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WordPress for Beginners: What it is And How To Get Started

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WordPress (WP) is the most popular blogging platform on the Web. More than 60 million websites use WordPress.

I use WordPress for this very site. TechCrunch uses WordPress. And so does CNN. (See all of the big sites that use WP here.)

There are lots of reasons why you, too, should use WordPress if you're starting a blog-like website. To provide more insights on WP and how to start using it, I talked with Dave Warfel (co-creator and managing editor of WP Smackdown).

Before we get down to business, note that the information provided refers to the self-hosted version of WordPress that you install on your own server. For the hosted version, visit WordPress.com to learn more.

Note: The following responses are all in the words of Dave.

What is WordPress?

WordPress is free, open-source web software you can use to create a website. Since it’s inception in 2003, it has grown to become the largest self-hosted publishing platform in the world. In short, it is the most popular content management system (CMS) on the market today.

At its core, WordPress is comprised of a set of PHP, Javascript and CSS files, along with a MySQL database, that you download and install on a web server. After a simple, one-page installation, you can be up-and-running in less than 5 minutes.

Through the use of themes (design and layout) and plugins (functionality), WordPress is 100% customizable.

Why is WordPress important?

WordPress makes it incredibly easy to get started. Whether you’re an occasional blogger, service-based business, publishing news articles, showcasing your artwork or trying to sell products online:

WordPress lowers the barrier to entry.

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In addition to being easy to get started, it’s amazingly scalable. There’s no shortage of Fortune 500 companies powered by WordPress, as well as a popular news site that uses it strictly for managing content, while using a custom-built platform to deliver the content.

Aside from the endless possibilities that WordPress provides, perhaps its most impressive achievement is the community that it has cultivated. Experts and amateurs alike, you’ll find more people who live and breathe WordPress than almost any other website, technology or platform on the web today. Supported at the top by Automattic, Inc—and its founder, Matt Mullenweg—it’s the WordPress community that will ensure its success (and continued growth) for years to come.

Whatever your intentions, if you’re looking to build something on the web, WordPress is one of the most important tools you’ll find for turning your idea into reality.

Who Should Use WordPress?

One thing that has made WordPress so popular over the past 10 years is its appeal to both developers and writers, the tech-savvy and the business owner, the lover of design and the master of code. It’s easy to use right out of the box, but completely extensible for developers to add on.

You don’t need any coding knowledge to get started. Many WordPress-powered sites are built and maintained by people who have never touched a single line of code.

If you’re looking to create more of a custom experience, or your project has specific end goals in mind, you’ll probably need to get your hands dirty (or hire a WordPress developer to do the heavy lifting for you).

Still not sure if WP is for you?

To start customizing WordPress, a basic understanding of HTML and CSS is required. Check out WordPress’ CSS guide for a nice overview. Beyond that, some understanding of PHP would be helpful, but is certainly not necessary.

Example WordPress Sites

Here are a few examples of WordPress being used in a variety of ways.

  • Blogging: Whether it’s a personal or business blog, WordPress is perfect for disseminating your thoughts. See wptavern.com »
  • Ecommerce: Selling physical products? Digital downloads? Membership subscriptions? WordPress is a great option. See nicsocks.com »
  • Online Magazine: Arguably WordPress’ biggest strength is the managing of content. It’s an excellent choice for large, magazine sites. See vogue.com »
  • Higher Education: Colleges and universities have switched over to WordPress, making updates to seasonal web content less of a hassle for department heads. See boisestate.edu »
  • Community and Social Networking: While this requires a bit more customization to the core platform, WordPress can handle large, online communities. See tastykitchen.com »
  • Photography: Creative professionals all over the world use WordPress to showcase their digital works of art. See briansmith.com »
  • Fortune 500 Companies: One of the largest entertainment sites in the world runs on WordPress. See sonymusic.com »

Regardless of your next project, WordPress has a little something for everyone.

Best WordPress Resources for Beginners

Thanks Dave for providing such helpful information about getting started with WordPress! 

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Quickly: 3 Places I Recommend to Learn WordPress

  • Team Treehouse: Treehouse has some awesome beginner and intermediate level WordPress courses. They are one of the few online platforms that show how to build a custom theme.
  • Lynda.com: Lynda has literally thousands of online courses. At the time of writing, they have almost 70 WordPress courses. I know, insane.
  • First Site Guide: Resource for people building their first website – includes WordPress related articles and more.

As Dave talked about above, WordPress is a great CMS to get started with. I love it especially because of how easy it is for blogging.

About Dave Warfel

Dave is the co-creator and managing editor of wpsmackdown.com, a site dedicated to helping you achieve more with WordPress. You can also find him on Twitter here.

Image by Nikolay Bachiyski , via Flickr.