What is WordPress and How to Get Started

Ian Pullen
By Ian Pullen / August 25, 2016
This article answers the question what is WordPress

If you’re asking what is WordPress right now, and considering you’re reading this, the chances are that you are, read on. I’m going to quickly cover what WordPress is and why you need to use it.

I’ll also share some thoughts on some of the important aspects of WordPress that you should give consideration to. Let’s kick off with the basics first though.

What is WordPress?

WordPress is a content management system or CMS, which put simply, means it’s a system that allows you to publish content online. There’s no requirement to know code, you just need to know how to type into a text editor.

Originally it was just a blogging system that first launched in 2003. Since then, it’s developed massively and while it can still be used just as a blog, it’s capable of much more and has become the most popular CMS available. I often see it quoted that a quarter of the world’s website’s use WordPress.

It’s worth noting that you’ll find two WordPress sites online and this can lead to some confusion. The first, wordpress.com, is a hosted blogging platform that makes it super simple for anyone to launch their own site.

The second is wordpress.org and this is the home of the open source WordPress software that anyone can download and use to build their own site and I will focus on this.

Hopefully I’ve gone some way to answering what is WordPress, but why do you need to use it?

Why You Should Be Using WordPress

In reality you don’t necessarily need to be using WordPress, the key point is that you have your own website and e-commerce store. If you sell on other platforms and don’t have your own site, you’re not in full control. If the owners of the sites you sell on change the rules, you have to go along with them. When you have your own site as well, you have choices about where and how you sell online. Kate’s already covered this subject in an earlier article, so you can check out e-Commerce Website for Your Handmade Business – Why You Need One to learn more.

While I’ve just said you don’t need to be using WordPress specifically, I strongly recommend that you do. It’s so popular, there’s always loads of free support available. If you have a problem, chances are someone else had the same problem and has written about online.

It’s relatively easy to use. I personally think it’s super simple to use, but I also know that for new users there is a learning curve and it can be daunting. However, trust me, of the other free options available, it is without a doubt the most user friendly. I occasionally have to work with client’s Drupal sites and every mouse click causes me physical pain. In fairness, there are some upcoming changes that may significantly improve the Drupal user experience, but I’ll stick with WordPress.

There are also tons of plugins available, more than 40,000 free ones on WordPress’ own site and 1,000s more paid for ones if you need something more specialist.

What are Plugins?

They’re new pieces of functionality that you can add to your site with just a couple of clicks. WordPress is great if all you want to do is write a blog and publish pages of information about your business and products.

Come on though, you want to do more than that don’t you? By installing plugins into your site, you can sell your products to anyone, anywhere, without paying Etsy a penny.

Plugins will let you add opt-in forms that allow you to build your email list and then send newsletters and campaigns to them without leaving WordPress.

You came here because you wanted to know what is WordPress, but by now you should be asking what can I do with WordPress? I’ve already hinted at some of the things you can do, but let’s take more of a look at some of the key things you should consider when creating a WordPress site.

Present Your Brand

This is covered by WordPress itself with no need to turn to plugins. What is WordPress for, if not to publish content?

By giving you your own online home, you can present your brand and yourself exactly as you like. You can write about the subjects you’re target market want to know about and build your own following. It’s the channel to let your brand voice free.

In terms of the visual presentation or your brand, you can use a free theme from WordPress, buy a premium theme or even have a developer create a custom theme just for you.

Your own site can look exactly as you want it to look without the constraints of fitting into a predetermined layout. What better way to communicate your brand online?

Sell Your Products

You may already be selling online, but you’re own online store ensures that visitors are fully focused on your work. Etsy’s great for shoppers as there are so many different sellers in one place, but for sellers, you’re constantly competing.

Free plugins like WooCommerce, Exchange and WP eCommerce all make it easy for non-coders to launch an online store. Search through the WordPress plugins site and you’ll find even more ways to set up a sales site.

Build Your List

If you’re not already building an email list, this should be a key reason for launching your own site. You can add opt-in forms and create targeted landing pages to help you collect the email addresses of interested visitors.

When someone gives you their email address, it’s because they like what you’re doing. In the same way that you wanted to know what is WordPress, they want to know what’s going on in your business.

When people have expressed their interest in your business, it’s easier to convert these visitors to buyers, as long as you can get the message right. Which leads us to…

Market your Business

An email list is no use if you don’t ever use it.

There are many options available for managing email lists and sending newsletters. If you’re not already using a service and find them a bit overwhelming, MailPoet may be for you. This free plugin allows you collect email addresses and create and send email newsletters without ever having to leave WordPress. This makes it one the most beginner friendly newsletter solutions.

Security and Performance

Last, but definitely not least, come security and performance considerations. These are so often overlooked, but they’re arguably the most important aspects of running your WordPress site.

There are several popular security plugins that help to make your site more secure from hackers. It may surprise you that even small sites are regularly targeted. However, Wordfence, iThemes Security and Sucuri can all help make your site more secure.

You should also consider the security of your content and install a back up plugin that will save all your content to another server on a regular basis.

For performance, you obviously want your site to load quickly so that you don’t have users bounce out without seeing your products. Connecting your site to Cloudflare’s service can help speed things up, but you can also look at installing a caching plugin into your WordPress site.

So, What Are You Waiting For

I’ve answered your question, what is WordPress, and given you an outline of some the important things to consider when setting up your site. So why not give it a go, it’s free to use and you can buy hosting for as a little as a few dollars a month. Your own WordPress site will be a great asset for your business.

Finally, before I finish, I want to put one more thing in front of you. If you’re excited by the idea of owning your own WordPress e-commerce site, but really don’t think you could do it yourself, sign up here to learn about our new site building academy, where you’ll learn not only how to build your own site, but also how to maintain it moving foward AND how to market your brand new business. Sign up here: 

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About the author

Ian Pullen

I'm a graphic designer, web developer, photography enthusiast and writer with articles and images published in print and online.