Last updated on January 3rd, 2019. Posted in WordPress.
Is WordPress easy to learn? You betcha! But if you don't understand how WordPress works and the two different versions of WordPress, it can seem confusing and difficult. In this post, you'll find out what you need to know about WordPress, how it works, and if it's easy to learn. Let's get rolling!
Yes, WordPress is easy to learn. WordPress is as easy to use as a word processor, so learning how to use it well is simply a matter of getting a handle on how to use it's point-and-click interface. And these WordPress fundamentals won't take you long to learn either. And as you delve deeper and deeper into WordPress, you'll find that it grows and expands along with you, allowing you to learn as much about WordPress as you'd like.
And if you're just getting started with WordPress, you might be confused or frustrated with it. This is why it's so important to nail down the basics of WordPress early on. Are you clear on what WordPress is and how it works? If not, let's discuss...
You've obviously heard of WordPress. But do you know what it is and why it's so popular?
WordPress is probably most commonly known for blogging. At least, in it's earliest form that's how it started out. But it has since grown well beyond blogging, and can now power a huge variety of websites. This is because at it's core, WordPress is a powerful CMS (Content Management System). CMS platforms allow work-groups or individuals of any skill level to publish content, formatted consistently, to their website quickly and easily. No coding or technical skills are needed at all.
But where WordPress's real horsepower comes in is it's customizability and flexibility. In it's early days, WordPress caught on not only because of it's ease of use, but because it's also open source. This means that more technically skilled users can dig into WordPress's background code and customize it in all sorts of different ways. What's more, a large community of developers have grown around WordPress, building and releasing all kinds of add-ons and extensions, enhancing the power of WordPress.
For you and I, this means that we can use WordPress to run all kinds of different websites -- from personal sites to large e-commerce sites -- all because of WordPress's open source philosophy, ease of use, and huge developer community.
The two big areas that make WordPress so powerful are plugins and themes. Let's take a look at each...
Very simply, WordPress plugins are add-ons that extend the behaviour and capabilities of your website. So, plugins can handle anything from contact forms and photo galleries to integrating your social media feeds and even running an online store or membership website.
If there's something specific you want to include on your website, you can simply add it on via a WordPress plugin.
Some plugins will appear in the front-end of your WordPress website, where your visitors will interact with them. A contact form is a great example. Other times, plugins might only be used behind the scenes to handle things like site security and data backup.
And amazingly, there are tens of thousands of plugins available, and new ones are being released all the time. Most plugins are free, while others are premium, or paid. Or sometimes a plugin works on a freemium model, where a simplified version of the plugin is available at no cost, but to unlock advanced features, you'd need to buy the full version.
Or, if you can't find a plugin to do what you want, you could hire someone to build a custom plugin for you. Or you could even build a plugin yourself. I've hired developers to build custom plugins for me in the past, and what's great about this is you can get the exact features that you're after, whatever that might be.
So that's the gist on WordPress plugins. If you can dream it up, there's very likely a plugin available that'll do it. Now how about the other key aspect of WordPress, themes?
Another area of WordPress you should know about are themes. Themes control all of the design elements of your website. So everything from fonts, colours, stylings, page layouts and more are all controlled by your WordPress website's theme.
So if you're interested in design, as I am, then you'll want to learn more about themes and how they work.
What's so cool about themes is that they behave like templates -- you can simply install a new theme and activate it, and the entire look and feel of your website changes instantly. And because WordPress is so popular, tens of thousands of themes have been developed and released for use. Like plugins, most are free while others are paid.
The best themes allow you to customize them and make them your own. Hestia is an example of a very powerful, flexible theme that'll let you make it your own. Other themes behave more like frameworks or web builders. StudioPress Genesis is a good example of this -- it's one of the most powerful and popular WordPress frameworks.
Or, you could go even further into the world of WordPress themes and learn how to build your own. And it's a lot easier than you might think. A great place to start is with a page builder plugin called Elementor. Elementor uses a very intuitive visual drag 'n drop interface that lets you quickly build layouts and designs.
So that's WordPress themes. And now that you know a little bit more about WordPress, I'll bet you're wondering...
One of the best things WordPress has going for it is that it's easy to learn. WordPress itself isn't hard to get started with. In fact, you can learn the fundamentals pretty quickly. This is one of the reasons why WordPress has gained such huge popularity.
Before WordPress came along, building websites was pretty technical and frustrating. Only designers and developers with a firm understanding of HTML, CSS, and compliance standards could build websites well.
And even though we had web design applications like Dreamweaver well before WordPress came along, they functioned more like word processors. You'd chose File > New, and then have to build your web pages from scratch, every single time.
But WordPress has largely eliminated these technical barriers. Anyone with any skill level -- even just general computer skills -- can use WordPress to build and run their website.
And because WordPress is a CMS, you don't start from scratch with a blank page. Instead, you start with a fully designed website that's ready for your content and customizations. This makes getting your website online a breeze.
And here's what's great: As a beginner in web design, you can keep things simple and stick with the basics of WordPress. Use it's point-and-click interface to run your website and add new content as you need. Maybe that's all you want to know about WordPress -- and that's just fine! Or if you want to, you can delve deeper and deeper into WordPress. Maybe you decide to learn about custom theme design. Or maybe you get up to speed on HTML and CSS to go along with your WordPress skills -- who knows! Point is, you can go as far with this stuff as you want.
In fact, in many ways, WordPress can serve as a gateway into the larger world of web design and running online projects. And as you continue to dig into WordPress and web design, they expand and grow right along with you, taking you as far as you want to go.
If there is an area of WordPress that's hard to learn for beginners, that would be WordPress themes and plugins. These can be difficult to learn because these are pretty unregulated. This makes it a bit of a Wild West out there. As powerful as themes and plugins are, sometimes documentation can be unclear or even non-existent.
Install a new plugin, for instance, and you might find yourself fiddling around for a while as you figure out how it works. So there can be some trial and error, and sometimes this can get frustrating.
But isn't a reflection on WordPress. It's poor documentation on the plugin or theme developer's part. By itself, WordPress is very easy to use.
So with that out of the way, I'd like to run through some reasons why you should be using WordPress. Let's take a look...
There are many great reasons to use WordPress. What I've done is listed out some of the big reasons to use WordPress. Hopefully this'll help you determine if WordPress is right for you.
And because WordPress is free, this means that anyone can get started using WordPress right away. But as we'll discuss later, depending on how you intend to use WordPress, you might run into some expenses. For example, if you want to run what's called a self-hosted WordPress website, you'll need to cover the costs for your website's domain name and web hosting. Sit tight, because again, we'll talk more about this shortly. Meanwhile...
But at the same time, WordPress is also powerful enough for more technical users to tweak, edit, and customize. Developers can dig into the guts of WordPress and get into it's background code. This allows anyone with the skill to fully customize WordPress and get it to do anything they want. This is because WordPress is modular and open source.
Now, WordPress can be used to build any kind of website you want, from a small, one-page personal site to a portfolio website to showcase your work, to a full online store, news website, and even a massive corporate site. If you can dream it up, WordPress can handle it! In fact, I have a video where I identify and outline the five different kinds of websites you can build for your business using WordPress. Take a look at The Five Types Of Business Websites You Can Build.
And with WordPress specifically, it's a highly customizable CMS, as we've discussed. To actually write and publish content with WordPress, you'll use it's simple and easy to use built-in editor. And the good news is, you already know how to use it -- it's that intuitive! So, no coding skills or anything highly technical is involved for you to start working with WordPress.
And all of this means that getting support and help if you get stuck with WordPress is easy to find. You can turn to YouTube, forums, blogs and other readily available online resources to get answers. And if you ever need help with your website, there's an army of readily-available WordPress developers on sites like UpWork.com and Freelancer.com. So, being a WordPress user means you're a part of a very large, supportive community.
So these are some of the big reasons why you should use WordPress. Compare it to other web design tools like Dreamweaver, Wix, or SquareSpace, and it's easy to understand why WordPress is so widely used and loved.
So at this point, you're probably curious to know just how WordPress functions. We'll cover that next.
Because of it's versatility, there are a different ways that you can go about using WordPress. Primarily, you'll either use WordPress.com (called a hosted option) or WordPress.org (a self-hosted approach). And, you can even install and run WordPress directly on your computer. But this third option gets more advanced, and I don't want to cause confusion here because WordPress doesn't function like traditional web design software, say like Dreamweaver.
Traditional web design software functions more like a word processor, where you simply open, edit, and save files. And with those sorts of tools, you'd build a website on your computer and then upload it to your live web server once it's complete.
But WordPress works very differently. Unlike a piece of software that runs on your computer, WordPress runs directly on your live web server. So with WordPress, you'd log into your website and then work there, live on the web.
With a traditional tool like Dreamweaver, you create the files that become your website. But with WordPress, it is your website.
To accomplish this, WordPress has a front-end and a password-protected back-end. The back-end of your WordPress website is where you do all your work. It's here where you'll create new pages and posts, work with images, and customize your website's look and behaviour. Your website's front-end is what your visitors see when they navigate to your website. In fact, they may not even know that your website's running WordPress.
So that's how WordPress works. You won't be opening and editing files with it. Instead, it's your website's platform. And remember, at it's heart WordPress is a fully customizable and expandable CMS. That's why there really is no comparison between old ways of building websites, say with Dreamweaver, and a much more modern approach with WordPress.
But, how expensive is WordPress? This isn't a simple question to answer, because it all depends on how you want to run WordPress. We'll delve deeper into this in the next section.
A big question that's probably on your mind is, Is WordPress free? And the answer is, kinda!
As we've discussed, WordPress comes in two flavours, WordPress.org and WordPress.com. And out of the box, both are free to use. However, depending on how you decide you use WordPress, you might run into a few costs.
Thankfully, no matter how you decide to use WordPress the costs are reasonable. Here's the deets...
If you decide to run a hosted WordPress.com website, there are no upfront costs. However, WordPress.com comes with restrictions and limitations. For example, by default WordPress.com websites include advertising and a branded domain name (
yourdomain.wordpress.com). To remove these limitations, you'll have to upgrade to a paid account. We'll discuss WordPress.com's limitations in greater detail shortly.
Running a self-hosted WordPress website means your site is free of ads and branding, but you'll need to pay for hosting and a domain name. As mentioned earlier, these costs aren't out of reason though. A domain name runs about $10 a year, and web hosting can be as low as $5 per month. So, the expenses aren't huge. You may have a few other expenses along the way, like premium themes and plugins, but these are all optional.
So obviously, right out of the box, going with a hosted WordPress.com website is the cheapest option (cuz it's free!). However longer term, it's difficult to know which option, hosted or self-hosted, will be the cheaper option. You’ll have to figure out what kind of website you want to run and what it is you want to do. From there, you can determine your long term costs. Depending on what you need, even after paying for WordPress.com upgrades, one WordPress flavour might turn out to be cheaper than the other.
But in my opinion, it doesn't get any better than a self-hosted WordPress website. Reliable, low-cost hosting is readily available. For just a few dollars a month you can have a fully customizable self-hosted WordPress site with a custom domain and no advertising...running exactly the kind of website you want. And if you'd like some WordPress web hosting recommendations, there are three hosts that I use and suggest. Depending on your needs, one of these will be a great fit. You can find out more right here.
For now, back on the issue of WordPress's two flavours, .com and .org, let's take a closer look at both and find out which will be better for you...
A common question that comes up all the time is, What's the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org? Remember, WordPress.com is is the hosted version of WordPress, and WordPress.org, which is the self-hosted version. The kind of website you want to build, your budget, and your interest level in learning web design will determine which of these two flavours of WordPress will be right for you.
Below, I'll briefly outline the differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org.
WordPress.com is a free web hosting service that allows anyone to run a website. Hence why this is called a hosted version of WordPress -- WordPress.com is a service handles hosting for you.
This makes WordPress.com a simple solution for non-technical users who have few needs. WordPress.com maintains your website for you, so you don't need to worry about security, technical stuff, or managing your site. You simply focus on the content you want to publish online.
In this way, you can think of WordPress.com as more of a publishing platform than as a full website. It's very easy to get up and running quickly with WordPress.com too. Simply sign up for a free account, and your site is live on the web in just a few minutes.
Getting set up to publish content online couldn't be easier.
However, all is not roses. WordPress.com has many limitations, in fact. As mentioned earlier on, your site will include advertising by default, and you'll have to use a branded domain name (remember,
yourdomain.wordpress.com). What's more, WordPress themes and plugins are very limited. This means your site's design, functionality, and behaviour will be constrained. Further still, running any kind of an online business with WordPress.com can be very difficult, if not impossible.
Many of these limitations can be removed, but as you might guess, this can only by upgrading to a paid account.
It's important to understand that WordPress.com is a business. They make money primarily through advertising and paid upgrades. However, if you had simple needs and didn't need any extra features, you could run your website on WordPress.com for free and spend your time focusing on the content you want to publish.
Next, how about WordPress.org? If you navigate over to wordpress.org, it isn't easy to understand how you should get started with WordPress. This is because unlike WordPress.com, which is a business, WordPress.org is a resource and support site for the free WordPress software.
And while you can download WordPress for free on wordpress.org, typically you actually wouldn't get started with WordPress here. Instead, you'd start with your host and use their one-click WordPress auto-installer. This is why this version of WordPress is called self-hosted -- you're looking after the hosting yourself.
And what you'll find on WordPress.org is a variety of important support materials and resources to help you get the most out of this self-hosted version of WordPress. For instance, you'll find detailed and extensive WordPress documentation called the WordPress Codex. Here, you can get all the information you could ever want about the technical details of WordPress.
WordPress.org also provides a platform where the WordPress community congregates, the WordPress forums. This is an amazing resource to find answers, troubleshoot problems, and learn about what's coming next with WordPress.
WordPress.org also hosts the central depository of WordPress plugins. There, you'll find over 50,000 readily available plugins to help extend the capabilities of your self-hosted WordPress website. Further, you'll also find the main library of WordPress themes, which houses thousands and thousands of themes for you to choose from. So unlike WordPress.com, with a self-hosted (WordPress.org) website, you can use any theme or plugin.
The downside to a self-hosted website from WordPress.org is that registering a domain name and setting up your web hosting will be your responsibility. Thankfully, I have tutorials on all this stuff to help you out. To register your domain name, take a look at Easy Steps To Set Up Your Business Website Address Using NameCheap. And for a walk-through on setting up web hosting, see How To Set Up Simple, Easy, Low-Cost Web Hosting With Web Hosting Hub.
So although you have more autonomy with a self-hosted WordPress installation, it does take a bit more to get up and running. On the other hand, you won't have any restrictions in terms of what you can do, build, or run with your website. This is why I encourage you to go with a self-hosted WordPress website.
Now if you'd like a more in-depth comparison of these two flavours of WordPress, take a look at my video, Understanding WordPress.com Versus WordPress.org: An In-Depth Comparison.
With the differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org covered, there are a few other common WordPress questions that I'd like to cover. Let's start with one that I'm sure is on your mind...
Are you wondering just how long it might take to learn WordPress? The good news is, you can nail down the fundamentals of WordPress in no longer than a single weekend -- let's say about eight to ten hours. It doesn't take long at all to get started with WordPress.
And if you kept working with it, after about a week you'd be feeling pretty comfortable with it. Again, because WordPress is a CMS designed with non-technical users in mind, it's easy to learn.
Beyond the basics, it really depends on how far you want to go with WordPress. Remember, WordPress can be as big or small as you want it to be. If you just want to know the fundamentals, this is all it would take. But if you wanted to go further into WordPress, you certainly could.
Maybe you want to get into building layouts with a website builder plugin like Elementor. Or maybe you want to start developing custom WordPress themes or plugins. Getting a handle on these more intermediate and advanced WordPress topics would of course take a bit longer.
But at the outset, you can be up and running with WordPress very quickly.
Next, is it worthwhile to learn WordPress? As the most popular and powerful web design platform in use today, I definitely think it's worth your time to learn.
I don't regret learning WordPress at all -- in fact, way back in 2007-ish when I first got started with WordPress, it completely changed the way I build websites. As soon as WordPress clicked in my head and I realized how powerful and customizable it is, I immediately ditched all my previous web design tools and switched over to it entirely. These days, I don't build websites without WordPress!
Even if you don't have very high technical aspirations -- maybe you're a hobbyist or simply want to run a few web projects -- taking a few hours to learn the basics of WordPress is totally worthwhile. And if you're an employee or a freelancer, learning WordPress gives you a set of valuable, marketable skills.
In fact, in another post I wrote, Is It Hard To Learn HTML? Here’s The Straight Goods, I talk about pairing WordPress and Elementor together with HTML and CSS. Throw on a bit of Photoshop, and you'd have a powerful toolbox of skills!
And the great thing is, it really doesn't matter if you learn WordPress and Elementor first, or HTML and CSS. Learn one pair of web tools first, then learn the other pair.
So on the WordPress side, what's the fastest way to learn WordPress? We'll cover that next...
So where do you start to learn WordPress fast? Even though the web is filled with videos, blogs, and forums all about WordPress, this might actually be the slowest way to learn WordPress.
The problem isn't getting information, the problem is getting organized information. This is why I think the fastest, most efficient way to learn WordPress is with a workshop or online course. I like online courses because I can do them at my own pace from home (or anywhere, really).
So in this vein, I have a few resources to share with you. First, if you'd just like to get your feet wet with WordPress and find out if it's a good fit for you, then take a look at my free tutorial, WordPress Tutorial – How To Create A Website For Free (or close to it!). There, you'll get a hands-on feel for what WordPress is all about as we build a custom web layout from scratch.
Or, if you're ready to plunge deep into the world of both WordPress and the Elementor page builder, take a look at my full length online course, Ready For Lift-Off: How To Build And Run Your Online Business Yourself!, and see if it's a good fit for you. Geared towards online business owners, you'll gain a huge amount of WordPress and web design skill in a short period of time. You'll learn everything you'll need to run your WordPress website efficiently, including plugins, customizations, how to lock down your website's security, and a heck of a lot more.
I'll see you there!