These days, everyone can find a reason for having a website. It's not just the large companies who have a website. Even individuals, families, and small or independent businesses need to have one. Some individuals and small businesses do not have the financial resources to hire a website development company to create a website for them. This is where WordPress comes in. WordPress is a web application that you can use to create and maintain an online website, even if you have a minimum of technical expertise.
Because it is a web application, WordPress does not need to be installed on your home computer. It can live on the computer that belongs to your website hosting company. It is also free, easy to use, and packed with excellent features. Originally, WordPress was an application meant to run a blog website, but it has now evolved into a fully-featured Content Management System (CMS).
In this chapter, we'll explore the characteristics of a blog, the most essential terminologies used in blogging, the greatest advantages of WordPress (that is, why you should choose it), and online resources for WordPress.
A blog, which is short for weblog, is a website that usually contains regular entries like any other kind of log. These entries can be of various types such as commentary, descriptions of events, photos, videos, personal remarks, or political ideas. They are usually displayed in reverse chronological order, with the most recent additions on the top. These entries can be organized in a variety of waysâby date, by topic, by subject, and so on.
A blog is a special type of website that gets updated regularly. Unlike a site where the content is static, a blog behaves more like an online diary wherein the blogger posts regular updates. Hence, blogs are dynamic with ever-changing content. A blog can be updated with new content and the old content can be changed or deleted at any time.
According to Wikipedia, the term weblog was first used in 1997 and people started using blogs globally in 1999. The terms weblog, weblogging, and weblogger were added to the Oxford Dictionary in 2003, though these days most people leave off the "we" part at the front.
If you are new to the world of blogging, you may want to familiarize yourself with these common terminologies.
Each entry in the blog is called a post. Every post usually has a number of different parts. Of course, the two most obvious parts are title and content. The content is text, images, links, and so on. Posts can even contain multimedia. Every post also has a publication timestamp, and most also have one or more categories, tags, comments, and so on. It is these posts, or entries, that are displayed in a reverse chronological order on the main page of the blog. The latest post is displayed first in order to give the viewer the latest news on the subject.
Categories and tags are ways to organize and find posts within a blog and even across blogs. Categories are like topics, whereas tags are more like keywords. For example, for a blog about food and cooking, there might be a category called Recipes, but every post in that category would have different tags (for example, soup, baked, vegetarian, dairy-free, and so on).
Most blogs allow visitors to post comments about the posts. This gives readers the opportunity to interact with the writer of the blog, thus making the whole enterprise interactive. Often, the writer of the blog will respond to comments by posting comments, which makes for a continuous public online conversation or dialogue.
A blog has dozens or hundreds of posts, each of which has a unique ID, and so, many blog engines provide a way to link directly to each post. A permalink is a nicely-formatted link that usually has some form of the post title in the link. For example, a post with the title Everything You Wanted To Know About Eggplant might have the permalink
http://myblog.com/everything-you-wanted-to-know-about-eggplant. Permalinks are often more search-engine-friendly, especially if the blogger keeps search engines in mind when creating titles.
Permalinks is WordPress's fancy word for what used to be called SEO-friendly URLs. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization because sensible URLs, like permalinks, are easier for search engines (such as Google and Yahoo) to catalog. These days, they are often known as pretty or user-friendly URLs. These URLs tell a story about the page they represent, and don't have a lot of confusing punctuations in them. For example, if you are looking at a blog archive for the month of April 2008 in WordPress, the regular URL would look like this:
http://yoursite.com/index.php?m=200804. If you enable permalinks, the URL will look like this instead:
http://yoursite.com/2008/04/post_title/. An even bigger contrast shows up if you're looking at pages. Let's say you have a page with information about you, the author of your blog. The regular URL would look like this:
http://yoursite.com/index.php?page_id=23. If you enable permalinks, the URL will look like this:
The theme for a blog is the design and layout that you choose for your blog. In most blogs, the content (for example, posts) is separate from the visual layout. This means you can change the visual layout of your blog at any time without having to worry about the content being affected.
RSS is an acronym for Really Simple Syndication, and Chapter 7 addresses the topic of feeds in detail. For now, understand that RSS and feeds are a way to syndicate the content of your blog so that people can subscribe to it. This means people do not actually have to visit your blog regularly to see what you've added. They can subscribe and have new content delivered to them via email or through a feed reader.
It's important to understand the difference between a page and a post. Unlike posts, pages do not depend on having timestamps and are not displayed in chronological order. They also do not have categories or tags. A page is a piece of content with only a title and content (an example would be About Me or Contact Us). It is likely that the number of pages on your site remains relatively static, whereas new posts are added every day or so. Thus pages have static content, while posts have dynamic content.
WordPress is an open source blog engine. Open source means that nobody owns it, everybody works on it, and anyone can contribute to it. Blog engine means a software that can run a blog. It's a piece of software that lives on the web server and makes it easy for you to add and edit posts, themes, comments, and all of your other content. More expansively, WordPress can be called a publishing platform because it is by no means restricted to blogging.
WordPress was originally a fork of an older piece of software called b2/cafelog. WordPress was developed by Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little, but is now maintained and developed by a team of developers that includes Mullenweg.
In web years, WordPress has been around for quite a while and was in development the whole time, getting better constantly. WordPress's very first release, Version 0.70, was released in May 2003. Since then, it has had nine major releases, with a number of minor ones in between. Each release came with more features and better security.
WordPress is a constantly evolving application. It's never left alone to stagnate. The developers are working continually to keep it ahead of spammers and hackers, and also to evolve the application based on the evolving needs of its users.
WordPress is not being developed by a lonely programmer in a dark basement room. On the contrary, there is a large community of people working on it by developing, troubleshooting, making suggestions, and testing the application. With such a large group of people involved, the application is most likely to have continued well-being.
In addition to having an extremely strong core, WordPress is also quite extendable. This means that once you get started with it, the possibilities are nearly limitless. Any additional functionality that you can dream of can be added by way of a plugin that you or your programmer friends can write.
Here is a detailed list of many features of WordPress:
All standards are compliant with W3C
Unlimited categories and subcategories
Automatic syndication (RSS and Atom)
Uses XML RPC interface for trackbacks and remote posting
Allows posting via email
Supports plugins and themes
Imports data from other blogs (Moveable Type, Textpattern, Greymatter, b2evolution, and blogger)
Easy to administer and blog without any previous experience
Convenient, fully functional, built-in search
Instant and fast publishing of contentâno re-building of pages required
Allows password-protected posts
Comments manager and spam protection
Built-in workflow (write, draft, review, and publish)
Intelligent text formatting
You can read a fully explained feature list at http://wordpress.org/about/features/.
As WordPress is always actively developed, it's important to keep yourself up-to-date with the software community about their latest activities. The most important spot to visit or subscribe to is WordPress Releases: http://wordpress.org/development/category/releases/. Whenever there is a new releaseâbe it a major release, or an interim bug fix, or an upgradeâit will be here.
Also, be sure to stay tuned to the main WordPress blog at http://wordpress.org/development/.
The WordPress Codex is the central repository of all the information the official WordPress team has published to help people work with WordPress.
The Codex has some basic tutorials for getting started with WordPress such as a detailed step-by-step discussion of installation, lists of every template tag and hook, and a lot more. Throughout this book, I'll be providing links to specific pages within the Codex, which will provide more or advanced information on the topics in this book.
There are official directories for themes and for plugins on wordpress.org. Though not every theme and plugin is available here, the ones that are here have been vetted by the community to some extent. Anything you download from these directories is likely to be relatively bug-free. You can also see what the community thinks of these downloads by looking at ratings, comments, and popularity.
Additionally, plugins in the Plugin Directory are automatically upgradable from within your WordPress Administration Panel, whereas other plugins have to be upgraded manually.
Theme Directory: http://wordpress.org/extend/themes/
Plugin Directory: http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/
You'll notice that all of the URLs above belong to wordpress.org. There is another website, wordpress.com, which is actually a free blog-hosting service. Anyone can open an account on WordPress.com and instantly have his or her own WordPress-driven blog. According to WordPress.com, there were over 6 million blogs on WordPress.com and over 9 million active installations of the WordPress.org software as of December 2008.
In Chapter 2, we will discuss all of the differences between having your blog on WordPress.com versus downloading the software from wordpress.org and hosting it yourself, but the basic difference is the level of control. If your blog is on WordPress.com, you have less control over plugins, themes, and other details of the blog because everything is managed and made worry-free by the WordPress.com service.
Blogging is a wonderful pastime for just about anyone who has something interesting to say, and WordPress is excellent software that can run your blog (or non-blog) website. It's packed with excellent features and is so flexible that it can really do anything you want. Additionally, it's super easy to use, and you need no special skills or prior experience to use it. Last but not the least, it is free!
In this chapter, we learned about blogging and common blog terms. We also looked into the reasons to choose WordPress for blogging and the online resources available for WordPress users. In the next chapter, we will explore the choices and steps involved in installing WordPress.