The great news is that even if you aren’t a huge magazine, news station, or celebrity, you can still harness the power of WordPress for yourself.
By it’s simplest definition, WordPress is web software that anyone can use to publish a website or blog.
Released way back in 2003, WordPress now has grown to being the basis of 70 million websites, accounting for more than 20% of the web.
There are two ways that you can use WordPress, you can go with the fully hosted WordPress.com or you can download the software at WordPress.org and upload it to your website host and host WordPress yourself.
If you’re curious to know more about WordPress.com, here’s a side by side comparison chart of WordPress.com vs WordPress.org.
The following article focuses on WordPress.org, the self-hosted flavor of WordPress. Read on to find out more about the world of self-hosted WordPress.
What Makes WordPress So Awesome
- WordPress is free – WordPress doesn’t cost a dime. You can go over to WordPress.org right now and download the software an unlimited amount of times and host it an unlimited amount of places for an unlimited amount of websites. The price is right!
- WordPress is open source – Which is basically nerdspeak for software that is evolving and improving daily through volunteer web developers and a strong sense of community.
- WordPress is user friendly – with a web based editor, similar to composing an email, WordPress allows you to publish to the web from anywhere with internet connection.
- WordPress is extensible – Another nerdterm which essentially means that even if some feature does not already exist in WordPress or a plugin, you can develop those features to extend WordPress. Your only limitations are your own abilities or your budget to hire a developer.
- WordPress is scalable – so you can start out simple and then build your website as you build your practice. Add contact forms, newsletter optins, surveys, tests, membership sites, ecommerce, and basically anything else. WordPress can grow with you.
- WordPress is great for SEO – Some SEO is based on how well your WordPress theme is coded but some of it can also be added on with plugins and optimizing content.
- WordPress doesn’t own your content – unlike some site builders like wix and godaddy site builder where your content lives in some magical far off land, with WordPress self-hosted, you own your content. It lives in a database that you can pick up and move around. You can back it up on your computer, switch it over to a new website host, give it to a friend, or load it onto a usb and bury it in your time capsule.
- WordPress is popular – I’m not always one to go with the crowd but in this case, WordPress’ popularity is very very good. It means that most questions that you have, have already been answered. A google search and you’ll likely find a solution.
Most modern website hosting will have the ability to host WordPress but before you purchase your hosting plan, make sure that it is WordPress compatible.
In recent years, there are several website hosts that offer hosting packages that they’ve put together specifically for WordPress users. It’s usually called “WordPress managed hosting.”
The extra features included in WordPress managed hosting can vary but typically include things like extra security, extra speed, automatic core updates, and specialized support. Also, most managed options come with WordPress pre-installed! How easy is that? That removes one big step out of the set up so I’m a huge fan.
You can read more about WordPress Managed hosting options in this great article on whether or not WordPress managed hosting is worth the cost. You can also check out my favorites: for economy level managed hosting, try Siteground (af link), and for premium level, try Flywheel (af link).
Once you have WordPress installed on your website host, you’ll have the ability to control the look of your WordPress driven website through the use of something called a theme.
WordPress defines a theme as this:
A WordPress Theme is a collection of files that work together to produce a graphical interface with an underlying unifying design for a weblog. These files are called template files. A Theme modifies the way the site is displayed, without modifying the underlying software. – WordPress on Using Themes
In plain English, a theme handles the the look and presentation of the content on your website.
There are probably a quadrillion themes available on the internet but it’s important to know that there is no regulation as to who can create and sell them.
For free themes, that are regulated to meet at least basic code standards, you can check out the WordPress.org theme directory.
Avoid places like Themeforest for purchasing themes as these are the types of theme marketplaces that sell themes that are coded poorly or have very little support. If you are not sure about the reputation or experience of the makers of a theme, run the theme by an experienced WordPress developer for their opinion and experiences with the theme or theme makers.
Because pre-made themes are mass produced, you may not want to use it as is. Many people purchase or use a free theme and then do customizations to make it fit their website strategy or match their brand.
Themes can also be designed and developed from scratch by a WordPress developer. A custom theme unleashes a world of possibilities.
Whenever you want to add functionality to your website, you add something called a plugin. They’re kinda like how you can download apps on your phone to get more features. Right now, there are 38,955 free plugins you can check out in the official WordPress plugin repository. You can also browse a handful of my favorite plugins on my WordPres.org profile.
Some plugins are coded and documented well and others aren’t. Although there are basic standards to which all of the plugins adhere in order to even get into the repository, it is wise to do a bit of research about plugins before adding them to your site. A poorly coded or managed plugin could mean security vulnerabilities which is no fun.
Plugins can also be coded specifically for you by an experienced WordPress developer. In my custom build projects, I always code a plugin to go along with the custom theme to keep the functionality and presentation layers clean and separate (and according to best practices).
Where to Go for Help
One of the best things about WordPress is it’s vibrant, supportive online community. WordPress has it’s own support forum which is quite active.
And WordPress also has pages upon pages of documentation in something called the codex.
If you’re a FB fan there are also FB groups for WordPressers. There’s one for beginners , and intermediate WordPress users, designers, and developers. There’s also a plugin group . And even a group which just exists to index all of the quality groups that are about WordPress on Facebook.
Some of the best help you can get with WordPress however is from a friendly designer or developer near you! Nothing can really come close to having a mentor or one-on-one training sessions as needed.
Where to Go to Learn
If you’re interested in taking the dive into WordPress, some of the best places to learn are Lynda and Treehouse. Both places allow you to go really deep and technical but also offer some beginner courses.
My go-to course recommendation for most beginners to WordPress is WordPress Essential Training over at Lynda.com.
If you’re thinking that you’d like to go deeper and quickly get into WordPress developing skills, then How to Make a Website with WordPress at Treehouse would be a good option too.
TIP: You can sign up for a free trial at both of these websites! If you’re interested in a course, you could go sign up for the trial, complete the course in a few days, and essentially do them for free.
WordPress Is Awesome But…
As awesome and exciting as WordPress is, it’s not going to do the work of your business for you. It can help you put yourself out there, publish your content, build your email list, sell digital downloads, host your podcast episodes and webinars, it can help you do so many things.
But at the end of the day, the marketing and website strategy needed to get people onto your website and converted into clients is something that has to be done by you. No amount of design, code, plugins, themes, or hosting can replace a marketing strategy. WordPress is the house, and although it’s really sturdy and beautiful, you are the one that has to invite people in!