What Is WordPress? A Complete Introduction

WordPress is open-source software that allows you to set up a website. 

Having started as a blogging site, it has evolved into something far more extensive, which now runs almost 40% of the world’s websites. 

By the end of this article, you will have a good understanding of what WordPress is, its features and history, some great examples of it in use, its pros and cons, and how you can start your own WordPress site.


What Is WordPress?

WordPress is a website builder. You can create a website from scratch without any previous coding experience. WordPress itself is built of code, but you don’t need to know code to learn how to use WordPress.

WordPress can act just as a CMS (Content Management System) or be used to do far more than that. 

The WordPress software is built on: HTML, CSS, JavaScript, SQL, and PHP. 

HTML and CSS create the front-end look and feel of your website. JavaScript is the connection between front-end and back-end and also enhances the front-end. PHP and SQL manage your data.

WordPress has its own environment which consists of three main elements: content, design, and add-ons


1. WordPress Content

Creating content is simple in WordPress. Content can be blog articles, products, videos or a combination of all of these.  


2. WordPress Themes

WordPress Theme Image

Your WordPress theme determines your website’s design

It determines the look and feel of your website and the positioning of key web page components. 

Most of the settings related to your theme are displayed under the “Appearances” tab on the Admin Dashboard. 

Under Appearances, you can add a new WordPress theme, delete an existing one, choose Widgets and Menus, create your child theme, and see your theme’s computer code.

The WordPress Admin Screen


3. WordPress Plugins

A WordPress Plugin is a relatively small piece of code that usually modifies an existing component of your website. 

Plugins are tools used to achieve a specific task usually. By contrast, changes to a theme have an impact sitewide.  

The WordPress community contains hundreds of thousands of different plugins. Some are free, and some are premium paid for plugins. 

Plugins are available for all sorts of purposes, from e-commerce functions to user sign up forms and e-learning platforms.  

Unlike themes, plugins work with logic. For example, when you click a button, a plugin’s code is executed, and it then performs a task, for example, showing a popup.

Here are a couple of essential plugins you might want to use in your next WordPress website:


1. Yoast SEO: 

SEO means Search Engine Optimization. It is a crucial factor in your website being found by people through search engines. This plugin helps you through the process, from creating meta descriptions to improving your writing style. 

2. OptinMonster: 

This is a plugin that allows you to have high conversion rates for your products. Even though the users abandon your website, they can receive your emails or newsletters from you. 

3. Elementor: 

This plugin is a great solution to design your pages. The drag-and-drop user interface allows you to change the design of a page.

4. WP Super Cache

Caching is directly about the speed of your page. If a page is “cached”, your browser will remember certain elements, and the page will load more quickly. This plugin allows you to cache your pages and improve your speed.

5. Sucuri: 

Given how popular WordPress is, hackers target WordPress websites. This plugin enables many security options for your site like a firewall, malware removal, SEO spam remover and has more features.


5 Great Features of WordPress

It’s not a surprise that WordPress is the dominant site builder on the market. 


1. Simplicity and flexibility:

These are WordPress’s best features. Its simplicity means that you can launch an attractive website in under a day by buying plugins, themes and the like. Its flexibility allows you to create a blog and an e-commerce website with the same infrastructure. 

2. Freedom: 

WordPress is incredibly flexible.  From colour choices to plugins, WordPress allows you to create whatever you can imagine. 

3. Its components: 

WordPress keeps its content, themes, and plugins separate. This separation means that you don’t have to deal with design or add-ons every time you have new content. This compartmentalisation makes WordPress easy to master. 

4. Easy management: 

WordPress makes the whole process of managing a website faster. Software updates can be applied automatically, and creating and managing content is made as simple as possible. 

5. Community: 

WordPress is used by thousands of developers around the world. The broader WordPress community provides a lot of information online. If you hit a problem, there are lots of free WordPress tutorials on the web.

If you can’t find a solution to your problem, a huge pool of WordPress experts are available who can help you out. 


History of WordPress

Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little developed WordPress after a previous blogging platform (b2/cafelog) that they used was discontinued. 

The first version of WordPress was published in 2003. 

The Original WordPress GUI


Since then, almost every year, a new version of WordPress has been published. As of August 2021, the current version of WordPress is 5.8.

Most notably, the 2004 release, version 1.2 enabled plug-in architecture. Later, in 2005 the first theme, Kubrick, was released. 

In 2006, Automattic was founded by Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little. Automattic holds the trademarks of WordPress and WordPress logo currently. The Happy Cog development team joined forces with WordPress more recently, and the admin dashboard was released. 

The significant change to WordPress in recent years was in 2018 when the block editor Gutenberg was released. This allows the pages to be directly edited with a block editor without the need for another plugin.


Famous Websites That Use WordPress

It is estimated that almost 40% of websites now use WordPress (source), and this figure increases every year.

Users range from individuals to some of the world’s largest companies. 

Some examples of WordPress users include: 

  • Whitehouse.gov: Yes, the White House choose WordPress for their official website.
  • Sonymusic.com: One of the world’s most significant global music companies.
  • Nytco.com: The New York Times is an online newspaper visited by millions of people every day.
  • Thesun.co.uk: One of the most popular newspapers in the UK.

The fact that all of these sites are so different shows just how versatile WordPress is. 




When Is WordPress a Good Solution?

Whether WordPress is a good solution depends on the type of website you want to build. 

WordPress is the best option if you are looking to build a website and are not particularly technical. At its core, WordPress is easy to use and very user friendly.

Creating a beautiful, engaging site is simple as there are lots of providers of plugins and themes to help you get your site just right, whether it’s an online store or a simple blog. 

WordPress is also a very good solution if you want to build an already established concept like e-commerce, blogging, or message board. You can usually quickly install plugins and themes already created for the purpose and be up and running in under a day.


When Is WordPress a Bad Solution?

Although WordPress is the leading site builder and CMS on the market, there are certain cases where WordPress just won’t be appropriate.

Generally, these are very specific or very high-performance websites. 

 For example, if you need your website to be highly secure. 

WordPress can provide SSL and security plugins, but these only go so far. They offer excellent general security rather than cutting edge protection from specific threats.

You could create a custom plugin, but this will be more time-consuming than creating the same tools elsewhere. WordPress isn’t a web application builder. It’s a website builder.


What Do I Need To Start A Website?

All websites require three things:

1. A domain. 

A domain is a URL people use to access your site, such as acuitytraining.com.

To use a domain, you must purchase it and register it with domain name registrar. This is generally something your hosting provider will manage for you. 

2. Hosting.

Hosting providers give you the space to store the files you’ll show to people and allow people to access those files over the internet.

3. A content management system (‘CMS’). 

A CMS is a software to hold and manage your content. Note this software (like WordPress) needs to be installed on your account with your hosting provider.


Note: Websites can be self-hosted using your own web server (without the need for a hosting provider) if you have sufficient technical knowledge. 


What Is The Easiest Way To Start A WordPress Website?

The easiest way to start a WordPress website is using WordPress.com, it makes setting up a new site incredibly straightforward. 

An account with WordPress.com includes a free domain such as mysite.wordpress.com and 3 GB of web hosting space with WordPress already installed. 

Once you have an account set up you are ready to go as they provide everything in one place.

The downside is that the functionality that WordPress.com offers is limited. They don’t offer the usual Admin Dashboard, and you have a limited choice of themes and plugins. Many people outgrow WordPress.com very quickly. 

WordPress.com Home PAge


How Do I Set Up A Commercial WordPress Website?

To set up a commercial WordPress website you will need a domain, hosting and WordPress. 

Most hosting providers now offer specialised packages WordPress hosting packages that make this simple to do. 

Your package will allow you to buy and register a domain through the hosting provider. A popular companies is WP Engine although there are lots of different companies out there. 

These packages will install WordPress for you with one click on to your hosting space.

They also include helpful features like SSL protection, unlimited traffic, and a varying amount of disk space.


What Is the Difference Between WordPress.com and WordPress.org?

WordPress.com is the free but limited option that we discussed above. It provides an all-in-one starter package for someone who is just starting a website. 

WordPress.org is the option that requires hosting space and domain but has unlimited possibilities.

The upside of WordPress.com is that it is free and much easier to use than even standard WordPress. If you are new to WordPress this is the place to start.

WordPress.org is a more advanced option. It is where you can find the WordPress software that you download and install at your hosting provider, as we mentioned above.  WordPress software is open source software and 100% free to use.  


Final Thoughts

So if you’re thinking about creating a website, dive in. 

WordPress is an incredible platform. 

It’s free, flexible and has tons of help online if you get stuck.