Learn WordPress Series: Getting to Know WordPress - Tiffany Zink
web designer, graphic designer, visual artist, Louisville, KY, UX, UI, user experience, user interface, advertising, marketing
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Learn WordPress Series: Getting to Know WordPress

The Learn WordPress series is dedicated to the Web IV class at Sullivan College of Technology and Design.

However, if you stumble across these Lessons and want to know more about WordPress, by my guest. Each week new posts will be published displaying step-by-step processes, video tutorials and much more. If you know nothing or very little about WordPress and want to learn more, following these posts for the next 10 weeks will be beneficial. The textbook that the Web IV class is using is the 2nd edition of WordPress: The Missing Manual. It is a great resource for learning WordPress and much of the information provided in the Learn WordPress series will be drawn from this book. I may reference chapters and pages later so if you have the book, you can follow along and read more about certain areas that are discussed.

Getting to know WordPress

Many students have learned how to build web pages using HTML and CSS. This knowledge will be important for using WordPress and will help with advanced techniques, however it is not completely necessary. WordPress was originally built as a blogging platform and was initially created for people who know nothing about code or programming. However, if you do know code and programming you can challenge yourself with creating themes, plugins and widgets for the WordPress community. You can even make a living doing these things if you know about the e-commerce side of the digital download world. In a later post, Lesson 2.1, you will be able to find resources for purchasing or downloading themes. First we’re going to learn how WordPress works and the different types of hosting that you can use to work with WordPress software.

Dynamic websites vs. Static websites

WordPress is a great example of a dynamic website. When you make a change to a page or post in WordPress software it will upload your changes to the server and display your changes in real time. This allows you to “create pages on the fly”. You can find great examples in Chapter 1 of WordPress: The Missing Manual for more information on dynamic websites.

Basically, static websites don’t change. When a web designer/developer creates a static website, they build HTML files and CSS files and drop them into a folder on the server. When a visitor requests a web page in their browser, the browser contacts the web server, checks out the files in the folder and sends back exactly what the web designer/developer has coded. To make changes to the layout, you have to manipulate each page, (unless you know more about programming), which can be time consuming. Like stated before dynamic websites you can make changes instantly.

What Crucial Ingredients makes WordPress Work?

Answer: A Database and Programming Code. WordPress uses the MySQL database because like WordPress, it is open-source and also one of the more popular databases to date. The database stores all of your content that you use to make your site; text, pictures and graphics.

The most predominant programming code that WordPress uses is PHP. If you do not know how to code PHP, don’t worry you have thousands of developers out there that do and they will develop what you need to build a website whether you consider yourself a coder or not. PHP is what WordPress uses to function and build pages in real time. Themes, which you will learn about in later posts, are built mostly out of PHP files. They are formatting instructions for WordPress. Each PHP file is called a template and your theme may have dozens of template files to help make your site look amazing.

Basically when you are building your site, WordPress accesses a template and when you add content to certain areas, the PHP code uses that content from your database and fills in the blanks. You don’t really see this happen but this is what goes on behind-the-scenes of your website.

Types of Hosting for WordPress Software

There are three major types of hosting that allow you to use WordPress software. They are:

  1. WordPress.com – free, hosting service that gives you limited functionality but is great if all you want is a blogging platform.
  2. Self-hosting – You pay for a host and install WordPress manually (yourself). You have unlimited possibilities when you self-host.
  3. Managed hosting – Many hosts will offer WordPress managed hosting which gives you the same possibilities as when you self-host. It is created with building a site using WordPress software in mind.

The differences in signing up and installing WordPress on these three different types of hosting can be found in Chapters 2 and 3. The biggest difference with choosing Self/Managed hosting over WordPress.com is the ability to use third-party themes and plugins for extra functionality. WordPress.com will not allow you to use third-party themes/plugins for free; they will charge you an annual fee.

Here is a great video that describes the differences and will help resolve confusion between the three.

Moral of the story, self or managed hosting gives you more flexibility. There are hundreds of host providers out there and it does not cost a whole lot to purchase your own hosting and install WordPress. If you are a web designer or looking to be one in the near future, this is undeniably the route you should take.

Posted by: Tiffany Zink



WordPress: The Missing Manual, 2nd Edition. By Matthew McDonald. Published by O’Reilly Media.  Released in June 2014.


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