somewhere across the top header section as this is where visitors expect to see it, but you might have a secondary navigation menu somewhere else, maybe in the sidebar, to the left or right of your main page content. Next on the Sub Menu is Header, This is also accessible from the earlier ‘Customize’ section. The Header is the section across the top of the page, above your main content. Here you can add an image to display across here and also change the color of the menu text in case it is lost against the image yo decide to display here. Next in the sub menu we come to ‘Background’,this refers to the background of your main content area. You can change the colour of that background or place an image in the background, just make sure that your content can still be easily read against this background. You can just leave it with a plain white background if you prefer. Finally we come to Theme Editor. This is only for experienced html coders. In most cases you are advised not to edit your theme code as you can cause issues with the theme which can be difficult to rectify, so my advice is, do’t go here unless you know what you are doing.
Plugins – These are add ons that you can choose to add that can improve various aspects of your website. They can improve performance but are mostly additional tools and features that you can build on to your website. Imagine making improvements to your car, maybe bigger wheels and tires, a spoiler, better seats, more gauges and instruments, bigger headlights. This is the same idea. You can find all sorts of plugins from pop ups to collect visitor email addresses, to GDPR compliance plugins, to Ecommerce, Marketing and Analytics. There are literally thousands to choose from, depending on what you need your website to do. Just like with Themes, you can browse plugins, install them, activate them and then switch them back off if you don’t like them. As you install plugins they will be added to your left hand menu so that you can set them up and work with them.
Users – You are the main user of the admin area of your website, but you can give access to others by adding a new user here if you need to.
Tools – These are various admin tools that you might want to use. Some plugins will add their control panels into this section instead of the main menu.
So there we have a brief introduction to WordPress for beginners. Why not subscribe to my email then as I write new guides and advice for WordPress you will get then straight into your inbox and won’t miss anything.
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After almost 20 years building websites I only use one hosting company for all my websites. They are Siteground and in my opinion offer the best web hosting packages especially for WordPress based websites. Yes you might find one slightly cheaper, but I have been there and done that, and after learning the hard way I will only use Siteground. Click on the banner below to find out more