What are the elementary things that you need to know to get started with WordPress?
It’s helpful. Well, more than helpful. It is imperative to know the difference between the WordPress blog platform and the self-hosted WordPress software. WordPress.com and WordPress.org are two entirely different website creation experiences using the same software. I create with the self hosted open source software.
First a little about the option I don’t use. WordPress.com is the blog platform that most people think of when you mention WordPress. It is a free point and click website creation tool hosted and managed by WordPress. It is possible to have your website up very quickly this way. The look and feel of the free version is limited. It has built in limits and is the “web real estate” of WordPress when all is said and done.
If you want more control of the look and feel of the site, you can pay a yearly fee. This gives you the freedom to create the look and feel via the colors and fonts that you prefer. There’s also a business option which gives you a bit more freedom.
Your wordpress.com site comes with built-in plugins that allow for the functionality that we have come to expect with our blogs and websites. The free and premium versions do not allow you add more plugins. The business premium version does, with limits.
The self hosted WordPress software (WordPress.org) is just that. You choose the host or server you wish to house your site on, download and install it onto your server (or host). The software is open source and free.
Once the software is installed to your server, you choose a theme and playtime begins!! It is time to design and create your corner of the web! It is entirely possible to create a site with no knowledge of code. (That btw was not my happy place )
Let’s talk about themes and plugins for a minute. A theme is the framework that creates the layout of your site. You choose it based on what is you want your site to do and how you’d like it to look. You can check out the available themes by clicking on appearance > themes >add new (found at the top of the screen below the toolbar.) You can also type the words “WordPress themes” into your search engine.
WordPress comes with a basic theme which is updated every year. The basic themes are named by year so this year’s theme would be Twenty Fifteen.
There are thousands of themes to choose from, both free and premium (paid). My favorite theme (after a lot of trial and error) is the Thesis theme. Themes provide a basic framework which you can then modify with plugins as needed. Thesis is my blank canvas.
Plugins give you the freedom to add functionality to your site without needing to know a lick of code. There are plugins for every imaginable function. There are plugins that allow you to create a contact form, plugins to create your email list. A simple example of plugins would be the Sumo Me that you see to the left of this post.
A word of caution about plugins: too many will slow up your site and can create access for malware injections.
- Notice how often the plugin is updated.
- Does it keep up with the WordPress updates?
- Notice how many downloads a plugin has. Generally speaking, the best plugins have higher download rates.
- Use with care. The fewer plugins the better.
If you have an elementary working knowledge of the Word document text editor, you will be able to add and edit content on your WordPress site like a champ in no time at all. More on that in a couple weeks.
Meanwhile, check out these really great intro tutorials at WP101.com. They are short, easy to follow and they answer some of your basic questions about WordPress.
If you have a yearning to play more deeply in the web design arena, the women at Web Designer Beauty School are amazing teachers and resources! Check out their free tutorials here. Katy Martin and Krista Smith are web design rock stars and share their knowledge very skillfully and generously.