WordPress – It’s Not Just For Blogs
WordPress was originally designed to help with building blogs whose content is arranged chronologically. However, WordPress as a content management system (CMS) is extremely powerful and is ideal for creating traditional websites. Best of all, it’s free and easy to use – all you need is a web hosting account that supports PHP and MySQL. It comes with a huge number of templates and there are literally gazillions of WordPress themes all over the web – you can even customize them or create your own (Note: you need to know PHP coding). In this article series, I’ll be taking you through the steps required to get started with WordPress to create a stunning, powerful website.
Building a website from scratch using HTML and CSS code allows you precise control over all elements of your site. However, this approach isn’t for everyone – learning coding languages takes time and practice (especially web design which involves an artistic element too) and once the site is complete it can be very time consuming to make even the smallest of changes (try changing a CSS style which affects your entire site – the ripple effects can be frustrating!). For non-tech savvy users, tweaking text, styles and images on existing pages – let alone creating new ones – can be very difficult (which is probably a good thing or our job as developers would not exist :-)).
Enter WordPress … this opensource platform makes it extremely easy even for web novices to use, yet it still provides a lot of control over how your website functions and looks. Since WordPress is free to download and very popular, there are tonnes of good (and some bad!) WordPress themes on the web. One of my favorite theme resources can be found here. While many themes out there are free, it is worth looking into premium themes (the well-known saying ‘You get what you pay for’ applies here too). WordPress also features plugins (again, about a gazillion free ones out there) which let you add some funky features to your site/blog like photo slideshows or videos.
Another great reason for using WordPress is that all configuration (except for things requiring development, but unless you require very specialized functionality you won’t need this) can be done within your web browser. No special software (such as Frontpage / Adobe DreamWeaver) are required. Note: If you are going to delve into the wonderful world of code and geekdom, I recommend using the NetBeans IDE with PHP add-on. It rocks.
As a content management system, WordPress has some rivals (wouldn’t things be boring otherwise?) – amongst these the most popular are probably Joomla and Drupal. While I haven’t used Joomla, I can strongly attest to Drupal’s non-ease of use: Even (especially?) if you’re a developer, Drupal is not for the faint-hearted and most likely any functionality you require with it can be implemented in WordPress (happy to hear your thoughts on this in the comments, fellow web developers!). One of our sites www.PetHostr.com was developed in Drupal but we’ll be looking at migrating it to the Yii framework soon. Anyway, enough on Drupal 🙂
Many web hosting providers support one-click installation of WordPress using tools such as Fantastico, while others require you to install it manually. In my experience, installing WordPress can be a frustrating process for first-time users (even with the one-click installs, which are never quite one-click) – which is why we came up with the Twoggle Free WordPress install service – why not let us do the work for you? If you are going to down the DIY track, we recommend going with a host with solid WordPress support, such as DreamHost, or BlueHost.
Once you’ve got WordPress succesfully installed, check out the second part of this series – configuring WordPress (coming soon).