Does WordPress interest you, but are you put off by the thought that it might be too difficult and time-consuming to learn? Different people pick up skills at different rates, of course, and knowing another CMS (such as Squarespace) will give you a bit of a boost as far as picking up WordPress is concerned, but Word Press was, at least at its inception, designed to be intuitive. Compared to some other computer skills – learning a whole coding language, for example – WordPress is relatively easy to learn, at least as far as picking up its basic operations is concerned. And, even if your brain is particularly resistant to things other people term “intuitive”, you’ll find plenty of tools out there that will make learning WordPress easier than you may suspect.
What is WordPress?
WordPress is an extremely versatile and powerful content management system (CMS) that is behind 43% of the sites on the world wide web. Yes, that’s well over a third of the internet. You can use WordPress for everything from constructing a simple blog to setting up a gigantic online emporium. It’s even being used today as a framework for creating new applications.
WordPress is open-source and free software. That means that the code is accessible to anyone interested, and you can download it without cost. (There are expenses involved in setting up a WordPress site, but WordPress.com makes it possible to create a blog or a simple website without any money changing hands.) Iif you wish to establish an online presence of any size, WordPress can help you.
Learn more about what WordPress is and the benefits of learning to use it.
What Can You Do with WordPress?
WordPress first came to digital life in 2003 as blogging software. It enabled people seeking to establish a voice for themselves on the internet to create blogs without the need for actual coding. As such, WordPress remains extremely popular with bloggers. Indeed, anyone seeking to set up a blog will probably find themselves directed to WordPress for its relative ease of use and wide variety of features that make it possible for lay users to create something “professional” in appearance.
However, 43% of all sites on the web can’t all be blogs, and, indeed, WordPress is currently employed for a great deal more than maintaining ongoing records of what its more casual users had for dinner. WordPress has grown exponentially over the nearly two decades it has been in existence and is used for a variety of purposes today. A range of software plugins allows WordPress to do practically anything. To choose one example from many, the WooCommerce plugin allows the user to turn a WordPress site into a store. As such, WordPress has become the internet’s leading ecommerce platform.
Perhaps the most salient aspect of WordPress is that the software is open-source and free. This has many ramifications, not the least of which is that it opens the software for use as anything a user can imagine. Thus WordPress has expanded beyond blogs and smaller websites and stores into major websites for major companies (zoom.us, indeed.com, and the cryptocurrency site coinmarketcap.com are all powered by WordPress; so is hairwrapsandbrading.au). The software’s server side has most recently begun to be employed as a framework for creating applications. And all these possibilities are within reach of anyone who knows how to make use of the software.
What Are the Most Challenging Parts of Learning WordPress?
The first hurdle faced by those trying to use WordPress—that’s the free WordPress.org, not the for-profit WordPress.com, which, admittedly, gets you over these early hurdles at the price of some down-the-road functionality—is that you can’t just download it and use it. It must be installed on a server first, then it needs to be installed on your computer, and only then can you start trying to configure your first blog post or webpage. For people with limited tech backgrounds, the idea of finding their own server may sound daunting, but there are web hosting services that are designed specifically for WordPress users that include one-click installation of the software.
A next hurdle that’s going to face the new user of the open-source WordPress is the number of settings and decisions that have to be chosen before you can get to the “Hello, world!” part. There’s also the need to select a theme before you can proceed, and here you’re going to run up against many options. If there’s one thing WordPress isn’t is plug-and-play: the software throws a lot at you and expects you to handle it. The reason for all these settings is that the software is almost infinitely customizable. That means that just about everything on your site can be changed, and that means that you’ll have to decide on a large number of these factors before you can get started. There’s no denying that there’s a real learning curve to be tackled. It may be frustrating at first, but ere long the clouds do part, the sun comes out, and you will have an idea of what you are doing.
Perhaps the most complicated aspect of WordPress is also its most exciting: the use of plugins to do all kinds of handy-dandy things that the system itself isn’t capable of doing. Complicated though they may be at times, plugins are pretty much inescapable. WordPress doesn’t, for example, go into either analytics or SEO, so you’re going to need to set those up on your own, which is going to mean getting through the bewildering selection of plugins. Once you’ve selected them, the plugins then have to be plugged in, which can be tricky for novices. There’s no way around learning to use plugins, although there might be some consolation in the fact that, once you’ve got the hang of them, the results will be a website that can do everything you’ve ever dreamed it might.
How Does Learning WordPress Compare to Other Content Management Systems?
As WordPress powers some 43% of the web and is behind some 64.3% of all websites that employ known content management systems, there really isn’t any comparable competition on the market. There’s been perhaps a recent slight downtrend in WordPress’ overwhelming dominance, but still, its closest competitor in August 2022, Shopify, can only lay claim to a 6.2% market share of all websites with known CMSs.
Other CMS options do exist, however, and website builders like Wix and Squarespace have their uses. Most people are likely to find them easier to use than WordPress, largely because they don’t do as much as the market leader. Although there are some things you can do with Wix without having to pay for anything, their “freemium” model will probably have you purchasing a plan in order to have the kind of website you really want. Unlike Wix, Squarespace doesn’t have a free tier. And both Wix and Squarespace’s least expensive plans cost considerably more than those available from their WordPress equivalent, WordPress.com.
If you’re out to open an online store, WordPress, through WooCommerce, is again the market leader by a substantial margin. It is followed (surprisingly) by Squarespace and then by Shopify. Unlike the former two, Shopify didn’t start life as blogging software or as a website builder and was always designed for ecommerce. However, Shopify isn’t the easiest platform to figure out at first and has been known to cause frustration in its newer users. It’s also emphatically not free, and Shopify shopkeepers can very quickly get tangled up in transaction fees and commissions. Still, Shopify does what a CMS is supposed to do and allows people with no tech background (but quite a bit of patience) to start their own virtual marketplaces.
The choice between these options is going to depend on personal taste, your programming skills, and your budget. There is some good news in that Wix.com has a free tier as well as a free trial of its paid plans. Free trials are also available from Squarespace and Shopify. Compared to that, WordPress.org is, of course, free, while WordPress.com has a free tier but no free trials for its subscription plans.
WordPress, while a good skill to possess in and of itself, and a highly valuable one if you’re seeking to create a website for yourself or your own business, isn’t the entirety of the web design picture. You may wish to consult an article on web design to learn about other ways in which you can bring your design skills to the web.
WordPress.org vs. WordPress.com
WordPress exists in two versions: WordPress.org and WordPress.com. Someone seeking to start a blog or establish a website is going to be confronted by a choice between the two, and the differences are substantial. The “real” (as it is often called) WordPress is WordPress.org, in the sense that it’s the free, open-source version that allows you to take the software and run with it. It’s also the one that can accommodate all the themes and plugins you can imagine, and, with it, you’ll be running your own site, totally independently of WordPress itself. You can even take the code and make what you will of it, assuming you have the knowledge of PHP to do that. The sky is perhaps the limit, but you’re going to need a boost to get there.
The most immediate difference between WordPress.org and WordPress.com is that the former requires that you come up with your own hosting for the website you intend to build. There are hosting services that make that relatively easy as well as affordable. (There are even hosting services recommended by WordPress itself.) WordPress.com, by contrast, takes care of hosting for you and will either provide you with a free domain name (albeit a subdomain of wordpress.com) or take care of registering a paid domain name of your choice. While a free Wordpress.com site is something pretty much anyone can put together, it’s also going to be far too bare-boned for most purposes. On top of that, it will also be cluttered up by WordPress.com’s noxious ad content. Removing the ads and making the most out of WordPress.com is going to involve signing up for a monthly plan.
WordPress.com is a website-building business and, as such, is in competition with services such as Wix and Squarespace. The difference is that it makes use of much of WordPress’ functionality, which is far, far greater than what can be achieved with the other services.
The decision between WordPress.org and WordPress.com depends on what your needs and capabilities are. If you’re seeking to start a blog or set up a personal site, WordPress.com definitely offers less hassle, a somewhat easier learning curve, and far more possibilities than you can get from other website builders. If your goal is to start an online business, or anything else requiring advanced functionality and the plugins that inevitably entails, you’re looking at WordPress.org as the proper system for your needs. (One can also add that if you’re concerned with staying true to the libertarian values that are at the root of the internet, WordPress.org is also the place to be.)
Perhaps the best news about the WordPress.org vs. WordPress.com controversy is that you can easily switch your site from .com to .org. Your choice of WordPress.com is thus not graven in stone, and you can migrate to the “real” WordPress once your needs have grown accordingly. The really good part is that, by that time, your skills with the software will have grown as well.
To Code or not to Code
The other dilemma when it comes to learning WordPress is whether or not you need to know HTML to get the most out of the software. The answer there is yes and no: WordPress, as a CMS, is designed to make it possible to create blogs and websites without the user’s needing to resort to any coding. You can certainly do that and come up with outstanding results. That notwithstanding, there are certain operations when it comes to customization of a theme (for example) that can be conducted far more efficiently by resorting to a few lines of code.
Coding in this context means knowing HTML commands, which are not that difficult to learn, and which have their uses beyond the WordPress context. Yes, HTML is a set of computer commands, but it’s scarcely as complicated as full-fledged programming languages. A helpful online estimate places the total number of HTML tags in the vicinity of only about 250.
Learn WordPress with Hands-on Training at Noble Desktop
A highly effective way of learning to make the most of WordPress would be to take a class in the subject at Noble Desktop, a leading purveyor of live in-person IT training in New York City. Noble teaches extensively online as well, which puts its classes within reach of anyone in the world with internet access. Noble Desktop prides itself on its hands-on learning model, small class sizes, experienced and talented instructors, and a free retake option that makes it possible to cement or refresh your knowledge of what you’ve learned within the space of a year. Noble Desktop offers a wide variety of WordPress classes and bootcamps, one of which is sure to further your goals in using the CMS.
Noble Desktop’s WordPress Bootcamp is designed for students with a background in HTML and CSS who are seeking to learn how to use the system whilst bringing their knowledge of coding to the WordPress table as well. The course of study runs for three weeks, two nights a week for three hours a session, and takes WordPress novices through to customizing a website in ways that aren’t possible if you are limited to communicating in English with the software.