You’ve been searching for the best solution for starting your own website. And on more than one occasion WordPress has come up but you have no idea what it is and how it works. Today I’ll try to demystify what WordPress is by giving you a clear explanation of all the jargon surrounding it.
What is WordPress?
WordPress powers more than 30% of websites on the internet. Think about that. There are many website services out there. Not to mention custom-built sites. That number says a lot about how easy it is to use WordPress and how customizable it is.
A lot of words get thrown around when you read about WordPress: posts, dashboard, tags, PHP. But what do they all mean? I’ve put together a list of the most common words used, along with a simple definition for each. Hopefully, this will help you get better acquainted with the world’s most popular CMS.
Hosting – This is the first thing you’ll need if you want a WordPress site. It’s where the WordPress files will live so they can be seen on the internet. These files will become your website. Hosting comes at a cost but in recent years has become ridiculously affordable.
Domain – The domain is the address you choose for your website. For example, this site’s domain is nudgethemes.com. You can get a domain from any web hosting company or domain registrar. The average cost of a domain is roughly $10-15 a year. The hard part is finding a domain that’s available. The shorter and easier the address, the better.
Posts – A lot of people get confused between a post and a page (see below). Posts are articles or entries listed in reverse chronological order. The latest one will always be at the top of your list. The articles or entries generally have the published date associated with them. These are tagged and categorized according to the relevant topics of your site.
Pages – In WordPress a page is used for static information. For example, your About or Contact page. Unlike your posts, pages aren’t categorized nor to they have a publish date associated with them.
Categories – In WordPress there are several ways of organizing your content. Categories are the first. You decide which categories are available on your site. For example, if your blog is about cooking, your categories can be meals, desserts, snacks and drinks. You’ll then assign your blog post to the most appropriate category. This helps users find information on your site as they can be set as menu items or displayed in a widget. You can assign as many categories to your post as you want. Personally, I would recommend not going overboard with these.
Tags – Tags are the second way of organizing your blog posts in WordPress. Where categories are a bit more general, tags can be specific to each post. Again, if your blog is about cooking you can use “ingredients” or “easy recipes” as tags. Like categories, there is no limit to how many tags you can add to a post but once again I recommend not going too crazy here. And keep in mind that categories and tags are independent of each other.
Plugins – A plugin is a set of files which gives your site and theme added functionality. It can be anything from a new type of widget to backend enhancements. As with themes, there are thousands of free plugins available in the WordPress repository. Some offer paid upgrades which give extra support or features.
Widget – Widgets are small blocks of content which you can add and remove from your sidebar or footer area. Generally, these small blocks are added to the sidebar area or to the footer area of a site. Widgets can be anything from a sign-up form to images. WordPress comes with some default widgets but more can always be added with the help of plugins.
Menu – Navigation, menu and even tabs are interchangeable words meaning the same thing. At the top of every website, you will see a list of words which link users to various parts of the site. Examples of common links in a menu are Services, About, Contact and Blog. WordPress gives you an easy menu to create your own site navigation.
Navigation – See menu.
Customizer – This is where you’ll find all your theme options. Each theme can differ when it comes to options. Standard WordPress options are site title, site description, logo and background colours. Once again, the possibilities here are endless.
Dashboard – This is where you land once you’ve logged into your WordPress site. From here you can do pretty much anything you need on your site. Like writing your posts or pages, adding plugins, changing your theme and more.
Featured Image – Most themes will display an image either in a thumbnail format or on the blog page. You can add this image on a per post or per page basis from the editor page. The image crop size and placement are predetermined by the theme you are using.
Editor – Writing posts or pages in WordPress is done from the editor page. Here you can type in your text, add images, galleries and any other content you want to display on your page. There are two modes for the editor: Visual and HTML. Each can be accessed from a tab. The Visual editor is the default mode. The icons at the top let you format your text similar to a word processing program. In HTML mode, those same formatting buttons are no longer available but here you can write your own HTML.
Open-source – This is software people are allowed to use, change and share for free. The source code can be changed and enhanced by anyone. WordPress is open-source software.
CSS – Cascading Style Sheet or CSS is the language used to create the design of your site. It will determine the fonts, the colours, the spacing and the layout. It also takes care of how your site will display on mobile devices. CSS is not a coding language but rather markup, which is used alongside HTML. The CSS is always included in your theme.
HTML – HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) is the language which gets wrapped around your content. It will determine which elements will appear on a page, in which order and how they will look. Once the HTML is laid out, CSS is added on top to style the page. You don’t need to know any HTML when using WordPress as editor page provides you with a visual editor. But I highly recommend learning some HTML anyway. There may be circumstances when going into the markup could save you a lot of time.
PHP – PHP is a popular open-source coding language. WordPress is based on PHP. It’s used in combination with HTML but needs to run on your hosting in order for it to work.
Database – This is where your site’s content get stored. When your site’s PHP files get interpreted by the server, it will place all your content in tables in the database. Everything from your theme settings, users as well as images and post copy gets added to your database. This is why it’s super important to do regular backups of your database. This way if anything ever goes wrong during an update or your site gets hacked, you’ll have a copy of your site’s content.
So there you have it! Hopefully, I’ve demystified some of the lingo for you and you now have a better understanding of what WordPress is.
I’ll be regularly adding to this list so if I missed anything you’d like me to cover, let me know!