Getting Started with WordPress

Context: If you’re already using a WordPress site, it’s unlikely that you’ll find a lot of new information here. This is for anyone considering WordPress or just getting started with the platform. This is written for folks using WordPress rather than developers or designers creating pieces of the site.

What is WordPress?

Yeah, we’re starting here.

WordPress is a CMS, or Content Management System, that was established in around 2001. WordPress is used to build a “website,” however that’s defined by you. A website can be a simple collection of pages, a chronological blog (defined below), a forum site, a single-page, or anything else. If built correctly, WordPress can create almost any kind of site that you can imagine. It is only limited by your creativity (and your developers acuity).

There are two flavors of WordPress, each with its own capabilities:

  1. WordPress.com – This is a place where you can create a site or blog using the WordPress platform.  This type of site is completely free and hosted by WordPress. For these sites, you are limited by the free themes and plugins that are stored in the Repository.
  2. WordPress.org – This is the site that lets your download the WordPress software to create a “self-hosted” blog or website.  This will require you to install your website or blog and host it on your own domain (which you will need to pay for). These sites are limited only by the capabilities of the code base (PHP and MySQL). When you hear people talking about custom themes or plugins, they’re talking about this type of site.

There are a lot of similarities between the two, particularly in the back-end (or Dashboard), so a lot of this documentation will be helpful to both types of users.

What is a “blog?”

“Blog” is an abbreviated version of “weblog,” which is a term used to describe web sites that maintain an ongoing chronicle of information. A blog is a frequently updated, personal website featuring diary-type commentary and links to articles on other websites. Blogs range from the personal to the political, and can focus on one narrow subject or a whole range of subjects.

Many blogs focus on a particular topic, such as web design, home staging, sports, or mobile technology. Some are more eclectic, presenting links to all types of other sites. And others are more like personal journals, presenting the author’s daily life and thoughts.

Generally speaking (although there are exceptions), blogs tend to have a few things in common:

  • A main content area with articles listed chronologically, newest on top. Often, the articles are organized into categories.
  • An archive of older articles.
  • An area where visitors may leave comments about the articles.
  • A list of links to other related sites, sometimes called a “blogroll”.
  • One or more “feeds” like RSS, Atom or RDF files.

Some blogs may have additional features beyond these. Watch this short video for a simple explanation of what a blog is.

The Blog Content

Content is the raison d’être for any web site. Retail sites feature a catalog of products. University sites contain information about their campuses, curriculum, and faculty. News sites show the latest news stories. For a personal blog, you might have a bunch of observations, or reviews. Without some sort of updated content, there is little reason to visit a web site more than once.

On a blog, the content consists of articles (also sometimes called “posts” or “entries”) that the author(s) writes. Some blogs have multiple authors, each writing his/her own articles. Typically, blog authors compose their articles in a web-based interface, built into the blogging system itself. Some blogging systems also support the ability to use stand-alone “weblog client” software, which allows authors to write articles offline and upload them at a later time.

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