As part of the WordPress Series, we will be spending a lot of time working with WordPress. You may never have heard of it. Or you may be thinking, “Isn’t WordPress for blogs? I just want a normal website.” Whatever the case, it’s worth taking a little time to understand a little about WordPress, its features, and its limitations.
WordPress is an open-sourceProgramming code that can be read, viewed, modified, and distributed, by anyone who desires. software blogging tool. It is a Content Management System (CMS)Software for facilitating the maintenance of content, but not design, on a web site. which means that a user can sign in and edit the content of the site without ever touching the design or code. Developing and running a blog or website using WordPress can be as simple or as complicated as you make it. New users can install WordPress, use the default theme and start adding content immediately. Advanced users can delve into the code and develop a high level of personalization.
There are over 60 million websites currently using WordPress. (For detailed statistics, see the WordPress Stats page.) Well-known websites that use WordPress include CNN, Katy Perry, UPS, GM, ebay, and more. The point here is that WordPress is well-known, widely used, and has a large community. What that large community means to the average user is a huge library of enhancements. And since WordPress is open-source, so are the plugins, themes, and widgets.
Simple To Use
I have a “friend” that is extremely low tech. She likes things to be simple and straightforward. I installed WordPress, installed a theme she liked, set up her “About” pages, and set her up as a limited author so she wouldn’t be overwhelmed by the Admin Panel. She happily blogged and never had any problems. My point is that your grandmother that doesn’t use computers could blog using WordPress. It is designed so that even more advanced users that aren’t programmers can edit their sites with themes and plugins entirely using the simple WordPress user interface.
Designed for Blogging
WordPress is ultimately designed for bloggers. If you want to write continuous new content, WordPress is for you. Just look around this site to see my blog. Here’s a list of a few of my favorite blogs.
- Lifehacker – Lifehacker is basically a blog for geeks. They post hundreds of articles a week. I keep up with them via RSS FeedAdd a Tooltip Text. They cover things you would consider a “life hack”, whether that’s technology, psychology, DIY, or any other thing you can think of. My only complaint is that finding information on the site is difficult due to the blogging format.
- Everything Etsy – If you’re not familiar with Etsy, it’s like a cross between eBay and a craft bazaar. This blog is geared toward a small business owner that sells items on Etsy or is running a small shop. The site is fun and well-designed and is typical of most blog formats. What I like best about the site are her “101” series of articles. There’s tons of them and they include 101 Handmade Gifts, 101 Sewing Tutorials, 101 Printables, and more. One thing I don’t like is that she’s constantly doing giveaways to draw in a crowd. I’d rather that she stick to great content and occasionally ask for donations.
- Pinterest – While Pinterest isn’t a WordPress blog (to my knowledge – though they do have a blog), I do encourage you to have a look at its layout. Pinterest is EXTREMELY popular, especially with women. I encourage you to have a look at the site since you can do a photo-based blog and use a theme similar to Pinterest layout.
But even if you aren’t a blogger and just want a regular site, you can leverage WordPress to your advantage. Have a look at Ferox World, a book companion website made entirely in WordPress. (Sorry for the shameless plug – I’m also fiction author Stephenie Young!)
Since so many people use WordPress and it is open-source, the code is stable and regular updates are provided. (For versioning information, see the Release Archive.) The large community means that lots and lots of people develop themes and plugins and there is a huge, searchable database. There is also a huge forum and fabulous documentation for WordPress. So if you get confused, you can easily get help.
WordPress has mobile apps for Android, iOS, Blackberry, Nokia, Windows Phone 7, even WebOS. That means that you can write articles or edit your content while on-the-go. You can even post to your site by e-mail.
What if you’re a small business user and want to delegate content creation or have assigned several people to do some writing? WordPress allows you to define different roles for different users and lets you assign privileges accordingly. You can also set up your WordPress account to permit users to register themselves before you let them make comments or even create content. It’s all under your control.
What if you have a regular weekly article that needs to be posted on Sunday night – and you’ll be on the road then? WordPress lets you schedule posts for some time in the future or lets you backdate a post for some time in the past so that you can write when its convenient for you.
Easy Install and Updates
Out of the box WordPress comes with very robust tools such as an integrated blacklist and open proxy checker to manage and eliminate comment spam on your blog, and there is also a rich array of plugins that can take this functionality a step further.
Note: The following feature information comes directly from the WordPress Features page.
The following is a list of some of the features that come standard with WordPress, however there are literally hundreds of plugins that extend what WordPress does, so the actual functionality is nearly limitless. You are also free to do whatever you like with the WordPress code, extend it or modify in any way or use it for commercial projects without any licensing fees. That is the beauty of free software, free meaning not only price but also the freedom to have complete control over it.
- Full standards compliance — We have gone to great lengths to make sure every bit of WordPress generated code is in full compliance with the standards of the W3C. This is important not only for interoperability with today’s browser but also for forward compatibility with the tools of the next generation. Your web site is a beautiful thing, and you should demand nothing less.
- No rebuilding — Changes you make to your templates or entries are reflected immediately on your site, with no need for regenerating static pages.
- WordPress Pages — Pages allow you to manage non-blog content easily, so for example you could have a static “About” page that you manage through WordPress. For an idea of how powerful this is, the entire WordPress.org site could be run off WordPress alone. (We don’t for technical mirroring reasons.)
- WordPress Links — Links allow you to create, maintain, and update any number of blogrolls through your administration interface. This is much faster than calling an external blogroll manager.
- WordPress Themes — WordPress comes with a full theme system which makes designing everything from the simplest blog to the most complicated webzine a piece of cake, and you can even have multiple themes with totally different looks that you switch with a single click. Have a new design every day.
- Cross-blog communication tools— WordPress fully supports both the Trackback and Pingback standards, and we are committed to supporting future standards as they develop.
- Comments — Visitors to your site can leave comments on individual entries, and through Trackback or Pingback can comment on their own site. You can enable or disable comments on a per-post basis.
- Spam protection — Out of the box WordPress comes with very robust tools such as an integrated blacklist and open proxy checker to manage and eliminate comment spam on your blog, and there is also a rich array of plugins that can take this functionality a step further.
- Full user registration — WordPress has a built-in user registration system that (if you choose) can allow people to register and maintain profiles and leave authenticated comments on your blog. You can optionally close comments for non-registered users. There are also plugins that hide posts from lower level users.
- Password Protected Posts — You can give passwords to individual posts to hide them from the public. You can also have private posts which are viewable only by their author.
- Easy installation and upgrades — Installing WordPress and upgrading from previous versions and other software is a piece of cake. Try it and you’ll wonder why all web software isn’t this easy.
- Easy Importing — We currently have importers for Movable Type, Textpattern, Greymatter, Blogger, and b2. Work on importers for Nucleus and pMachine are under way.
- XML-RPC interface — WordPress currently supports an extended version of the Blogger API, MetaWeblog API, and finally the MovableType API. You can even use clients designed for other platforms like Zempt.
- Workflow — You can have types of users that can only post drafts, not publish to the front page.
- Typographical niceties — WordPress uses the Texturize engine to intelligently convert plain ASCII into typographically correct XHTML entities. This includes quotes, apostrophes, ellipses, em and en dashes, multiplication symbols, and ampersands. For information about the proper use of such entities see Peter Sheerin’s article The Trouble With Em ’n En.
- Intelligent text formatting — If you’ve dealt with systems that convert new lines to line breaks before you know why they have a bad name: if you have any sort of HTML they butcher it by putting tags after every new line indiscriminately, breaking your formatting and validation. Our function for this intelligently avoids places where you already have breaks and block-level HTML tags, so you can leave it on without worrying about it breaking your code.
- Multiple authors — WordPress’ highly advanced user system allows up to 10 levels of users, with different levels having different (and configurable) privileges with regard to publishing, editing, options, and other users.
- Bookmarklets — Cross-browser bookmarklets make it easy to publish to your blog or add links to your blogroll with a minimum of effort.
- Ping away — WordPress supports pinging Ping-O-Matic, which means maximum exposure for your blog to search engines.
There’s much more, but these are the highlights. If there’s something that you really want, submit a request on the support forums and there’s a good chance someone will whip it up for you.
I really haven’t run across any limitations that I haven’t been able to work around using plugins, so I am extremely pleased with WordPress.