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What is WordPress? – A Beginner’s Guide

Many individuals thinking of starting a website will discover or hear about WordPress and need more information about getting started. So, what is WordPress?

In this beginner’s guide, the goal is to help those interested in starting a website make an informed decision about whether or not to use WordPress.

This article will cover a simple breakdown of what WordPress is, how WordPress works, who uses it, and the types of websites that it can make.

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If you’d like to jump to the section you’re looking for, a hyperlinked table of contents is available.

What is WordPress?

WordPress is the most popular free and open-source website builder or way to create a website on the internet. Millions of people are using WordPress every day.

Over 400+ million people view more than 20 billion pages each month. According to W3Techs, a web technologies survey company, more than 40% of all websites on the internet are powered by WordPress.

Not only that, but many of the biggest well-known brands and entities are using WordPress to power their businesses, including companies such as The Walt Disney Company, Sony Music, Rolling Stone, The New York Times, The White House website, the website you’re reading, and countless others.

Technical note: WordPress is an open-source content management system (CMS) that is licensed under GPLv2, which means that anyone can use, share, study, or modify the WordPress software for free. A content management system, in simple terms, is a tool used to manage the content of your website; without needing to be a developer or computer scientist.

WordPress was started in 2003 as a blogging platform. It was then quickly transformed into a content management system. Today WordPress has evolved into a full-fledged website builder.

Now, bloggers, businesses, and anyone looking to start a website can build, publish, and maintain websites quickly and easily; without the necessity of having to pay a developer or technical team.

If you’ve already started researching in your web browser, for WordPress, you’ll find that two versions, WordPress.org and WordPress.com, come up in the search results.

What’s the Difference Between WordPress.org and WordPress.com?

Many individuals who have decided to start blogging or want to create a website, learn about WordPress, pretty early on in their research. Beginners are often confused by the two different versions that share the same name.

Here’s a simple explanation, what the two main differences between WordPress.org and WordPress.com are, in a non-technical way.

The Two Main Differences

  • WordPress.org often called, “self-hosted WordPress” is the free, open-source software that you can install on your web host to create and design magnificent websites that are 100% your own.
  • WordPress.com is a separate for-profit paid service that offers web hosting services and is powered by the WordPress.org software. It’s really easy to use, but a lot of the flexibility and control you get with WordPress.org is lost.

Most of the time when people talk about WordPress and in this article, when we say, “WordPress”, we are specifically talking about WordPress.org.

So far, we’ve covered some simple explanations about what WordPress is and what the two main differences between them are, particularly, that WordPress.org is the free open-source software and WordPress.com is a paid service.

For further reading, we recommend: What’s the Difference Between WordPress.org and WordPress.com?

How WordPress Works?

Once WordPress is installed and you are logged in, you’ll see the administration screens with the dashboard selected. In the left column, there are links that take you to different admin areas. From here, you can create menus, pages, or make your first blog post.

New WordPress Website Dashboard

You’ll also have access to the WordPress theme repository. From there you can install a website template also known as a WordPress theme. There are thousands of free themes to choose from as well as premium themes with more advanced features.

WordPress themes from the WordPress theme directory.

All WordPress themes utilize an easy-to-use theme customizer interface. Here you’ll have the ability to customize and change your site design.

WordPress Theme Customizer

To learn more about choosing a WordPress theme take a look at: How to Choose a WordPress Theme for your Website.

But the real power behind WordPress comes from the ability to install plugins.

WordPress plugins are similar to apps you install on your smartphone. They allow you to add new features and functionality.

For instance, you can add a contact form to your website, add a newsletter subscription form, or add a popup to announce a sale.

If you want to sell products, then install the WooCommerce plugin or use a vendor plugin to create a marketplace and have others do the selling.

If you have a subscription-based service to offer, you can install a membership plugin.

There are currently well over 55,000+ free plugins available for anyone to use. There are also plenty of premium plugins that offer guaranteed updates and support.

To learn more about WordPress plugins we recommend reading: What are WordPress Plugins? And How do they Work?

What types of Websites Can WordPress Make?

Over the years, WordPress has grown exponentially, becoming a massive community with millions of people contributing and using WordPress every day.

Now, a vast sea of free and premium themes, plugins, and tools are available to anyone who wants to own a website. The flexibility of WordPress allows anyone to create a small business website or a full-fledged eCommerce marketplace.

Let’s take a look at some examples of the different types of websites that you can create with WordPress.

Types of Websites You Can Make with WordPress

  • Blogs
  • Business websites
  • eCommerce stores
  • eCommerce Marketplace
  • Social networks
  • Portfolios
  • Virtual Resume
  • Forums
  • Non-Profit
  • Membership sites
  • Learning Management Systems (LMS)
  • This website!
  • And so many more…

As you can see, the versatility that WordPress has to offer is why so many people are using it, making it the most popular website builder.

What Do You Need to Get Started with WordPress?

You will need to have a website domain name and a web hosting account to get started. All websites are required to have a domain name and web hosting to be visible across the internet.

A domain name is your website’s address on the internet. A good example is TarttWeb.com. A web host is where all of your website files are stored, so the internet community can access your website.

As an analogy, if your website was a physical business or a house, then your web host would be the building you’re in and your domain name would be the street address.

To get a web hosting account, you are going to need to sign up with a good WordPress hosting provider. Hosting providers are third-party companies that sell hosting solutions.

There are plenty of web hosting companies on the internet to choose from, but the best providers are going to be the ones that WordPress specifically recommends, such as:

Official WordPress Recommended Web Hosts

Here at TarttWeb, we use and recommend using DreamHost, which is a long-standing, well-established company and is officially a recommended hosting provider.

A domain name normally costs around 14.99 per year and web hosting starts from $3 – $10 per month.

DreamHost is offering TarttWeb.com users a special discount on hosting that includes a free domain name for the first year, free domain privacy, email that matches your domain, free SSL and 97 day money-back guarantee. Get started right now for just $2.59 per month.

Who Uses WordPress?

The growing list of WordPress users is quite large and includes many well-known entities such as small businesses, schools, universities, governments, non-profits, fortune 500 companies, TarttWeb.com, and many others.

Our Top Five Favorite Examples

  1. The Walt Disney Company
  2. Sony Music
  3. Rolling Stone
  4. The New York Times
  5. The White House

For further reading, we recommend: 30 Popular Big Name Brands that are Using WordPress

Why Use WordPress?

OK, so why use WordPress for your website? There are dozens, if not hundreds, of other website builders and possible WordPress alternatives on the market to choose from.

To help convince you that WordPress is a great option, if not the best option, we’ve put together a short list of our top three most compelling reasons.

1. WordPress is Free and Open-source

One of the biggest perks of WordPress is that it is free and open-source. This means that anyone can use it to create a website and have 100% full control with complete ownership. You are free to use, share, study, or modify it as you see fit. If you’re on a budget, then your only cost will be the domain name and web hosting to get started.

You will still need to pay for a domain name and web hosting to create a website, no matter the software or programming language.

But you will never have to pay for the WordPress software because it is protected by the WordPress Foundation, a non-profit organization, which isn’t the case with other website builders or alternatives.

2. WordPress is Beginner Friendly

One of the many reasons WordPress is the #1 website builder on the internet is because of its simplicity, flexibility, and control. You don’t need to be a tech genius to create a website with WordPress.

Once you get a domain name and web hosting setup, it will only take a couple of minutes to jump in and start creating a website.

Now don’t get me wrong, there is a slight learning curve, but nothing too overwhelming that an ambitious person couldn’t handle. Most beginners will get through it quickly and are ready to manage their website.

If you’re worried about the learning curve, rest assured, there is an enormous community using WordPress that has made finding free help and support super easy.

Don’t believe me, just do a simple search in your web browser for WordPress help and you’ll see the results are tremendous. There are lots of websites where you can find help, including this one.

Where to find help and support

  • Blogs
  • Forums
  • YouTube
  • Facebook Groups
  • TarttWeb.com
  • And many others…

3. WordPress is Super Flexible

The flexibility, simplicity, and control that WordPress has to offer is astounding. Once WordPress is installed, the capability to install third-party themes and plugins, many of which are free, is at your fingertips.

This means you will have the ability to choose from thousands of well-designed professional templates to create a website of your choosing.

On top of that, there are thousands of plugins that will allow you to add features and functionality to change your website into whatever you want.

With WordPress, you’re not going to get locked into a specific set of functions and then have to hire a developer. You’ll have the power and 100% control to be able to adapt and evolve as your business grows.

There are lots and lots of free plugins and themes, as well as premium ones, that will help get you started quickly.

WordPress offers a free theme and plugin repository that will get you started with only the initial investment of a domain name and web hosting.

There are currently over 55,000+ free WordPress plugins and more than 8,000+ free WordPress themes available as well as premium options.

If you’re curious about the free themes and plugins, take a look at these.

WordPress Themes and Plugins

Wrapping Up!

So, what is WordPress? It’s the most popular, beginner-friendly, super flexible, free, and open-source software that anyone can use to create modern websites of any type. It’s the most popular website builder on the Internet.

Remember that self-hosted WordPress.org and WordPress.com are two separate entities; they are not the same. The WordPress.org software will give you the flexibility and 100% control to create what you want and comes with the benefits and perks of the WordPress community.

If, you found this article helpful, let us know in the comments section, follow us on social media, or subscribe to our newsletter for more. If you need a guide or article written, contact us and select article request in the dropdown.

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Editorial Team

The Editorial Team at TarttWeb is a group of passionate people that love to help others, led by Jeff Tartt.

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