WordPress Basics Part 1: Why WordPress is the Right CMS for You

7 Min.

WordPress is the most popular CMS which you can set up directly as a one-click installation from the customer dashboard of most webhosts. In this series of articles, I'll be delving into the most important WordPress areas in detail. I'll show you how to use the WordPress dashboard, address the limits of the system and explain the advantages of RAIDBOXES compared to other hosts. Today in the first part of this series, we'll be looking at the basics of WordPress and some background knowledge.

Websites, CMS and WordPress. What connects all of these?

In addition to the usual social media channels used by self-employed people and freelancers, having your own website is a particularly valuable communication platform to promote your product or services. Regardless of the possibilities and "business card" options from providers such as Tumblr, Blogger, Facebook etc., having your own website, especially with your own domain, is a very important channel. If not even the most important channel. Bloggers also rely on WordPress as the platform for their internet presence. The thought may seem unlikely at the moment, but nobody knows if Facebook will still exist in 5 years. Again and again, giant platforms have closed down. Having your own website makes you independent. Even if your hoster were to stop offering their services, you can simply export your content elsewhere.

Does it really have to be your own website?

As useful as social networks are for communication and marketing: you shouldn't rely solely on them. Jan Tissler explains what a content hub is for agencies, freelancers and companies and why a central contact point is so important.

CMS - What is that again?

CMS stands for Content Management System. With a CMS you can manage your web content. And that's exactly what WordPress can do for you. In addition, you can choose a theme (design) and expand the system with certain extensions, so-called plugins. More about this in the course of this series. In short: With a content management system you can easily manage and update your content yourself and publish it quickly and easily.

The open source idea

WordPress and some other content management systems are open source. This means that anyone can view and modify the source code and help shape the project. Many programmers work to continuously improve the code either because they simply like it and want to support free software, or because they want to earn money with additional services and plugins. The core software itself free of charge. So when you use WordPress, you don't pay for the software but rather for any additional services like hosting, support, or professional assistance - such as those from RAIDBOXES. Because WordPress is open source and based on PHP, HTML and CSS, other programmers can offer their own plugins and themes to customize the system. This means there are virtually no limits to the ways in which it can be customized and individualized.

Do you know how WordPress got started?

Today you can create almost any type of digital project with WordPress. But it hasn't always been like this. Every beginning is hard but it is both the ups and the downs that have made WordPress the undisputed market leader among content management systems. Read more about the WordPress success story this article.

Why WordPress?

As mentioned above, WordPress is the most used CMS on the internet. A high number of users means there is an abundance of published information on all areas of the system so you can find help quickly when you have an issue. Just give it a try yourself: Google a question about WordPress directly, in the same way as if you were to ask me about it. Chances are you will get one or even several answers immediately.

In principle, the basic system already comes with the most important functions. With several WordPress plugins (extensions) you can also easily extend the functionality of your website and activate additional features. Later in this series I will go more into more detail on what plugins can do for you. Just like with plugins, you can individualize your WordPress installation with themes. 

With themes you determine the design, i.e. the appearance of your website. Depending on your budget and your desire for individuality, you can either use anything from a free WordPress theme (often pretty standard and basic) to completely individually programmed ones.

What about security?

Because the market share of WordPress is so high, the software is, of course, interesting for hackers and a large target. Rarely will you or your website be personally attacked. However, there are several "bots" on the net that only search out WordPress installations and automatically test common security holes. So you should take care to keep your WordPress up to date and secure. Many hosters, including RAIDBOXES, offer relevant security features and services. In this way you don't have to worry about updating your plugins, themes, or the WordPress core software and you can concentrate on your own content.

Everything online

Everything you do with WordPress you do in the browser and directly online. It doesn't matter what operating system your computer has, you just need a browser. You can also manage everything from your mobile phone or tablet, for example. That means you need a web server to run your WordPress website which is where hosters come into play.

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Key points:

  • Getting help is fast due to widespread use of WordPress
  • Freely expandable thanks to both free and self-programmed plugins.
  • Customizable with free and self-programmed themes
  • Relatively easy to use compared with other CMS
  • The basic system is open source and free
  • You need to ensure your versions are up to date and secure yourself if this isn't provided by your hoster

WordPress.org vs. WordPress.com - What is the right setup for you?

When using WordPress there are several different options you should be aware of so you can choose the best one to fit your needs. To be clear: only option 1 is wordpress.com. The other options use the free open source software from wordpress.org.

WordPress Basics Part 1: Why WordPress is the Right CMS for You
On wordpress.org you can download the latest WordPress software for free. The project is open source and is developed by volunteers - so-called contributors.

Option 1: wordpress.com

WordPress.com is a hosting service provided by Automattic - the company of WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg. The service of WordPress.com is a popular option for hobby bloggers in particular since you don't need to take care of webspace or a domain. At wp.com you get an already installed WordPress instance on a server. 

There are different payment models ranging from free (with advertising on your site) up to various paid options depending on what exactly you need and want. In the free version, however, your site runs on a subdomain, so your domain will look like this: yourdomain.wordpress.com This is not recommended, especially for SEO reasons.

As the system is hosted and maintained entirely by wordpress.com, the functionality is very limited. You can't install any (or only limited) plugins there and even with themes you are simply not as free as with a self-hosted WordPress. Also, if you want to use FTP or SSH, wordpress.com is no option for you. In my opinion, it is primarily useful for hobby bloggers, or if you just want to have a look at the system. However, this variant is not really suitable for professional use.

WordPress.com vs WordPress.org

The fact that the commercial wp.com and the open source software of wp.org are confused is (understandably) common. The colleagues from Elmastudio have dedicated a whole article to the topic and explain the differences in detail.

Option 2: Hosting WordPress on your own server

WordPress.org enables you to download the WordPress software for free and install it on your own server. This way you can use all the possibilities that WordPress offers and tailor it to your needs. The disadvantage is that you have to install and maintain WordPress, take care of updates and the security of your server etc. You also need a server with certain functions and you need to know how to use it. This option is only suitable for those users with enough technical experience.

Option 3: Hosting WordPress with generic providers

Thanks to the wide distribution of WordPress and ever-increasing demand, most (large) web hosts, in addition to hosting other content management systems, also offer WordPress hosting. The advantage over hosting on your own server is that you don't have to take care of setting up the installation and other setups yourself. If you have any questions, you can approach your hosting provider with them.

WordPress Basics Part 1: Why WordPress is the Right CMS for You

Option 4: Hosting with WordPress specialists like RAIDBOXES

There are providers who are specialized in WordPress hosting and "only" offer this. But this means they are really good at what they do. At RAIDBOXES this is the service you get. The young team there has specialized in WordPress, is growing continuously and only has servers located in Europe, which is an important factor for many people today. They offer great support and help you personally with all WordPress related questions.

This option is right for you if you want to host WordPress at a highly professional level with backups, updates, performance optimization, features for managing and developing your projects and, most importantly, first-class support without having to deal with any issues yourself. Such a service is vital for websites and shops, for example, where the owner is losing money as soon as the shop goes offline for a few seconds.

How is a (WordPress) website built?

Due to the multitude of websites and user devices, there is no real "standard" anymore as to what a website should look like. In principle many sites are, however, structurally very similar. With WordPress, there are different areas and terms, which I would like to explain here as a short introduction to the topic. It makes sense to deal with them briefly first to better understand the admin area, i.e. the dashboard.

Do you know the current web design trends?

You can find out which elements, designs and aesthetics currently set the tone in the design world in our article about Web design trends 2020 .

Areas of the website

A website is divided into different areas. The primary content, sidebars, head, and footer. In all areas, you can enter or determine different contents, depending on the theme (will be explained in a later article of the series). This can be by using text, by code or by widgets. You will get to know how all of this works over the course of this series on WordPress.

Website or homepage or pages?

These three terms are often used online and this article. But what is the difference between them?

  • website = the big picture, i.e. www.yourwebsite.com with all subpages.
  • homepage = the start page of your website, i.e. the first page you land on when you go to www.yourwebsite.com
  • pages = the individual subpages, for example the "about us" or the "contact" page. The area where your blog posts appear is also a page. In the WordPress system, it is called "post page".

Pages and posts

WordPress is not only suitable for "regular" websites, you can also use it for blogging. If you want to blog, you do not create "pages", but "posts". The section of your website with the posts does not necessarily have to be called "blog", other popular names for this area include "news" or simply "magazine".

A blog post and a page look very similar at first glance. In fact, you can create a website that consists only of blog posts or only of pages. Visitors won't be able to tell the difference at first glance. Ultimately there are, however, a few subtle differences that will affect your website.

Pages are static. They are created once and then remain as they are. Typical examples include "about us", "contact" or "gallery".

Posts are dynamic. This doesn't mean they necessarily have to be changed, but they are by nature topical and are created for a specific purpose or on a specific topic. This is comparable to a magazine: the overview of the editorial staff members, for example, remains the same but the articles change in every issue.

Off you go!

I bet you can't wait to try every everything out right away. At RAIDBOXES you can test WordPress for free and get straight to challenging the support with all your WordPress questions.

In the next part of this WordPress basics series, we will start digging deeper. I'll introduce you to the dashboard and explain the basic settings you should know to understand WordPress system.

Johannes is very curious and has already reached various stages in his career. From a trained IT specialist to a freelance photographer, he is versatile and can therefore put on the different "glasses" of his customers. Today he works as a freelance photographer and consultant for WordPress and photography. [Photo: Dennis Weißmantel]

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