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Introduction to WordPress

What is WordPress?

WordPress is a versatile content management system (CMS) which enables users to design, publish and maintain their websites without any coding knowledge or technical expertise. The software is incredibly popular because it is open-source, free and user-friendly. There is also a wonderful community of highly skilled developers who are eager to fix bugs and develop amazing new features.

Launched in 2003 and now powering 43% of the web, developing your WordPress knowledge and skills WordPress. This article offers a quick overview of the most important concepts you need to know if you are going to use WordPress to manage your website.

The WordPress Software

WordPress is simply a piece of software you can install to help build and maintain a website so you can share your ideas with the world. It is a very accessible content management system with lots of visually appealing themes for a great user experience. The plugins then help extend the functionality of your theme and improve audience engagement.

Although WordPress is straightforward to learn, it can be quite challenging without the right guides and tutorials. We are going to continue with an introduction to the key concepts of WordPress in this guide, but our overview of the administration screen will help you become more familiar with the layout of the software. You should also consider our explanation of the difference between posts and pages.

screenshot of the WordPress dashboard
The WordPress Administration Screen

The Frontend of a Website

When someone visits your website and interacts with your engrossing text, impressive images or embedded videos, they are viewing the frontend. The frontend also refers to how users click the links and open menus to navigate around the site, the graphic design and the layout of each page, contact forms, and the overall user experience.

Representation is an incredibly important aspect of your product. You need to make sure your writing is engaging and the images help support the message you are trying to communicate to your intended audience.

The Backend of a Website

Significantly, WordPress gives you control of what goes on behind the scenes of a website. While it takes care of most of the programming and coding, helping store and organise the data, you can focus your efforts on the content and flow of your site. The backend includes the server which provides the infrastructure and information to ensure everything actually works when a user visits your site.

If someone clicks an internal link to your homepage, for example, their browser sends a request to your server which then returns the necessary information so their computer can interpret and display the correct content.

In conclusion, the front-end and back-end come together to create a functional website. This flow of communication is summarised in the following infographic:

how WordPress Works diagram

WordPress Themes

A WordPress theme will determine the overall look and feel of your website without the usual coding and technical experience often needed to design a site. This is one of the main reasons why so many people love WordPress. With a few clicks of a button, you can completely change how your content is displayed on the frontend (a user’s browser) until you find the right style to grab your audience’s attention.

Themes control the presentation of your content, such as the layout of posts, the number of columns on a page, and even the font size and colour of your writing. In other words, WordPress themes make your site look beautiful.

There are plenty of developers who have designed and built themes which are available for free. You should explore the themes in the WordPress Theme Directory because they must meet stringent requirements to be included on that list. You can access the official repository from your WordPress dashboard. On the main menu, select “Appearance” and then click “Themes” to open the relevant work area.

A fresh installation of WordPress comes with the latest default themes. In the following example, the Twenty Twenty-Two theme is activated.

screenshot of the WordPress Themes dashboard
WordPress Themes Dashboard

Clicking the “Add New” button at the top of the screen will take you to the theme directory. Read our overview of installing a WordPress theme for more information.

WordPress Templates

Most themes come with a collection of template files which are saved on your server. These files are an important part of a WordPress theme because they contain the different aspects of the page, such as the main menu’s shape and style, what’s included in the footer, the sidebar’s design, and whether or not posts will include a comments section. Fortunately, if you choose a theme which suits your niche and needs, you can largely ignore these files.

WordPress Plugins

Plugins extend and enhance the functionality of your WordPress website, making it easier to add awesome features without the need to write a single line of code. There are backend plugins which secure your site from hackers, improve your page loading speeds, optimise how your images perform in a browser, offer events calendars and booking forms, and stop spammers from posting rogue comments to your posts. Frontend plugins include cool image galleries and carousals, support for embedding YouTube videos, and advanced styles for a wide range of design features.

No matter what you need to include on your site, there will be a plugin to help you realise your vision.

Around 60,000 free plugins are available to download form the Plugins Directory, but a new WordPress installation will be pre-loaded with two. You can go ahead and delete both.

screenshot of the WordPress Plugins Dashboard
WordPress Plugins Dashboard

Every live needs protection from bots, scammers and cybercriminals, so you should prioritise downloading a security plugin first. With over 4 million active installations, Wordfence is one of the most trusted and popular security plugins for WordPress sites. iThemes Security and SiteGround Security are also worth checking out. If you look at the screenshot of the Plugins dashboard, we have blurred out our security plugin – feel free to choose your own.

You find out more about installing and updating plugins in our quick guide to WordPress plugins.

Pages and Posts

As you already know, WordPress is a terrific platform to create and manage your website because of all the wonderful themes and plugins available to download for free. There are lots of talented developers from around the world who help make WordPress one of the best website management systems for everyone from the humble blogger to the largest conglomerate. You just need to write great content.

However, the way WordPress separates content into pages and posts can be confusing to first-time users. Generally speaking, pages are used for static content, such as about us and contact pages, whereas posts are designed for more dynamic content which is updated on a regular basis. If you are still not sure, read our overview of the difference between posts and pages for more information.

Although there are other page builders available, WordPress comes with its own simple drag-and-drop interface called Gutenberg Blocks. Our guide to Gutenberg Blocks is essential reading if you want to use WordPress to publish your thoughts and ideas online.

Categories and Tags

Another key feature of WordPress is the way the platform organises your posts into categories and tags. This feature helps visitors navigate around your site and find the information they need.

Categories are used to group related posts together. For instance, all our guides to semiotics are listed under our semiotics category so users can begin to make connections between the different theorists and theories. It is important to note all pages must be assigned to category.

By contrast, tags are optional and are usually more specific to the post. Continuing the semiotics example, we could tag posts with Roland Barthes each time the theorist appears in an article. However, most themes come with an effective search function which achieves the same result. Just click the magnifying glass at the top of the screen to try out this ubiquitous feature.

You can find out more about organising posts in our guide to adding and editing categories in WordPress.

Final Thoughts

Lots of people use WordPress to learn the basics of publishing content online. In fact, you can sign-up for a free (but limited) website with wordpress.com and start communicating with the world right away. Or you can host WordPress locally on your own computer to get a better understanding of the software’s full potential. It’s a bit tricky but this tutorial by Envato tuts+ can help.

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