A quick guide to WordPress, the free-to-use website builder that powers some of the web’s most popular sites

WordPress’ easy-to-use format makes it a popular choice for many non-coders. Gil C/Shutterstock.com
  • WordPress is a free-to-use content management system (CMS) that can help you build a website with minimal technical knowledge.
  • WordPress has a wealth of features that allow users to make a wide variety of websites for different purposes.
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WordPress is a popular open-source content management system (CMS) that’s free to use. It lets you build your own website without needing to learn programming languages like JavaScript, Python, or C++.

What to know about WordPress

WordPress logo
WordPress was initially created as a blogging platform. Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

WordPress can be used to create a wide range of websites, including personal blogs, online portfolios, business pages, and e-commerce websites thanks to a wealth of features.

As an open-source software licensed under the GNU General Public Licence (GPL), WordPress isn’t owned by one company or entity. Rather, hundreds of developers and users work together to constantly improve the software.

WordPress was created as a blogging platform in 2003 by Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little. As a college student, Mullenweg used the b2 (also known as cafelog) blogging system, but the original creator stopped updating it. As a result, Mullenweg created his own version of the system with help from Little. While Mullenweg is the face of WordPress, the software continues to develop thanks to its community of contributors.

Who can use WordPress

While WordPress started out as a blogging tool, these days it can be used to make all sorts of websites for all sorts of purposes, thanks to a plethora of plug-ins and themes. In other words, you can pretty much create any type of website you want with WordPress.

WordPress can be used to create business websites, blogs, online resumes, portfolios, e-commerce stores, membership sites, and more.

Quick note: When searching for WordPress online, you’ll likely find two websites, WordPress.org and WordPress.com. The former is where you’ll find the free software that you can install on your web host. The latter is a paid service that can help you build a website.

WordPress.org allows you to own your website, and offers the most flexibility. All you need to start building your website are a domain name and web host. WordPress.com will host your website and handle everything for you, but at a monetary cost and loss of some flexibility.

Some notable examples of WordPress sites include The New Yorker, Microsoft News Centre, and The Walt Disney Company.

The New Yorker is one of many popular sites powered WordPress. The New Yorker

The software includes lots of features to help you build a unique site.

WordPress’ most popular features

  • Themes: Themes give your website its general look and include colour schemes, font styles, and a general layout. Themes are often customisable and provide a great starting point for creating your website without having to build it from scratch.

  • Plug-ins: Plug-ins are software you upload to your website to add features and functionality like e-commerce, contact forms, and an Instagram feed.

  • SEO: Search engine optimisation (SEO) is what makes your website’s content discoverable through search engines like Google. Better SEO means your content appears closer to the top of a search list, and WordPress offers a base code for SEO.

  • Mobile-friendly: Most WordPress themes come optimised for mobile devices, translating your website design to something that also works and looks good on phones.

  • WordPress block editor: This feature, also known as the Gutenberg WordPress editor, allows you to “drag and drop” your content for easy editing on WordPress pages and posts.

What you need to start using WordPress

For self-hosted WordPress sites (through WordPress.org), you need two key things to get started: web hosting and a domain name.

For web hosting, there are three common approaches: shared WordPress hosting, do-it-yourself VPS WordPress Hosting, and managed WordPress hosting.

A domain name is your website address. Choosing a unique domain name can be tricky, as there are almost 2 billion websites currently in circulation, but there are some general tips that can help you find and purchase the perfect available one.

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