What is WordPress? Everything You Need to Know

What is WordPress? Everything You Need to Know

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In the world of website building, few names have as much cachet as WordPress. 

This content management system is used by individual users and major companies alike, making it particularly respected among other platforms. But beyond name recognition, how much do you really know about it? 

If you’re considering using WordPress to build your own website, check out this guide to find out whether it’s the right fit for you.

The history of WordPress: How it started

WordPress got its start all the way back in 2003. 

At the time, Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little were users of the b2/cafelog blogging software. Once that software was discontinued, they decided to create their own blogging platform. 

Mullenweg and Little used b2/cafelog as the basis for their new platform called WordPress. By improving upon this software, they were able to attract many of the former b2/cafelog users. They released the first version of WordPress in May 2003.

Just one year later, WordPress 1.2 debuted. This new version of the software included an exciting update: the ability to incorporate plugins. 

Users and developers could create new functionality for the open-source software and then share it with the rest of the WordPress community. At this point, WordPress really began to take off, and the number of users increased exponentially.

There were a number of other important updates to WordPress over the ensuing years, including:

  • December 2005: WordPress 2.0 is released with a new admin dashboard user interface that allowed users to perform some simple tasks (such as adding tags and categories) without loading a new page.
  • June 2010:WordPress 3.0 launched with new features, including custom post types, which gave the software important content management system functionality.
  • April 2014: WordPress 3.9 introduces exciting improvements to the visual post editor, including drag-and-drop options for images. 
  • December 2018: WordPress 5.0 includes a new block-based editor called Gutenberg.

With each new release, WordPress offered new features that could be used for everything from blogging and online portfolios to business websites and eCommerce stores. The focus on continuous improvement is part of what has made WordPress software such a popular option for creating websites. In 2010, Automattic (a company co-founded by Mullenweg) transferred the ownership of the WordPress trademark to the WordPress Foundation to ensure that the web publishing platform would remain free and accessible for generations to come.

While WordPress certainly had humble beginnings with Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little at the helm, it quickly turned into something bigger. By 2013, it had become the most popular content management system in the world, and its dominance has only continued to grow since then.

The basics of how to use WordPress

While the WordPress origin story is certainly inspiring, you might still feel daunted by the idea of using the software to create your own website. Perhaps you’ve seen that WordPress is written in PHP, or that it uses MySQL for database management. This kind of tech jargon can be a little intimidating for those who have never built a website before.

Fortunately, WordPress has an extremely user-friendly design, and you don’t need any special technical training or backend experience to start building web pages. 

There’s also a massive WordPress community of users from around the world, so if you have any questions come up along the way, you’ll be able to quickly find plenty of tutorials and helpful suggestions online.

If you’re thinking about becoming a WordPress user, review these essential features and functions to get a head start on utilizing it as your website builder.

Web hosting

The first decision you’ll need to make when creating a WordPress website is how you’d like to handle web hosting. Take a closer look at these popular options.


This is the hosted version of WordPress, which essentially means that WordPress acts as the hosting company and web server. These sites are easy to set up within minutes. 

There are several limitations with WordPress hosting, however, including fewer themes to choose from, no plugin uploads, and automatic ad placement on your site. You can upgrade to a paid plan to get more features, remove the ads, and incorporate your own branded domain (instead of https://yourwebsite.wordpress.com). 

WordPress.com is a great choice for those who want to create a personal blog or website and aren’t as worried about flashy features or developing a major online presence.


WordPress.org is essentially what most people think of when they think of WordPress. It’s self-hosted, which means you’ll have to pay for a domain name and web hosting elsewhere. Many web hosts today will even help with WordPress installation on your website to make the process as easy as possible. While you don’t have WordPress acting as your web host, you do get complete control over your website with this option. You can choose from a wide variety of free themes and templates, add any plugins you want, and enjoy access to powerful Google Analytics tools. 

WordPress.org is the best choice for those who want the most versatility with their site, whether it’s a multi-author blogging platform, an online store, a membership site, or just about any other type of website you can imagine.

WP Engine

For those who need a WordPress host, WP Engine is considered one of the top choices. 

In fact, many business owners choose this platform to handle the security for their site. What places WP Engine a step above basic web hosting is that it’s a managed hosting company, so the servers can scale to accommodate a growing website and deliver faster speeds. 

WP Engine also takes care of optimization and maintenance on the server and provides more robust customer support compared to the average web host. And as the name suggests, WP Engine specializes in WordPress and is optimized for the best security and technology to service these sites. 

Website customization

The next step is adding customizations to your WordPress site. This is your chance to put your own personal stamp on your website and flex your creative muscles. WordPress makes this easy with options like themes and plugins.

WordPress themes

There are thousands of free and paid WordPress themes from which to choose. You can think of themes like templates for your website. They provide a preset design for the front end of a website to help make everything look cohesive, from fonts and color schemes to overall page layouts. 

This is part of why you don’t need any HTML or CSS skills to build a website with WordPress; simply choose a theme and start adding text and images. You can use the theme as is or add your own features for more customization. 

WordPress plugins

Include more features on your site with plugins, which are basically tools that can be added to your site to extend its features. 

For example, a popular plugin option for search engine optimization is Yoast SEO, which can be used to drive traffic to your site. Widget plugins are also available to add sidebar and footer enhancements like social media icons, contact forms, or Google Maps. 

The type of website you want to create will also affect which plugins you should use. For example, if you’re hoping to set up an ecommerce store, you’ll want to get the WooCommerce plugin which allows you to add an online storefront to your WordPress site. Many WordPress plugins feature basic one-click installation.

How much does WordPress cost?

There are free and paid options for creating a WordPress site. While a free plan is clearly the cheapest route, there are some considerations which may make you want to opt for a paid plan instead.

WordPress.com is the hosted version of WordPress, which is great for bloggers and other simple websites. If you choose the free plan, you’ll have ads automatically placed on your site. However, all of WordPress.com’s paid plans remove those ads, and the plans start as low as $4 per month:

  • Free (with ads)
  • Personal: $4/month
  • Premium $8/month
  • Business: $25/month
  • eCommerce: $45/month

WordPress.org is completely free to use, but there are other costs to consider. Because it’s the self-hosted option, you’ll have to pay for web hosting. Additional costs can come into play depending on which features you want to include on your site. Some of the expenses you may need to pay for when using WordPress.org include:

  • Web hosting
  • Domain name
  • Themes
  • Plugins
  • eCommerce features

Why should you use WordPress?

Over 60 million websites are powered by WordPress, including those run by some of the world’s biggest companies. 

But is it the right fit for you

Here are some of the many reasons you should use WordPress to build your own website:

  • It’s open-source : In addition to being FREE to use, WordPress allows you to download and use it however you like, and the software is constantly improving.
  • It’s customizable: With so many WordPress plugins and themes available, you can personalize your site in countless ways to make it look and function exactly the way you want.
  • It’s simple: WordPress is very beginner-friendly. You don’t need to be trained in web development or know how to write code in order to create a professional-looking website.
  • It’s versatile: WordPress can be used to make virtually any type of website, including (but not limited to):
    • Personal blogs
    • Portfolios/resumes
    • Business websites
    • eCommerce online stores
    • Social networks
    • Membership sites
  • It’s widely used: If you need any assistance as you build your site, you’ll have no trouble finding help from the massive WordPress user community, helpful online tutorials, or any professional web developer or designer.

WordPress is one of the most versatile and easy-to-use website builders available today. It provides a great fit for almost any type of website and has plenty of free and low-cost options. If you’re thinking about building your own website, be sure to consider the many benefits of using WordPress.