If you’re planning on setting up a website for yourself or your business, chances are you’ve come across WordPress. You might be wondering what WordPress is and what sets it apart from other website systems.
In this article, you’ll learn what WordPress is, how it compares to other web platforms, and what its benefits are.
WordPress Comes in Two Flavors
There are two types of WordPress site: WordPress.com and WordPress.org, also known as self-hosted WordPress. Let’s look at the differences between the two.
WordPress.org, or self-hosted WordPress, is code that creates a website for you. To get your own website, you install that code on your hosting account, and then set up your website.
The code is open source, and anyone can download it for free. You can either download it from the WordPress.org website, or you can use a one-click auto-installer provided by your hosting company (which is much easier).
Once you’ve done that, you can do whatever you like with the code—it’s yours. You can add a theme to define the way the site looks. You can add plugins to give your site extra functionality like mailing list signups or a social media feed. You can even add your own code if you want, or edit the existing code (not a good idea if you’re not experienced).
There are thousands of free plugins and themes. If you like, you can pay for a premium theme or plugin. You don’t get these from WordPress, but from a third-party provider. You don't necessarily need a premium theme to create a professional website, but there is a good choice at ThemeForest.
The Best WordPress Themes on ThemeForest
You can explore thousands of the best WordPress themes ever created on ThemeForest. With a low-cost one time payment, you can purchase these high-quality WordPress themes and improve your website experience for you and your visitors.
Here are a few of the best-selling and up-and-coming WordPress themes available on ThemeForest for 2020.
So to sum up, with a WordPress.org site, you buy hosting and then install the free software and add whatever theme or plugins you want. If you don’t buy premium themes or plugins, all you pay for is the hosting.
If you decide to go with a WordPress.org site, take a look at SiteGround. It comes with an easy installer, free support, and automatic updates. We're happy to be able to offer a huge discount of 70% off self-managed WordPress hosting, thanks to our partnership with SiteGround.
WordPress.com is an installation of WordPress that belongs to a company. This isn’t the same company that runs WordPress overall—that’s a nonprofit foundation.
This company (Automattic) lets you create a site on their server, meaning the code belongs to them. You can get a basic site for free, but if you want extra features such as a better than average theme, getting rid of ads, or using your own domain, you’ll have to pay for a premium plan.
There are two main differences:
- The code isn’t yours. If the site goes down, or WordPress.com ceases to exist (admittedly unlikely), your site is lost.
- You’re limited to the themes and plugins offered by WordPress.com. You can’t add any others unless you get a paid plan.
The upside is that if you’re starting out on a tight budget, you can get a free site, then build on that in future when funds allow. But for a professional business site, I would recommend starting with self-hosted WordPress, which gives you much more flexibility.
If you decide to switch to self-hosted WordPress further down the line, you can.
WordPress Is a Content Management System
So those are the two types of WordPress. But what’s also worth knowing is that they both run off the same codebase, which is a content management system, or CMS.
A CMS is software that creates a website that you can add content to without coding new pages. It has admin screens for you to create and edit that content, which it then stores in a database. The software then pulls all this together when people visit your site.
A self-hosted WordPress site will consist of three things:
- the WordPress installation itself
- the database, which stores all the content you add and your settings
- any files you add, including plugins, themes, and uploads such as images
WordPress.com is a little different as you’ll have a site on Automattic’s WordPress installation, which uses something called WordPress Multisite to make it possible.
You don’t need to worry about all these elements: it’s all held together by the admin screens, which you use to manage and update your site.
Why Is WordPress a Great Way to Create a Website?
WordPress is the website platform used by more than a third of the entire internet. It’s used by everyone from mom and pop operations to multinational conglomerates, because it’s flexible, robust, and great value for money.
Here are a few reasons why WordPress has grown to be the world’s biggest CMS:
1. It’s Free or Very Cheap
The code underpinning WordPress is free, and always will be.
You might be rolling your eyes and thinking, yeah, yeah, I’ve heard that before. But it’s true.
WordPress is run by a nonprofit organization called the WordPress Foundation. Its code is developed by hundreds if not thousands of volunteers. Some of these people are paid for their time, but they’re not paid by the WordPress Foundation. They’re paid by the companies that employ them, because these companies are built around WordPress and know that developing WordPress is good for their business.
This is a model called open source. WordPress isn’t the only software built on this model: you can read more about open source on Wikipedia.
Now, in the real world, if you want a professional website you’re going to have to pay something. If your site is built on self-hosted WordPress, you’ll have to buy hosting. If you’re on WordPress.com and want advanced features (such as your own domain name), you’ll need to pay for a premium plan. And you may decide to pay for premium plugins such as those at CodeCanyon.
The Best WordPress Plugins on CodeCanyon
You can explore thousands of the best WordPress plugins ever created on CodeCanyon. With a low-cost one-time payment, you can purchase these high-quality WordPress plugins and improve your website experience for you and your visitors.
Here are a few of the best-selling and hot new WordPress plugins available on CodeCanyon for 2020.
2. It’s Popular
So what? you ask. I don’t want to follow the crowd.
But using software that’s popular gives you two advantages:
- It’s less likely to disappear.
- If you need help, there’s plenty available.
The WordPress support forums are packed with helpful people who are happy to answer your questions. There are thousands if not millions of articles on the internet which will answer your WordPress questions. And if you do need to hire a developer in the future, you’ll have no problem finding one.
Using the world’s biggest content management system (CMS) gives you a degree of robustness that many other platforms can’t give you.
3. It’s on Your Turf
This third benefit only applies to self-hosted WordPress sites.
Unlike your Facebook page or your Twitter account, it’s your site. You have access to the data and can use it to sell products or services, to communicate with followers, or to build a mailing list.
Unlike a site on a website builder like Wix or a blogging platform like Blogger, it’s yours. You own the code and all of the content. Sure, you’ll need to buy hosting space to host that code and content, but your hosting provider has no rights to your website.
If your hosting provider should go out of business (or if you decide they aren’t good enough anymore), you can take all of your code and your content and move it to another hosting provider. A good hosting provider will do all this for you when you move to them. But if Wix disappeared and you decided to move to Squarespace (i.e. from one website builder to another), you’d have to start again from scratch.
4. It’s Flexible
WordPress is by far the most flexible website platform. By installing plugins, you can add just about whatever you like to it.
A plugin is extra code that makes something happen on your site. It might add a link to your newsletter list, or an online store, or a gallery of cute cat photos. It means that the core code for WordPress itself doesn’t have to include stuff you might not need. If you want that extra functionality, just install a plugin.
Want a video streaming site? WordPress can do it.
Want to sell products in your own online store? No problem, and for free.
Want to add extra sections, for reviews, or events, or a blog, or anything?
Want to add maps, or quizzes, or slideshows?
WordPress can run anything from a one-page site designed to encourage people to contact you to a vast multimedia site with everything you could ever want to tell visitors about you and your business. And you can add whatever you want as you go along, without deciding on all of it at the beginning.
Start small, and grow—if you need to.
And even better, you can do it all without spending any extra money.
5. It’s Robust
Some years ago, WordPress had a reputation for being insecure. This was largely around a few specific plugins that introduced vulnerabilities to the system, and they were by no means included with every WordPress site.
Since then, things have changed. WordPress is secure, it’s fast, it’s well coded, it’s accessible, it’s mobile-friendly (with the right theme), and it’s easy to back up.
If this weren’t the case, then news sites and government bodies wouldn’t use it. And they do.
WordPress is based on clean, well-written code that means your site will run faster, something Google loves. A fast site will boost your search engine rankings.
With the addition of some free plugins, you can make a self-hosted WordPress site more robust still, enhancing security, boosting speed, and making it easy to back up and restore your site with one click. With WordPress.com, this all comes out of the box.
As long as you keep your site up to date (which can be automated), you can have peace of mind.
6. It’s User-Friendly
Why have I left this till last?
Because it’s one of those myths about WordPress. It has a reputation for being unwieldy and hard to work with.
It’s a myth that’s sometimes spread by people who’ve worked with WordPress in a corporate environment; people whose employers probably have a highly customized site that may be less than intuitive. A site like this is worlds away from the kind of WordPress site an individual or small business needs.
With the right theme, you can get yourself set up with a gorgeous site using an interface that’s as easy to learn as a website builder.
The new Gutenberg interface for writing posts is designed to be user-friendly and intuitive, with a full-screen mode that lets you focus on your writing, and blocks to help you add media and other types of content.
Installing and activating plugins is all done via the admin screens (no code required).
Now, I’m not going to say that WordPress is as intuitive as a website builder. But I believe that the trade-offs for that aren’t worth it. Website builders give you less flexibility, can run slower, aren’t as accessible for people with disabilities, and can be much, much more expensive.
Try It for Yourself
The only way to really understand how WordPress works and what it offers you is to try it out. Why not set yourself up a free site at WordPress.com, or sign up for a cheap hosting package and install self-hosted WordPress today? You can start small and grow your site, and our resources here at Envato Tuts+ will help you on the way.