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What Is WordPress? A Beginner-Friendly Introduction

WordPress is a tool that helps you build and customize your own website without requiring any special technical knowledge. Its flexibility and ease of use have made it by far the most popular way to build a website. According to data from W3Techs, almost one-third of every website on the Internet is powered by WordPress. So even if you’re not familiar with WordPress, there’s a good chance that you browse websites powered by WordPress every single day.

Let’s go a little deeper into the question of what is WordPress, though.

On a more technical level, WordPress is a free, open-source content management system. In order to explain WordPress, it’s important to explain more about what a content management system is, and how it helps you build a website.

How Does WordPress Help You Make A Website?

What is WordPress? The homepage

A content management system does exactly what its name suggests. That is, it helps you manage your website’s content.

Specifically, it gives you a user-friendly, code-free interface where you can:

  • Create new content
  • Control how your content looks to visitors
  • Manage and edit existing content
  • Control other settings for how your website looks and functions

Basically, a content management system eliminates the need to use code to perform day-to-day functions. Instead, you get to manage your entire website from a simple interface that looks something like this:

WordPress dashboard

Once you’ve made whatever changes you want to make, WordPress will handle outputting your decisions as code so that visitors from around the world can access your site.

Because users never have to directly interact with code (just the human-friendly WordPress interface), WordPress makes it possible for anyone to create a website, even non-technical users.

This easy-to-use dashboard, along with the adoption of PHP, HTML, JavaScript, and CSS as the early de facto languages of web applications, helps explain why WordPress now powers almost one-third of all websites.

What Kinds Of Websites Can You Build With WordPress?

When it was originally launched, WordPress started as a platform for blogging. Since then, WordPress has evolved from just a blogging platform into a full-service content management system.

While you certainly can still use WordPress to create a blog, you can also use it to build pretty much any other type of website.

Beyond blogs, some examples of what you can use WordPress for include:

And that’s not the full list – you can pretty much use WordPress for anything!

These aren’t theoretical uses, either. Real people use WordPress to build all types of non-blog websites every day. For example, WordPress is actually the most popular way to build an eCommerce store (yes – even more popular than Shopify):

eCommerce store statsIs WordPress Only For Small Websites?

No! WordPress is certainly popular with small sites and solo webmasters because of its simplicity and flexibility. But WordPress is by no means limited to small websites, and there are plenty of big names who use WordPress.

For example, Whitehouse.gov uses WordPress to power its site:

Whitehouse.gov

The popular AMC television network also runs on WordPress:

AMC website

And plenty of universities use WordPress, including Harvard:

Harvard

As you can see – WordPress is for everyone, both big and small.

Three Reasons Why You Should Use WordPress If You Want To Build A Website

WordPress is not the only content management system in existence, so why is WordPress so popular in comparison to other tools to build a website? Remember – it powers almost one-third all the websites on the Internet.

Here are a few big reasons why you should use WordPress if you want to build a website.

1. WordPress Is Free And Easy To Get Started With

Because WordPress is open-source software, it’s free and easy to install. Almost any website hosting can run WordPress and most hosts offer special tools to help you install WordPress.

You can also find hosting specifically dedicated to WordPress called managed WordPress hosting. For example, here at Pagely, we’ll install WordPress for you as part of our managed WordPress hosting services, which means you can start building your site right away.

2. It’s Easy To Change How Your Site Looks With A Few Mouse Clicks

To control how your WordPress site looks, you use something called a “theme”.

Your theme is kind of like your website’s clothing – it lets you control the outward appearance of your website without changing any of the stuff underneath (like your content).

There are tens of thousands of free and premium WordPress themes available. Some work for any type of site, while others are focused on a specific niche, like business or eCommerce. Basically, there’s a pretty good chance that you can find one that’s perfect for your site!

You’re also never locked in to a theme. Just like you can change outfits with clothing, you can easily change your site’s theme with just a few clicks.

3. You Can Add All Sorts Of Functionality (No Special Knowledge Needed)

While themes are mostly about appearances, you also get access to another type of extension called a “plugin“.

Plugins are all about functionality. They can help you do small stuff – like adding a contact form to your site. Or, they can also help you do “big” stuff, like turning your WordPress site into an eCommerce store or online learning platform.

There are 56,000+ free plugins at WordPress.org alone, plus thousands of other free and premium plugins elsewhere. As with themes, that means you can probably find a plugin to add the functionality that you need!

Who Is Responsible For WordPress?

WordPress is open-source software, which means that it’s maintained by a team of contributors rather than owned by a single corporation.

These contributors add new features, stay abreast of security issues, maintain the existing code, market WordPress, and lots more.

The WordPress Software Is Not The Same As WordPress.com

There’s one confusing thing about WordPress:

If you search for “WordPress” in Google, you’ll find both WordPress.org and WordPress.com. Despite the similar names, the two are actually separate things.

For this entire article, we’ve been discussing the open-source WordPress software, which is available at WordPress.org. If you want to use the free WordPress software and benefit from the full flexibility of WordPress, this is what you’ll use.

WordPress.com, on the other hand, is run by a for-profit company that uses the WordPress.org open-source software to help its users create blogs and websites. Specifically, it’s run by Automattic, a company founded by Matt Mullenweg (who is also one of the co-founders of the open-source WordPress project).

So while there are a lot of connections between WordPress.org and WordPress.com, they are still distinctly different entities.

Generally, when people say “WordPress”, they mean the open-source software at WordPress.org. And if you’re serious about creating a website with WordPress and benefiting from WordPress’ flexibility, you should use the open-source WordPress.org software as well.

What Is WordPress? Just Remember This…

So, in the end, what is WordPress? Simply put, it’s the easiest, most flexible, and most popular way to build any type of website.

It’s used by both individuals and huge enterprises. And with WordPress, you can build everything from a simple blog to a fully-functioning eCommerce store.

Want to build your own website with WordPress? Learn how Pagely managed WordPress hosting can help you get up and running in no time.

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