How do I make a website?Â is a question that a lot of people ask in this day and age. Actually, it's probably one of the main questions you ask if you're a business owner in the 21st century.Â But website making is not only about business.
These days, dare I say, everybodyÂ should at least consider getting a website of their own. In the past, this was an intimidating concept. The only way you could get a website was to either hire a professional who would build one for you, or learn web technologies and development yourself and then build one on your own. Nowadays, there are more options, and particularly if you want to build aÂ websiteÂ really quickly while making sure that it isÂ top qualityÂ at the same time.
The best option of them all is WordPressâwhich is the topic of this book. Under the hood, WordPress is an open source web software application that you can use to create and maintain a modern website. At the time of writing, more than 30% of all websites run onÂ WordPress, and the number is only expected to increase in the coming years. In simple terms, with WordPress, anyone can build a beautiful website with minimal effort involved and then make it available to the world in no time.Â Let's take a look at some of the perks of using WordPress:
- You don't need to hire a team of developers and/or designers
- You don't need to learn advanced PHP
- You don't need to be a pro with computers
- Nevertheless, you can still end up with a high-quality website with almost unlimited extension possibilities
These days, everyone has a good reason to have a website. It's not just large companies anymore. Individuals, families, freelancers, or small/independent businesses can all benefit from a website. However, at the same time, most people don't have the financial resources to hire a web development company or a freelance web developer to create a website for them. This is where WordPress comes into play. WordPress is free, easy to use, and packed with excellent features. Since WordPress is a web application, it does not need to be installed on your home PC or Mac, or any other machine under your control. It can live on a server (kind of a computer) that belongs to a website-hosting company.Â Originally, WordPress was anÂ applicationÂ meant to run a blog website. However, it has evolved into a fully featuredÂ content management systemÂ (CMS).Â If you don't know what a blog is, don't worry, we explain everything later in this chapter.
In this book, we'll be going through each important step on your way to understanding how WordPress works and what can be done with it. We'll learn about the basic usage of WordPress, configuration, extending your site with themes and plugins, and much more. But before we can get to all that, we need to start at square one!Â In this chapter, we'll explore:
- The reasons that will make you choose WordPress to run your website
- The greatest advantages of WordPress
- Online resources for WordPress
- Some of the most useful features in the newest versions of WordPress
WordPress is anÂ openÂ source CMS.Â Open sourceÂ means that the source code of the system is made available with a licenseÂ wherebyÂ the copyright holder provides the rights to study, change, and distribute the software to anyone and for any purpose (as Wikipedia defines it). CMS means a software application that can run a website (for example, a blog) and allows you to publish, edit, and modify the content. It's a piece of software that lives on the web server (more on what a web server is later on) and makes it easy for you to add and edit posts, themes, comments, and all of your other content. The following is the logo of WordPress:
Even though WordPress was originally a blog engineâused primarily to run blogsâit's now a popular solution among some of the biggest brands on the web and runs their entire websites. Brands such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Reuters, WIRED.com, Sony, Toyota, plus some of the most prominent artists (such as BeyoncÃ©Â or the Rolling Stones) all use WordPress as the base of their web platforms and outlets.
Undoubtedly, WordPress has evolved a lot over the years, and even though a large number of new functionalities have been introduced, WordPress remains one of the easiest-to-use web publishing platforms out there. Originally, it was a fork of an older piece of software namedÂ 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.
- A typical website with relatively static content, pages, subpages, and so on
- A blog website, chronologically organized, and frequently updated, categorized, tagged, and archived
- An e-commerce website: a fully functional online store that allows people to buy goods or services, and the website owner to manage orders and fulfill them
- Corporate business sites
- One-page profile sites
- Portfolio sites
- Membership sites
- Video blogs
- Photo blogs
- Product sites
- Education sites (e-courses) and more
For those of you unfamiliar with blog websites and blogging terminology, let's take a look at the basics.
Originally, blogÂ wasÂ short for weblog. According to Wikipedia, the term weblog was first used in 1997, and people started using blogs globally in 1999. The terms weblog, web blogging, and webloggerÂ were added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2003, though these days most people leave off the weÂ part.
Just to give you a more plain-English explanation, a blog is a website that usually contains regular entries made by an author. TheseÂ entriesÂ can be of various types, such as commentary, descriptions of events, photos, videos, personal remarks, tutorials, case studies, long opinion pieces, political ideas, or whatever else you can imagine. They are usually displayed in reverse chronological order, with the most recent additions at the top. Those entries can be organized in a variety of ways, by date, topic, subject, and so on.
One of the main characteristics of a blog is that it's meant to be updated regularly. Unlike a website 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 (although deleting content is not a common practice).
Most blogs focus their content on a particular subject, for example, current events, hobbies, niche topics, and technical expertise. This doesn't mean that blogs are meant to be published only by individuals sharing their personal opinions on given matters. On the contrary, these days, blogs have become a significant part in the online presence for many businesses and even corporations. The modern practice ofÂ content marketingÂ is now one of the most widely accepted web marketing methods, and its core is based on publishing quality content, often in blog form.
If you are new to the world ofÂ bloggingÂ (sometimes called theÂ blogosphere, which is a fairly popular expression these days), you may want to familiarize yourself with the following common terms.
Each entry in theÂ blogÂ is called aÂ post. Every postÂ usuallyÂ has a number of different parts. Of course, the two most obvious parts are the title and content. TheÂ contentÂ is text, images, links, and so on. Posts can even contain multimedia (for example, videos and audio files). EveryÂ postÂ also has a publication timestamp, and most have one or more categories and tags assigned to them. It is these posts, or entries, that are often displayed in reverse chronological order on the main page of the blog. By default, the latest post is displayed first, in order to give the viewer the latest news on a subject.
CategoriesÂ andÂ tagsÂ are ways toÂ organizeÂ andÂ findÂ posts within aÂ blogÂ and even across blogs. Categories are like topics, while tags are more like keywords. For example, for aÂ blogÂ about food and cooking, there might be a category calledÂ recipes, but every post in thatÂ categoryÂ might have different tags (for example, soup, baked, vegetarian, and dairy-free).
The purpose and correct usage of tags and categories are one of the widely discussed topics among bloggers. Although there are basic guidelines such as the ones presented here, every blogger develops their own approach after a while, and there are noÂ written in stoneÂ rules.
Most blogs allowÂ visitorsÂ to postÂ commentsÂ on the posts. This gives readers the opportunity to interact with the author of the blog, thus making the whole experience interactive. Often, the author of the blog will respond to comments by posting additional comments with a single click on the reply button, which makes for a continuous public online conversation or dialog.
Comments are said to be one of the most important assets for a blog. The presence of a large number of comments shows how popular and authoritative the blog is.
AÂ themeÂ is theÂ designÂ and layout package that you can choose for your blog. On most blogs, the content (for example, posts) is separate from the visual appearance. This means you can change the visuals of your blog at any time without having to worry about the content being affected. One of the best things about themes is that it takes only minutes to install and start using a new one. Moreover, there are a number of very good free or low-cost themes available online.
That being said, you need to beÂ carefulÂ when working with free themes from uncertain developers. Often, they contain encrypted parts and code that can hurt your site and its presence on Google. Always look for user reviews before choosing a theme. Most importantly, the safest bet is getting your free themes only from the official WordPress directory atÂ https://wordpress.org/themes/. The themes there have been tested and checked for any suspicious code.
You can learn more about this whole issue atÂ http://newinternetorder.com/free-wordpress-themes-are-evil/.
WordPressÂ pluginsÂ areÂ relativelyÂ small pieces of web software that can be installed on any WordPress site. They extend the native functionality to do almost anything that the technology of today allows. Just like WordPress itself, the code within plugins is open source, which means that anyone can build a new plugin if they have the required skill set. Every WordPress website or blog can work with an unlimited number of plugins (although it is not a recommended approach). The most popularÂ functionalitiesÂ introduced through plugins include spam protection,Â search engine optimizationÂ (SEO), caching, social media integration, interactive contact forms, and backups.
WidgetsÂ are aÂ simplifiedÂ version of plugins. The most common usage ofÂ widgetsÂ is to have them showcased in the sidebars on your site. Typically, your current theme will provide you with a number of widget areas where you can display widgets (as mentioned, many of these are located in the sidebar). Some of the common usages for widgets is to display content such as categories and tags, recent posts, popular posts, recent comments, links to archived posts, pages, links, search fields, or standard non-formatted text.
We need to talk someÂ historyÂ to explain theÂ meaningÂ of menus in WordPress. Back in the day, WordPress didn't allow much customization in terms of tweaking navigation menus and handpicking the links we wanted to display. This changed in Version 3.0, wherebyÂ theÂ newÂ Custom MenusÂ feature was introduced. In plain English, it allows you to create completely custom menus (featuring any links of your choice) and then display them in specific areas on your site. To be honest, this feature, even though it sounds basic, is one of the main ones that has turned WordPress into a full-fledged web publishing platform. I promise this will sound much clearer in the upcoming chapters.
It's important toÂ understandÂ the difference between aÂ pageÂ and a post. Unlike posts, pages do not depend on timestamps and are not displayed in reverse chronological order. Also, they do not have categories or tags. AÂ pageÂ is a piece of content with only a title and content (an example would beÂ About MeÂ orÂ Contact Usâthe two most popular pages on almost any blog). It is likely that the number of pages on your blog remains relatively static, while new posts can be added every day or so.
AÂ home pageÂ isÂ simplyÂ the mainÂ pageÂ that visitors see when they visit your website by typing in your domain name or URL address. In the early days of WordPress's existence, a home page wasn't something we used to talk about as a separate kind of page. Originally, a home page was generated automatically from the newest postsâit was a listing of those posts in reverse chronological order. Right now, however, WordPress allows us to build a completely custom home page and display whatever content we wish on it.
As mentioned earlier, WordPress isÂ nowÂ aÂ completeÂ web publishing platform. One of its characteristics is that it is capable of working with multiple user accounts, not just a single account belonging to the owner (admin/main author) of the site. There are different types of user accounts available, and they have different credentials and access rights.
WordPress is clearly trying to resemble a traditional publishing house where there areÂ authors,Â editors, and otherÂ contributorsÂ all working together. Even though the option to create an unlimited number of user accounts won't be that impressive for anyone planning to manage a site on their own, it can surely be a more-than-essential feature for big, magazine-like websites.
WordPress is not the only publishing platform out there, but it has an awful lot to offer. In the following sections, I've called attention to WordPress's most outstanding features.
- WordPressÂ gives you full control over your website. You can change/adjust/modify/customize everything, and I mean everything, about your site.
- There areÂ thousands of themes and pluginsÂ to choose from, enabling you to make your website look and work however you wish. WordPress is extremely extendable. Basically, any additional functionality that you can dream of can be added utilizing a plugin that you or your programmer friends can write.
- The day-to-day work withÂ the platform is very easy to grasp. Tasks such as editing content, publishing new articles/posts, or interacting with the audience through comments have no learning curve.
- WordPress is open source. There's no price tag on the platform; you can get it for free. This also means that learning how the platform works under the hood, and how to extend it even further, doesn't require anyone's permission.
Basically, if youÂ needÂ a website, and you want to be able to build it yourself, then WordPress is the platform that will make it possible.
WordPress is the perfect tool, both for beginners just dipping their toes into website building for the first time, and developers working on client websites professionally.
WordPress has been around for quite a while and has been in development the whole time. Developers are working on WordPress constantly to keep it ahead of spammers and hackers, and toÂ evolveÂ the application on the basis of theÂ evolvingÂ needs of its users.
WordPress's very first release, Version 0.70, was launched in May 2003. Since then, it has had more than two dozen major releases, with a number of minor ones in between. Each release came with more features and better security. Each major release comes with a code name honoring a great jazz musician, and this has become a tradition in the WordPress world.
WordPress is not being developed by a lonely programmer in a dark basement room, by the way. On the contrary, there is a large community of people working on it collaboratively by developing, troubleshooting, making suggestions, and testing the application. With such a large group of people involved, the application is likely to continue to evolve and improve without pause.
WordPress, as a platform and as a community of users, hasÂ grownÂ in two main areas:
Essentially, WordPress.org is about developing the platform itself, sharing new plugins, discussing the technical aspects of WordPress, and being allÂ techieÂ in general. WordPress.com is a commercial website whereÂ bloggersÂ can meet with each other and publish their blog content under the wordpress.com subdomain (for example, something like
paleorecipeslog.wordpress.comÂ is a subdomain).
- Exchangeable designs through WordPress themes, which are also further customizable via WordPress Customizer
- Extendable through WordPress plugins
- Unlimited posts and pages
- Unlimited categories and subcategories
- Unlimited tags
- Mobile-friendly and optimized to be viewed on all devices and screen sizes
- Flexibleâcreate any type of website you want
- Scalableâcan handle any size of website
- Ability to post via email and mobile devices (there are apps available for all major mobile platforms, including iOS and Android)
- ComplianceÂ withÂ theÂ World Wide Web ConsortiumÂ (W3C) standards, although it does depend on the theme you're using
- Import of data from other blogs (Moveable Type, b2evolution, Blogger, and others)
- Easy to administer and blog without any previous experience
- Convenient, fully functional, built-in search
- Multilingual with good internationalization, and also works with emojis (including all of the latest Unicode 9.0 emoji characters)
- Secure code
- Ability to password-protect content
- Comments manager and spam protection
- Built-in workflow (write, draft, review, and publish)
- Intelligent text and content editing via a visual editor called Gutenberg
- Multiuser and multiauthorÂ supportÂ for user accounts
- Feature-richÂ Media LibraryÂ for managing photos and other non-text content through a visual and highly usable interface
- Social media integration capabilities
- Dynamic and scalable revision functionality with post (edit) locking
- Built-in embed functionality through shortcodes (compatible with services such as YouTube, Vimeo, Flickr, SoundCloud, and others)
- An admin panel that's accessible via all modern devices, operating systems, and web browsers
- Full accessibility for frontend elements of the website
- User-friendly image editing, plus a drag-and-drop image-importing feature
- Advanced SEO features through plugins and themes
- Integrated REST API infrastructure
If you'd like to see detailed lists of all the new features added to WordPress, just take a look into the Codex. You can easily find the subpage for each individual version. Simply take the following web address and replaceÂ
Y with the version number you're looking for.
Also, you can read a fully explained feature list atÂ https://wordpress.org/about/features/.
One very useful characteristic ofÂ WordPressÂ is that it has a large, active, online community. Everything you will ever need for your WordPress website can most likely be found online, and probably for free. In addition to this, these days we can also find many paid resources and training programs that offer expert advice and training, revolving around many different possible usages of a WordPress site:
- https://codex.wordpress.org/: Here you can find the official documentation for WordPressâwe'll talk more about the codex later on in this chapter
- https://themeisle.com/blog/: Offers free guidance on common tasks that can be performed with WordPress
- https://www.wpbeginner.com/: Offers tutorials and resources about WordPress
As WordPress isÂ constantlyÂ being developed, it's important to keep yourself up-to-date with the software community's latest activities.
If you visit the dashboard of your own WordPress site regularly, you'll be able to stay up-to-date with WordPress news and software releases. There are widgets on the dashboard that display the latest news and announcements, and an alert always appears when there is a new version of WordPress available for download and installation.
If you prefer to visit the website, then the most important spot to visit or subscribe to is WordPress Releases. Whenever there is a new release, be it a major release, or an interim bug fix, or an upgrade, it will be atÂ https://wordpress.org/news/category/releases/.
Also, be sure to stay tuned to the main WordPress blog atÂ https://wordpress.org/news/.
Some additional resources worth mentioning are as follows:
- https://wordpress.org/: The absolute main hub for WordPress.
- https://wordpress.com/: The commercial service for creating blogs and websites.
- http://jobs.wordpress.net/: Job listings for anyone searching for employment in areas related to WordPress (or anyone searching for WordPress help).
- https://wordpress.tv/: A great source of top-notch WordPress tutorials, how-to advice, case studies, product demonstrations, and WordPress-related conference presentation recordings.
- https://central.wordcamp.org/: WordCamp is a conference that focuses on everything WordPress; it takes place a number of times during the year in different locations around the world, and this site is the central point for the conference.
TheÂ CodexÂ has some basic tutorials for getting started with WordPress, such as a detailed step-by-step discussion of the installation, and lists of every template tag and hook. Throughout this book, I'll be providing links to specific pages within the Codex, which will deliver more or advanced information on the topics in this book.
TheÂ CodexÂ can be found atÂ https://codex.wordpress.org/Main_Page. Refer to the following screenshot:
Apart from the Codex, there's also oneÂ moreÂ resource that will come in handy to new and experienced developers alike. It's called the WordPressÂ Code Reference, and it can be found atÂ https://developer.wordpress.org/reference/. It delivers a lot of documentation on WordPress's functions, classes, methods, and hooks.
The online WordPress community asksÂ questionsÂ and responds with solutions on the WordPress forum atÂ https://wordpress.org/support/. It's an excellent place to go if you can't find the answer to a problem in the codex. If you have a question, thenÂ probablyÂ someone else has had it as well, and WordPress experts spend time in the forum answering them and providing solutions.
There are officialÂ directoriesÂ for themes and plugins on WordPress.org. Though not every theme and plugin is available there, the ones that are, have been vetted by the community and the review teams. Anything you download from these directories is likely to be relatively bug-free. Plugins and themes that you get from other sources can have malicious code, so be careful. You canÂ alsoÂ see what the community thinks of these downloads by looking at ratings, comments and popularity metrics:
Following is the screenshot for the WordPress
Having a website of your own is essential these days, no matter if you are an individual or a small business, and no matter if you are blogging regularly or just want some accurate static content up on the internet. In this chapter, we reviewed basic information about WordPress, blogging, and common blog terms for those of you who are new to the concept.
WordPress is an excellent platform that can run your website (blog or otherwise). It's packed with top-of-the-line features and is so flexible that it can really do anything you want, and it has a wealth of online resources. Additionally, it's easy to use, and you need no special skills or prior experience to work with it. Last but not least, it is 100% free!
In the next chapter, we will explore the choices and steps involved in installing WordPress and getting started.Â We'll cover how to install WordPress in more than a couple of ways, how to find your way around the WordPress admin panel, and how to configure your site's basic details.