If you’ve been researching ways to build your first website, then you’ve undoubtedly come across WordPress. 

WordPress is one of the most popular content management systems (CMS) in the world. It currently powers over one-third of the internet.

But what exactly is WordPress?

At the core, it’s software that powers your website. It controls how your site looks, functions, and performs. It’s what will power the backend of your site, it’s how you’ll publish pages and posts, and it controls how your site will look and how your visitors will interact with your site. 

But, there’s still a lot more to WordPress than that.

Below we’ll dive into what WordPress is, its history, and how you can get started with your own WordPress site today. 

best WordPress hosting

What is WordPress?

WordPress is open-source software that can be used to create and manage websites. It can help you build anything from a simple blog, to an eCommerce store, a business website, a creative portfolio, and anything else under the sun.

Even if you’ve never built a website, it’s not a problem with WordPress. You don’t need to have any design or programming skills to end up with a professional website.

Your site’s design will be taken care of by your WordPress themes, of which you’ll find thousands to choose from. If you want to add more features to your website, then you can do that via the plugin library.

WordPress started as blogging software but has since grown into a full-fledged site builder. 

It’s currently used by sites such as BBC America, TechCrunch, and Vogue.

Here are a few things that make WordPress completely awesome:

  • It’s completely free and open source. All you need is a domain name and web hosting, and you can build your site.
  • There’s a built-in community. It’s a project created by thousands of volunteers around the world. You’ll find useful tutorials, help, and guides all across the web. 
  • It’s flexible and highly customizable. You can build any kind of website, a massive tech blog, a small online store, a business website, a portfolio website, and more. 
  • You can quickly add new features. The plugin library is enormous, and with a few clicks, you can add nearly any feature you desire.
  • Your site will look good and perform great. WordPress is fast and built to help you rank. With thousands of beautiful themes, your site will look good across any device or screen size.

The Mission of WordPress

The goal of WordPress is to help democratize publishing. WordPress was designed to help make it possible for anyone to share their services, ideas, stories, or products with the world.

This is why the software is open-source, easy to use, setup, and built on the back of a helpful community. 

Not only is it straightforward to get started with WordPress and create your first website or blog, but this software can grow with you and your site. It powers everything from massive content sites receiving millions of monthly visitors, to brand new niche-focused bloggers who just bought their first domain a week ago. 

The History of WordPress

WordPress was created back in 2003. It’s the successor of a project known as b2/cafelog. It was created to fill the gap for a personal publishing framework built on PHP and MySQL. Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little created the original version of WordPress. 

But, since the software is open-source, a lot of the project has been built by a community of contributors. Today the face of WordPress is Matt Mullenweg, who is also the founder of Automattic.

This company has developed numerous plugins that you probably use on your site and operates WordPress.com, the paid version of WordPress. 

The first version of WordPress (WordPress 0.7) was released back in 2003. Since that initial release, there have been a series of releases which bring us to the most recent version, Gutenberg

The initial release helped to lay the foundation for the modern CMS we know and use today. It included things like comment moderation, the ability to upgrade the software, permalinks that were search engine-friendly, support for multiple post tags and categories, and more. 

As you can see the WordPress history is a long and fruitful one. Here are some key highlights related to the development of the platform:

  • In 2003, Automattic brought on Toni Schneider as CEO, the former Oddpost CEO and Yahoo! Executive
  • The first WordCamp was held that same year 
  • Automattic purchased Gravatar (you see these avatars present today in the comments section of WordPress)
  • In 2008 the WordPress Theme Directory was launched (today this offers thousands of free WordPress themes you can download)
  • WordPress 3.0 was released in 2010 and helped to make the transition from blogging system to full-fledged CMS
  • In 2015, the eCommerce plugin WooCommerce was acquired by Automattic
  • 2018 brought us the release of the Gutenberg editor, which provides users with an intuitive block editing experience

You can expect WordPress to continue to evolve and push the boundaries for what you can do with a CMS. 

How WordPress Works

WordPress is an open-source CMS, which means it’s free to install on your website. 

There are two versions of WordPress: the self-hosted WordPress.org and the paid version, WordPress.com. The entirety of this post is about the self-hosted version of WordPress.

The self-hosted version is going to be the primary version of WordPress you’ll most likely be using. This version offers you more freedom and flexibility, and access to the full suite of plugins and themes out there.

Once you sign up for a hosting account, you’ll have the ability to install WordPress on your site. This is done through a variety of one-click software applications that help you install WordPress in a few clicks.

HostGator WordPress One Click Install

After you’ve installed WordPress, then you can begin customizing your site by installing a theme, adding a few plugins, or writing a blog post.

The entire process is highly intuitive and easy enough for beginners to build a fully-functional professional website. 

5 Benefits of WordPress

WordPress is one of the most popular content management systems in the world. Its widespread use is not only due to its flexibility, but because of all the benefits it brings to site owners.

Here are some of the most significant benefits you’ll realize when you use WordPress to power your site:

1. WordPress is Easy to Use (Even For Total Beginners)

Even though WordPress is a powerful and flexible content management system, it’s still very beginner-friendly. Most hosts also make it very easy to install WordPress; all it takes is a few clicks to install the CMS on your site. 

Once WordPress is installed, then you can start customizing your site by installing a theme and adding plugins.

Overall, building a site with WordPress isn’t as easy as using a website builder, but there are so many helpful tutorials online that if you do run into a problem with your site, you won’t be stuck for long. 

The best thing about WordPress is that even if the learning curve is a little higher in the beginning, you’ll be amazed at what you can do in time. There’s no ceiling on what you’ll be able to accomplish with your site. 

2. WordPress is Highly Customizable and Flexible

WordPress can be used to build any kind of website. From large content-driven sites that have thousands of articles to small business websites that only have a handful of pages.

The theme and plugin library is so vast that you can add virtually any feature to your website, just by installing a WordPress plugin. Some plugins can help you add new features to your site, while others can completely transform your site, like how WooCommerce can help transform your website into a full-fledged eCommerce store. 

Plus, no existing design or programming skills are required to use the plugins. 

When it comes to your theme, it’s also easy to find the perfect theme for your site. There are more general themes that can be customized to your liking, or you can find a niche-specific theme that’s perfectly suited to your site. 

Plus, WordPress can grow with your site as well. Even if you’re starting with a smaller site, WordPress can literally support sites that get millions of visitors per month.

3. WordPress is Free and Open Source

Another great thing about WordPress is that it’s entirely free. This can help to keep costs low as you’re building your first website. The only thing that you need to pay for is a domain name and hosting.

There are thousands of different free themes and plugins that you can use to build out your website too. Of course, you’ll also find a massive library of premium themes and plugins available as well, but you can build a professional website quite nearly for free. 

The open-source nature of the software makes it so anyone in the world can contribute to the software, hence the massive rise of the free theme and plugin market.

4. WordPress is SEO Friendly

A lot of websites are highly dependant on search engine rankings. There’s a lot that goes into SEO and ranking highly in the search engines, but having a well-designed site with clean code and clear organizational structure can help you rank.

WordPress sites tend to rank higher in the search engines than other styles of websites. 

Plus, WordPress is very SEO-friendly right out of the gate. Not only that, but there are some excellent SEO plugins that can take your efforts even further, like Yoast SEO.

All you have to do is install and activate the plugin, and it’ll analyze your existing posts and give you recommendations for how you can further improve your onsite SEO. 

5. Managing Your Site is a Breeze

No matter what you’re trying to do with your site, WordPress makes the management process incredibly simple. First off, there are built-in updates, so all you have to do is literally login to your dashboard and click a button, and your site will be up to date.

Managing your growing content library is also incredibly easy. Even with a 1000+ posts on your blog, you can easily update, manage, and create new content. WordPress is built to scale, so no matter how large your site gets. Running a website with a dozen posts will be just as easy as one that contains hundreds. 

It’s no wonder some of the largest blogs in the world have decided to use WordPress to help manage and scale their blogs. 

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WordPress Pros and Cons

While WordPress is the most popular content management system on the market, it’s not the only one. How do you know if WordPress is right for you?

Do what anyone does when they need to make an important decision. Make a list of the pros and cons and see which list better suits your fancy. 

Pros of WordPress

We’ve already talked about the benefits of WordPress, but let’s take a closer look at some of the additional advantages of choosing WordPress as your content management system.

1. WordPress is affordable

Shared hosting plans for WordPress websites start out at $2.95/month and come with unmatched functionality. 

You can host several WordPress websites under one shared hosting plan, you get a free domain, you have site security, and unmetered bandwidth, to name a few.

2. WordPress has hundreds of plugins

If you can dream it on your WordPress website, you can probably do it via one of the hundreds of WordPress free, paid, or third-party plugins. Plugins for WordPress help you design your website without having to do any coding. 

By installing a plugin and clicking a few buttons, you can add social shares to your website, optimize your blog posts for SEO, capture email subscribers for your list, and so much more.

3. WordPress is responsive

Have you ever looked up a website on a tablet or your phone, only to find out you can’t see anything and it’s not optimized for mobile viewing? If so, you know how annoying it is.

New WordPress themes are responsive and optimized for mobile viewing. This means you don’t have to worry about website visitors not being able to see your content when they visit your website via a smart device.

4. WordPress is a DIY software

While you certainly can hire a web developer to build your website, you don’t have to if you opt for WordPress.

WordPress is so intuitive and easy to use that even novice website owners can learn how to build and customize their website.

Cons of WordPress

WordPress is my personal favorite content management system, but it would be naive to say that there aren’t some disadvantages. Here’s a closer look at the cons of WordPress.

1. You have to install updates

I have a few WordPress websites, and sometimes I go a month or two without posting a new blog post. Whenever I log in to my WordPress dashboard, there is always a request for either a software, theme, or plugin update.

To keep a healthy WordPress website, you have to install all the necessary updates. If you’re a more vigilant website owner, then this won’t be a problem.

2. Customizing themes can be difficult

WordPress comes with several beautiful themes. The advantage is you don’t have to do much customization to make these themes look awesome. However, if you do want to customize them, sometimes it can be difficult to figure out how to make the theme do exactly what you want it to do.

3. Open source can lead to vulnerabilities

WordPress is an open-source content management system, which means anyone can contribute to the software. 

This is mostly an awesome feature, but it can open the door to some potential vulnerabilities. Just make sure that you take extra precautions to protect your WordPress website, and you should be fine.

Getting Started With WordPress Today

Even with all of the features that are packed into WordPress it’s very easy to get started. If you decide to host your site with HostGator, then the process is even easier.

Once you sign up for a hosting account and fire up your hosting dashboard, installing WordPress will only take a couple of clicks.

All you have to do to get started is click on ‘Build a New WordPress Site’:

hostgator build a new wordpress site

This will fire up the software that will automatically install WordPress on your site. 

hostgator install wordpress on domain

All you have to do is input the domain that you want to transform into a WordPress site and enter a few more details about your site.

Once the software is finished you’ll have a WordPress site you can start customizing.

After WordPress is up and running on your site you can access your site by navigating to “yourdomain.com/wp-admin”. Enter your username and password and you’ll be taken to the backend of your site.

wordpress dashboard

This will be your home base for customizing your site, installing themes and plugins, publishing pages and blog posts, and keeping your site up to date. In time, you’ll become a master of your WordPress dashboard. 

Hopefully, by now you understand the power of WordPress, it’s history, and how far it’s come. WordPress is a truly powerful CMS that’s the number one choice for most new website builders, and your new website can be next!

Kevin Wood writes about technology and human potential. You can find him at his virtual homes Wooden Writing and Counter Culturist.