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What is WordPress?

WordPress

Depending on your background, you may be familiar with WordPress or it might be a new term to you. This series of episodes will focus on WordPress for those who are somewhat familiar with WordPress, but would like to really dig in and see what this open source software is all about. WordPress is one of the most popular pieces of software on planet earth, and you have almost certainly come across it, even if you may not know it. You can take advantage of this software for yourself to power a blog, website, or fully customized content management system. Let’s jump right in to learning all about WordPress!


What is WordPress?

Simple Blogging Application

For many of us that maybe are not full blown geeks, but use the internet on a regular basis, we might be casually familiar with WordPress as a simple blogging application. Maybe your friend does some blogging, and you remember her mentioning using WordPress. So yes, you can use WordPress as a simple blogging application and it works great for this.

CMS or Content Management System

So you may know that WordPress can be used for maintaining a simple blog, but it also powers millions upon millions of diverse websites on the internet. Some of the use cases include online magazines, digital newspapers, television stations, government websites, social media portals, and more! Some of these may not have the familiar, “Proudly Powered by WordPress”, tagline in their footer but rest assured that the guts of their software uses a WordPress core.

General Web Publishing Software

So is WordPress a Simple Blogging Application or a Content Management System? And the answer to that is, Yes. You see, WordPress can be molded into pretty much any customized software you need it to be in order to meet your online goals.


Some Amazing WordPress Facts

Now that we know just a little bit about what WordPress is, let’s examine it further. We’ll look at some interesting facts about the software that might surprise you.

Open Source

So this WordPress Software you keep telling me about, what’s it going to cost me? Well, it’s free. As in, beer or pizza. That’s right, this powerful software is free for you to download, use, modify, customize, and tinker with in any way you see fit. You can thank the good folks over at http://automattic.com for this!

Created in 2003

Since WordPress began in 2003, there have been over 82 great feature updates, and countless improvements and refinements to lead up to what it is today. You’ll be amazed to learn that approximately 19% of all websites on the entire internet are powered by WordPress! In addition to this, every one in four new websites starting today will leverage WordPress in some way. It is truly an amazing success story.


What Websites Use WordPress?

You may be thinking, “Hey, I like the sounds of this WordPress – but I’d like to see who is actually using this software on live websites to see what it is capable of.” If you are thinking this, well bravo, great minds think alike. I was wondering this as well. Thankfully we have the WordPress Showcase to give us an idea. You’ll find every thing from well known businesses, higher education, politics, celebrity, sports teams, governments, and more using WordPress. Let’s check out a few of them here:

Sony Music

Sony Music
Ladies Learning Code

Ladies Learning Code

LinkedIn

linkedin
techcrunch

Techcrunch

Search Engine Land

Search Engine Land
gigaom

GigaOM

Media Temple

Media Temple
playstation

Playstation Blog

Web Designer Wall

Web Designer Wall
Ted Talks

Ted Blog

Web Designer Depot

Web Designer Depot
Smashing Magazine

Smashing Magazine

Better Codes

Better Codes
SitePoint

SitePoint

Nettuts

Nettuts
Web Development Group

Web Development Group

As you can see, there are many well known people, brands, and businesses using WordPress.


WordPress, WordPress.com, and WordPress.org Oh My!

There is sometimes just a bit of confusion when talking about WordPress. Notice the three variants in the section title above. They are all unique in terms of what they are so let’s take a quick look at them one by one.

WordPress

When we say WordPress, we’re referring to the actual software itself that makes up the WordPress Application. This is for the folks that are ready to build and configure websites on their own. You’ll need to understand how to download your own copy of the software, register a domain name, purchase dedicated web hosting, and so on. There are many many pieces to the puzzle, which is why you see so many blogs that focus on nothing other than helping others get their blogs up and running!

Pros: Full Control, Full Customization
Cons: More Work

WordPress.org

WordPress.org is where you can visit to download the actual WordPress Software to your local environment. You’ll find various downloads, plugins, and information to help you along. In addition you can visit the user forums, find new themes, and browse the extensive documentation for creating and updating content in WordPress.

WordPress.com

Maybe you don’t want to deal with downloading your own copy of WordPress, setting up your own hosting account, registering a domain name, and all of the manual legwork that is involved. Turnkey blogging is more along the lines of what your’re looking for. In that case WordPress.com is here to fill that need for you. WordPress.com is a cloud based service that will get you up and running in mere minutes.

Pros: Easy
Cons: Limited ability to customize

When you’re looking to set up a new blog or website and you need to decide between Self Hosted WordPress vs Cloud Hosted WordPress.com, it really comes down to what you want to get out of the blogging experience. If you need full control, and if you’re reading this blog you probably do want that, go for the self hosted WordPress option. If you’re not ready to make the full commitment you can start at WordPress.com and then export that data into your own self hosted solution if you like at a later time.

Install WordPress

In this series we’re most interested in working directly with WordPress the application. We’ll make use of a WordPress Install on our localhost. You can do the same if you’d like to follow along with hands on exercises. The easiest way to do this is to install something like mamp if you’re on a mac, or wamp if you’re on a windows platform. The great thing about these products is that they will install Apache, PHP, phpMyAdmin, and everything else you’ll need to get WordPress up and running very quickly. If you prefer, you can also set up your own self hosted option using something like Laravel Forge. Feel free to use whatever you like.

Accessing Your WordPress Site

Once you get WordPress installed on either your localhost, or a hosting service on the internet, you’ll be able to access your WordPress Site via any web browser. Of course Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft IE, and Apple Safari are the most common browsers you might be interested in using.

Front and Back

Your WordPress website has two methods to reach it. You can of course visit the main public site, which displays all of your content, or you can log in to the private back end or administrators panel to control settings, edit new posts, and so on. In the old days, webmasters needed to actually create all HTML by hand and link pages together manually. Very quickly, this became a tiresome and arduous job. Via the WordPress administrators panel, much of this work is taken care of for you.

To visit the public install of your WordPress site, you simply visit the URL where your install is located. Let’s say we installed it on our localhost within a folder named wordpress. In that case, to visit the public facing side of our site, we simply visit http://localhost/wordpress/ and we’re good to go. You may or may not want to put the install in a dedicated folder. If you have other projects that you are frequently working on in a local environment, then it makes sense to use a folder. If this is your only website to work on, and you want to minimize confusion as much as possible, you can simply put the install in the root directory. That way you just visit http://localhost/ and you’ll see your site. When you’re deploying to a live host on the internet with your own domain name, you’ll almost always want the WordPress install right in the root directory. That way you can simply visit http://yourdomain.com/ to see your site.

There is also the back end of WordPress that we’ll talk a lot about. In fact, as a website developer with WordPress, this is where you are going to be spending a very large amount of your time. Content is king, and the creator is going to need to spend a lot of time in the WordPress administrators area to make the magic happen. New articles are not going to write themselves! In order to visit your admin area, simply add /wp-admin to the url of your install. So http://localhost/ would be http://localhost/wp-admin/, http://localhost/wordpress/ would be http://localhost/wordpress/wp-admin/, and http://yourdomain.com/ would be http://yourdomain.com/wp-admin/. Pretty straight forward.

If you’re not logged in already, you will be redirected to a login page and you’ll see something like this:

WordPress Login

Once you enter your correct credentials, you’ll be routed to the administrators area of your WordPress Site. Maybe you already logged in recently and your session is still active, in this case you wouldn’t even need to enter your credentials. By simply visiting the admin url of your WordPress site, it will take you right to the admin area. It looks a bit like this if you are not already familiar:

WordPress Logged In

From the administrators panel of WordPress, you can do an amazing range of things with your website. Straight away you’ll likely visit the settings menu and configure things like like the Site Title, Tagline, WordPress Address, Site Address, Email Address, Timezone, and much more. The Site Title is the actual name of your site. For this website, it is simply VegiBit. The tagline is a few words that explain what your site is all about. If you write about Cup Cakes, you might have a tagline something like, “The Best Tasting Cakes This Side of the Mississippi” or something else you find catchy. Ours is simply, “Random Bits of Awesomeness”. The WordPress address and the Site address will usually be the same. You would simply put http://yourdomain.com/ or something similar to this in these fields.

How do I log out of WordPress?

A fairly simple yet easy to forget idea is logging out of WordPress. In most cases, you don’t really need to worry about this. There are instances when you would in fact want to make sure you are logged out of WordPress. Consider if you work in an environment which has a few pranksters lurking about. Imagine you just finished a masterpiece of a WordPress post when suddenly nature calls. You walk away from your workstation and visit the bathroom as needed. Your buddy notices that you had left and sees that there is a post just waiting to be published. Said buddy comes over and swaps out a few pictures in the post for pictures of you from last Friday Night when things got a little unruly at the company party. Our friend then decides to publish the post, and for good measure shares to Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus just to be sure the message gets out…

The chances of this actually happening are very high not really that high. In this scenario, you need to be sure you know how to log out of WordPress! That way the mischievous minions in your office won’t hack your latest blog post. In the very upper right corner of the administrators panel you’ll see an icon of your gravatar in addition to your user name. It will likely say something like, “Howdy, Username” (Insert your username here). Simply hover over this area, then click on “Log Out”. You’ll be happy you did the next time you need to visit the rest room.

We have lots more WordPress to Cover!

There are going to be several posts in this series that examine the nuts and bolts of WordPress. The goal is to cover everything we possibly can, soup to nuts. It’s going to be a lot of fun, and we hope you’ll stick around for the fun.