WordPress is the world’s most popular tool to help you launch and manage a website.
WordPress powers over one third of all the websites on the Internet, and it provides a flexible way to create and customize a website without the need for any special technical knowledge.
You can use WordPress to create any type of website, including blogs, eCommerce stores, portfolio websites, and lots, lots more.
In this post, we’ll dig deeper into the question of “what is WordPress” to help you get familiar with the most popular way to make a website. In total, you’ll learn:
- What WordPress is in more detail
- The features that make WordPress so popular
- What WordPress is used for
- The difference between WordPress.org and WordPress.com
- What you need to create a WordPress website
What is WordPress? Explained in More Detail
WordPress helps you make a website that is 100% your own.
It does this without requiring you to have any special technical knowledge.
Instead, you can install the WordPress software on your own web hosting via a simple setup wizard and then manage and extend your site using an easy-to-use, non-technical interface.
Getting a little more technical, WordPress is an open-source content management system (CMS). Let’s unpack those two statements…
- Open-source – the WordPress software is 100% free and anyone can freely edit its code. The software is maintained by a global community of volunteers – it’s not “owned” by a single company.
- Content management system – a CMS helps you manage the content of your website and display it to your visitors. Rather than needing to interact directly with “code” to make your website, the CMS gives you a simple interface to upload your content. Then, the CMS will automatically turn that content into a well-designed website for you.
For example, if you want to publish a blog post on WordPress, you can write your content using a simple editor. You can also create basic layouts and include other elements like images, buttons, and videos:
Then, WordPress will take that content and automatically create the “front-end” page that people who visit your website will see:
Beyond managing content, WordPress also makes it easy to extend your site without writing any custom code using two types of add-ons:
- Themes – a theme lets you control your site’s design and style. There are tens of thousands of themes that can help you instantly create everything from a travel blog to a restaurant website to a portfolio site and more.
- Plugins – a plugin helps you add new functionality to your site. That functionality can be small, like a simple contact form, or big, like turning WordPress into a fully-functioning eCommerce platform.
What is WordPress Used For?
The short answer is that you can use the modern WordPress software to create literally any type of website.
WordPress initially started as a tool to help you create a blog. But WordPress has long since expanded to become a general-purpose content management system.
For example, what do you think is the most popular tool to create an eCommerce store? Shopify, maybe? Wix?
Nope! You can see where this is going – WordPress is actually the most popular eCommerce platform in the world, thanks to a plugin called WooCommerce (more on what a “plugin” is later).
You can use WordPress to create a…
- Business website
- eCommerce store
- Portfolio or resume website
- Social network
- Membership site
- Online course
- …you get the idea – pretty much anything!
You can also mix-and-match these use cases. For example, you can create a blog that also has a forum. Or, you can create an online course that also has social network functionality to help course-takers interact.
And because there are tens of thousands of WordPress themes and plugins, you can do pretty much all of this without needing to write any code from scratch.
Examples of Sites Built With WordPress
To drive home the point that you can use WordPress for pretty much anything, let’s look at a few specific examples from the 35% of websites using WordPress.
We have the official New Zealand All Blacks online shop, which uses WordPress and WooCommerce to create an online store:
Another good example is Weddingbee, which uses WordPress to power a massively popular forum:
Finally, there’s WP101, which uses WordPress to power an online course that teaches people how to use WordPress (that’s meta)! It also incorporates a forum:
Why is WordPress so Popular?
Once again, WordPress powers 35% of all the websites on the Internet. Let that number sink in – because it’s pretty wild to think about just how popular that makes WordPress.
You know those website builders like Squarespace and Wix that you see ads for all the time? They only power 1.6% and 1.3% of websites, respectively. Combined, they power less than a tenth of the sites that WordPress does.
So why is WordPress so massively popular?
There are a few big factors that contribute to the success of WordPress:
- Beginner-friendliness – you don’t need any special technical knowledge to build a website with WordPress. Even if you have no idea what HTML and CSS are, you can build an awesome website with WordPress.
- Flexibility – as you learned above, you can use WordPress to build pretty much any type of website. What’s more, you can do this with tens of thousands of free themes and plugins – you don’t need to “custom code” anything.
- Cost – the core WordPress software is 100% free. While there are some other associated costs with running a WordPress site, WordPress is still one of the cheapest ways to build a website.
- Ownership – with WordPress, you 100% own your site. There are no rules and no one can delete your account.
- Community – because WordPress is so popular, there’s a massive global community of people who use WordPress. This makes it super easy to find help and resources if you ever need it.
What is the Difference Between WordPress.org and WordPress.com
Up until now, we’ve been talking about “WordPress” as if it’s one single thing. But there’s this confusing little quirk about WordPress that you might have already run into.
If you search for “WordPress” in Google, you’ll see two websites:
So – what’s the difference?
Here’s the short answer:
WordPress.org is the free, non-profit, open-source WordPress software that you can install and use to build any type of website. It’s also called self-hosted WordPress.
Whenever we talk about “WordPress” on this site, we’re really referring to the open-source WordPress software at WordPress.org.
Then, WordPress.com is one specific implementation of the WordPress.org software. WordPress.com is a for-profit service created by the same guy who co-founded the open-source WordPress software.
WordPress.com kind of helps you build a WordPress site, but you don’t get access to the same level of flexibility that you get when you use the self-hosted WordPress.org software.
Overall, we always recommend the self-hosted software at WordPress.org over the for-profit, limited implementation at WordPress.com.
What You Need to Launch a WordPress Website
At this point, you should have a pretty good idea of what WordPress is.
Now, let’s talk about what you need to do to create your own website with WordPress. Again, we’re referring to the self-hosted WordPress.org software here – not WordPress.com.
To create your own WordPress website, there are really only two things you absolutely need beyond the free WordPress software:
- Web hosting – web hosting is the engine that powers the WordPress software and makes it available to visitors from around the world. When you purchase web hosting, you’re basically renting space on a computer that will be dedicated to running the WordPress software.
- Domain name – your domain name is your WordPress site’s permanent address on the Internet. For example, ours is elites-agency.com. When someone visits your domain name, your web hosting will then serve up your website to that person’s browser.
Because WordPress is so popular, there are tons of web hosting providers with WordPress-specific offerings.
These hosts provide a number of features to make it easier to create and manage a WordPress site, like user-friendly setup wizards to help you install the WordPress software.
At most hosts, you can also purchase your domain name when you buy your hosting. Some hosts will even give you a domain name for free!