WordPress is the tool that you use to build your website. It is also called the “platform” your website is built on, but really it should be referred to as the “CMS” or the Content Mangement System you use to build your website.
When you are choosing a CMS for your website, there are lots of choices you may have heard of: html, Joomla, Drupal, WordPress. There are other “all-in-one” or hosted CMS systems you could use as well, such as Wix, Weebly, Shopify, Squarespace, etc.
WordPress comes in two flavors: one is hosted so that means you just have to make and account and log into the website WordPress.com which happens a host that runs WordPress as their CMS, and you can begin setting up a website that works!
The version of WordPress that we work with here and that most developers work with is the software called WordPress that we download from wordpress.org, and then we install this on our own host. It is almost the same software that is at wordpress.org but we have more options.
WordPress is “Open Source” software and is free. Open Source means that the code that makes the software work is published publicly for anyone to read. This means that other people can make software that runs on WordPress.
In our coffee shop example, WordPress would be what the building is made out of. Is the building cinderblock construction? Wood Frame construction? Brick? Stucco? If you know what the building is made out of, you know what materials you need to hang items on the wall to decorate. You also know what type of insurance you need and what issues you are more prone to. A thatch building is more prone to wind and fire than a cinderblock building. A cinderblock building is more difficult to change walls and add doors or windows.
The construction of the building determines what you can do with your coffee shop going forward.
WordPress has its pros and cons. Pro: because the software is popular and is open souce, there are many people writing software to make your website do new and amazing things, like host a calendar of events, or display a video gallery. You can find many people to work on your website because there are a lot of developers who are learning this software. WordPress development has also given a lot of people in remote areas ability to create a life and career for themselves.
Cons of wordpress; the largest I would say is that because it is open source, no one is “vetting” all of the software written for WordPress to make sure all the pieces play nicely together. In addition, some of the software written for WordPress is junk! You may install a new “plugin” (see our article about what plugins are!) and that plugin may break other parts of the website. In addition, hackers like wordpress because if they can hack one installation, there are many others with similar installations so they can take their hack and hack many websites at once.
It is really important to keep your wordpress installation and software all up to date. Going back to the coffee shop example, WordPress is what your building is made out of and if you don’t maintain your building, it will develop holes and maybe mice will find a way in, or water, etc. You should maintain the building you live in, the coffee shop should maintain its building, and we should maintain our WordPress software.