WordPress started out as a blogging platform, but it has exploded into a full blown CMS that is used by millions of people all over the world. Here is overview of five different ways to utilize WordPress.
This is naturally the first option when deciding to use WordPress. A blog is a collection of articles written about a certain topic, such as sports, food, or technology. The WordPress site has a short Basics for Bloggers here to help you get started.
There are two versions of WordPress to consider when setting up your blog.
The “dotcom” version of WordPress allows you to start a free WordPress blog in seconds. You don’t need any technical know how to set it up. All you have to worry about is writing great content. This is a great way to get started if you are just learning how to use WordPress.
One disadvantage of the free version is that you don’t get to use your own domain, though they do have the option to upgrade for a small fee. You are also limited in customizing the look and feel of your site. There are tons of free themes to choose from, but you can’t edit the CSS without an upgrade.
Also, the WordPress.com version doesn’t allow plugins, which limits the amount of extra features you can add to your site. However, the free version does come with some pretty cool features built right in.
The “dotorg” version allows you download the actual WordPress software and install it on your own server. From there you are free to do whatever you wish. You can add premium themes, install plugins, and edit any of the code. This gives you more flexibility, but it is also more technically involved. It might require some coding knowledge to make certain changes, though many plugins allow you to do some cool stuff without any coding knowledge.
One disadvantage of the self-hosted version is the lack of automatic updates. It is up to you to keep your WordPress installation up to date, as well your installed plugins. WordPress makes it easy to update, however, and it is usually a quick and painless process. Just make sure to backup your database first so you don’t accidentally lose any data.
A business site is where WordPress makes the jump from blogging software to a full blown CMS (content management system). A local business such as a plumber, church, or restaurant could build their site using WordPress very easily. Its not limited to small sites, and many Fortune 500 companies use WordPress to run their giant websites (i.e. Wall Street Journal, CNN).
The site can be an informational “brochure” site, or include features such as e-commerce or site memberships. Using the self hosted version of WordPress gives you complete control over your site. You can install a free theme, premium theme, or have one custom built by a web design company. Using the self hosted version also gives you access to the thousands of WordPress plugins that have been built by developers. Plugins allow you to add custom bits of code to your site to instantly add new features. Some examples are event calendars, social media feeds, and photo slideshows.
A WordPress site is a collection of posts and pages. In the case of a business website, pages are for static content. Think an About page or a Contact Us page. The content really isn’t going to change once its written. Posts are used for the blog or news section and can include articles such as announcements, reviews, product launches, press releases, helpful tips, etc. It is also possible to have a website built with WordPress that does not have a blog. Simply don’t write any posts!
3. Web Design Companies
Many web design companies use WordPress as their CMS of choice for their client sites. It has many advantages for clients who have little technical experience or the time to learn. It is easy for clients to add content to their site. They can also easily edit pages without having to worry about code. There is a shallow learning curve to navigate the Admin area of WordPress, making it easy to teach clients how to navigate around.
Since there are so many plugins available, more than likely any request that a client makes for special features can be met. If the free plugins don’t cut it, there is a huge premium plugin market to choose from. If all else fails, a developer can write a custom plugin for the clients specific needs.
WordPress is a great choice if a client has an old static HTML site that they would like to be able to add content to themselves. A WordPress theme can be created to match the current site, and since it is now built on WordPress the client has complete control over the content.
Also, since WordPress is an open source platform, it is constantly being improved upon by hundreds of volunteers all around the world. As a result, WordPress gets better and better with every release.
4. Custom Development
Since WordPress came on the scene a huge marketplace has developed based on premium themes, plugins, and widget. Many companies focus solely on developing add ons for the WordPress platform and sell them through online marketplaces.
Premium themes are a huge market, and many theme developers make thousands of dollars a month selling their premium themes to customers. A few of the big players in the premium theme market are Theme Forest, Woo Themes, and Elegant Themes. This is a great way to make some passive income, but managing support requests can be a headache.
Some developers choose to focus on developing plugins for the WordPress. Many times they will create a free version that they upload to the WordPress plugin repository. The free version will often include a link to the premium version that has more features and support options. Sometimes the upgrade is worth it, but it might not be. It just depends on your needs.
If you want to get into theme and plugin development there are a ton of resources on the web to get you started. One great place to start is the WordPress Codex. It is an online manual for WordPress with tons of examples and code snippets to get you started. Another great resource is the book Digging Into WordPress. The authors Chris Coyier & Jeff Starr go into detail on almost every nook and cranny of WordPress. At the end of the book you will have a thorough understanding of what WordPress can do.
Ending our list is, in my opinion, one of the most important. Giving back to the WordPress community. There are many ways to get involved with WordPress, both online and offline.
First, get involved with the WordPress online support forums. If you have a question, post it here. Volunteers from all over the world will try and answer it. Once you get some decent WordPress chops, answer a few questions yourself. Nothing like helping others.
You can also get involved in a WordPress meetup. A meetup is a group of individuals in a community meeting together for a common purpose. There are WordPress meetups all over the world. I have personally been involved with the Seattle WordPress meetup and the Fort Collins WordPress meetup.
A step above WordPress meetups is WordCamps. These are usually 1-2 day events in large cities that feature a full day of speakers, learning, and fun. Get together with other WordPress enthusiasts and meet some of the people behind the software. I attended WordCamp Seattle last year and I had a blast. I highly recommend it.
In summary, there are many ways to use WordPress. You can use it has a blogging platform to voice your view on the world. You can create your business website with tons of features. Web design companies can utilize its power for their client’s websites. Developers and designers can create premium themes and plugins to sell on online marketplaces. And finally, you can get involved with the WordPress community through forums, meetups, and WordCamps.