You are an entrepreneur, most likely you are the innovator, connector and the one who makes the inspirational speaking. But how does one create a website, prototype or web software product? You may have a team that has technical jobs done, but if you are just starting out and want to quickly play around with your ideas, WordPress may be a good tool of choice.
WordPress started as a blogging platform and has evolved into a powerful content management system (CMS) that powers 23% of the internet today. In this post, I’ll introduce you to WordPress and walk you through some of the most important features of the platform and provide you some resources to learn more on the topic.
Introduction to CMS
What is a CMS, you may ask? It is an abbreviation for Content Management System which means it is a tool that provides you full control of your content, be the text, a picture or a video, you can create, edit and manage your digital work and display it in any way you can imagine. It has a control system only accessed by you (the administrator) and the public side which is accessible publicly and looks like a website.
WordPress is a free, open source blogging tool and a content management system (CMS) built with PHP and MySQL. Features include a plugin architecture and a template/theming system. It was first released on May 27th 2003, by its founders, Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little (wpContent founder, Sam Berson, had a selfie with him!).
WordPress has grown exponentially due to its open source code, meaning anyone can contribute and make the system better, build a huge number of plugins that can extend the functionality of your website (for example show a popup of an email subscription form to a new website visitor), and build themes that can be customised with minimal HTML/CSS knowledge.
WordPress.org vs WordPress.com
There are two versions of WordPress available. Self-hosted (WordPress.org), that allows you to download the code and host it by yourself on your server and gives you much more freedom for customisation and scalability compared to WordPress.com, which is basically a blogging platform with limited customisation and scalability options.
I’d highly recommend you to read this page to learn more about WordPress.org and self-hosted benefits and possibilities so you can crate any prototype you have in mind.
WordPress.com is a perfect option if you just want to have a blog and is an easy way to put your thoughts and ideas online.
Choosing Your Hosting Provider
One of the requirements that self-hosted WordPress sites have is to have a server or hosting provider that will host your website or app powered by WordPress. You don’t need to learn much about hosting but you should understand the basics so you can forward your domain name and install WordPress easily.
I recommend you to go with user friendly hosting providers so you get an easy-to-understand user interface and limited options so you can do the basic stuff yourself. Most of the following companies also have a rockstar support so just ask them to help you.
Or go with a cheaper one so you can play around and learn more about hosting. Vidahost is an awesome and cheap UK hosting provider.
Deciding on a Theme
Your publicly available WordPress website or web app can be customised to look any way you want. There are many themes available for free and for a one time purchase fee which ranges between $10-$100/theme. ThemeForest is a great resource for premium WordPress themes.
Also you can create your own design by using the documentation on official WordPress Codex, or some tutorials by the active community members who will teach you how to create your own themes. Check out this full series to creating WordPress starter theme by Luke Watts on wpContent.
If you don’t want to dig too deep, learn the basics of HTML/CSS and some PHP so you can copy/paste the things and understand what they do. This will give you the freedom and flexibility to play around on your own without having to hire a developer or wait for someone to do it for you.
You can learn HTML/CSS/PHP on various websites that I’ve listed previously here: 30 Best Websites to Learn Design and Development.
Content can be anything: a blog post; infographic; video; job board; classified ad listing; marketplace item. There are many very specific themes designed to build a forum, job board, e-shop, portfolio or anything else you can imagine. Check out the WordPress Themes Directory or again, ThemeForest for some premium themes. One more thing that makes self-hosted WordPress a very flexible system is that plugins with different functionality can be installed on your WordPress website too.
Plugins can extend WordPress to do almost anything you can imagine. In the WordPress Plugin repository, you can find, download, rate, and comment on all of the best plugins the WordPress community has to offer. There are currently over 34,000 plugins in the directory, and you can almost certainly find something for the idea you have.
The essential plugins for a new WordPress site can be found here: The 5 Most Important WordPress Plugins.
So there you have it. An overview/introduction to WordPress, hopefully you learnt something new and made a decision to learn some more and start bootstrapping websites and businesses by yourself. If you have any questions leave them in the comments area or catch me on Twitter, @tomaslau.