WordPress has become an indispensable part of the Internet. Many websites use the free system to set up a blog, an online shop, a portfolio or something completely different. Since every beginning is difficult, we want to deal with the basics in this article. We clarify simple questions about WordPress and give tips on how to make the website even better.

What is WordPress actually?

WordPress is a platform for the creation of websites. It is probably the simplest yet most powerful blogging and website content management system (or CMS) available today. It is also by far the most widely used system.

WordPress is an excellent platform for a variety of websites. From blogging and e-commerce to business and portfolio websites, WordPress is a versatile CMS. Designed with usability and flexibility in mind, WordPress is a great solution for both large and small websites.

A "WordPress website" refers to any page that uses WordPress as a content management system. WordPress operates both the backend of the website (the interface where a user logs in to make changes or add new content) and the frontend (the visible part of the website that visitors see on the web).

WordPress is available free of charge. The software itself doesn't cost a cent and in many cases no additional features have to be purchased. So it is quite possible to create a website for free. The only costs are for hosting the website on a server and for a domain (such as yourname.de). Alternatively, a free hosting via the WordPress.com service can be used. More on this later.

One of the strengths of WordPress lies in the fact that it is open source. Open Source means that the underlying components of the system are open source. Users can look into the WordPress engine room at any time, so to speak, and understand how functions within the website are created. Although this is certainly not the most important element for WP beginners, it becomes more and more important over time. The machine room is not only open, it also allows the user himself to exchange machines.

 

For whom is WordPress suitable?

WordPress is almost always useful when a website is to be created. What kind of page it is, is almost no longer relevant. Although WordPress has become known as a blogging system, it has developed over the years into a full-fledged website system.

Whether as a portfolio, online shop, news site, event platform, forum, e-learning site or the classic blog - WordPress offers the prerequisites for all possible concepts. To refine the site and offer exactly what is desired, designs (Themes) and extensions (Plugins) are used. These are sometimes available free of charge, but they can cost a few euros depending on the range of functions.

No special technical knowledge is required to use WordPress. On the other hand, these are not a hindrance. Even without a technical background, wonderful websites can be created with WordPress. The more experience you have, the easier and faster the installation and setup will be. Some hosting providers also have special WordPress offers, where at least the installation of the CMS is taken over. As a user you can then concentrate on the content.

If you don't get along with the installation instructions for WordPress - or if you just don't want to deal with it - you can opt for an offer from WordPress.com instead of WordPress.org.

What is the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org?

Since the introduction of WordPress over 15 years ago, beginners often experience a certain amount of confusion right at the start. Where exactly now the Difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org is not so easy to decipher at the beginning - but it is not so difficult.

wordpress-org
  • WordPress.org offers a software for download. With this software (i.e. with WordPress) users can basically do whatever they want. The software is installed on a server and you are ready to go. Designs and extensions can be used at will. There are no costs for WordPress itself.
  • WordPress.com is a hoster for WP pages. Users can choose between several offers, which vary between free of charge and up to 45 Euro per month. With the free variant a domain is assigned after the sample ihrname.wordpress.com and occasionally also advertisement is switched. An own domain can also be obtained via WordPress.com. Own designs or extensions are not necessary.

WordPress.org is aimed at users who want to keep control and design their site entirely according to their own wishes. Especially during the initial setup, technical knowledge is not an obstacle, as long as the hosting provider does not take over the installation. WordPress.com is kept simpler, but also lets more experienced users feel limitations from time to time. There is no general answer to the question of which of the two systems is now better. However, it is also clear that the content of WordPress.com can be transferred to a separate installation with the software from WordPress.org. So it might be a good idea to create a free account at WordPress.com and just try everything first.

It should also be noted that WordPress.com is a commercial service provided by Automattic, the company behind WordPress. WordPress.org, on the other hand, is maintained by a non-commercial foundation of Automattic.

What is the best way to get started with WordPress?

To start with the "supervised" version at WordPress.com, it is already enough to create a free user account and then follow the directions that appear on the screen. The situation is different with the software that can be downloaded from WordPress.org. In the following we will concentrate on the self-hosted version of WP.

At the beginning the software is downloaded from WordPress.org. Usually you will be forwarded directly to the German version, but this can be switched to English at any time if necessary. Other languages can of course be downloaded as well.

Subsequently - if not already done - a WordPress Hoster wantedwhere the WordPress page should run on the webspace (storage space on the server). Since WordPress relies on PHP and MySQL, the chosen hosting package should support both. But nowadays this is the case with almost every provider.

The technical requirements of WordPress:

  • PHP version theoretically still with 5.6, recommendation minimum 7.3
  • MySQL version 5.6 or higher. Alternatively: MariaDB version 10.1 or higher.
  • Free web space on the server.
  • A domain (such as yourname.com).
  • A database.
  • Support for SSL (HTTPS) is highly recommended.

How do I install WordPress myself?

WordPress installation data entry

WordPress can - with some experience and practice - be ready for use after a few minutes. With the very first installation this is only the case if the appropriate background knowledge is available. But don't worry, even as a beginner you can manage it, Install and set up WordPress. Before doing so, it is worth checking with the hoster to see if the installation of WP is not part of the booked package. In this case you can save yourself the following steps.

If the above-mentioned conditions are met, then you can already start. The content of the downloaded ZIP file is uploaded to the desired directory. An FTP program is suitable for this purpose, which is used to log onto the server with user name and password. The upload may take some time.

WordPress requires a database. All contents and settings of WP are stored here. A database is set up via the hoster's user interface, including the name of the database, user name and a password. These three elements are important for the next step.

Then the domain is called, i.e. yourname.de. If WP was installed in a subdirectory, the corresponding directory is called, for example yourname.de/magazin/. WordPress now automatically forwards to the setup.

In the first step of the setup, the name of the database, the user name and the respective password are specified. The other details of the database host and the table prefix can be transferred. If all entries are correct, the most difficult part of the installation is already done.

Note: If an error message appears, there is almost always a problem with the communication between WordPress and the database. Now you have to check the database, username and password details carefully.

The last step is to enter the name of the website. But this can be changed later. But you should try a bit harder with the username and password (for WordPress, not for the database!) right here. With a last click on "Install WordPress" you have the installation behind you.

Tip:

Even more help for installation can be found here: Instructions: Install WordPress in a few steps.

WordPress is installed: What happens now?

After successful installation you will be redirected to the admin area, which is also called backend. This is the administration interface where pages are created or edited or settings are made. New designs (plugins) and extensions (plugins) can also be installed via this backend, which is always accessible via yourname.de/wp-admin/. In contrast to the frontend, the backend is only visible for registered users who have logged in with a password.

wordpress-backing

The admin area of WP can seem a bit confusing at first glance, but the individual functions can be controlled quickly. Especially at the beginning you should not be overwhelmed and instead concentrate on a few, but important areas. This includes the creation of content as well as options of the CMS, which can be accessed via the left side of the admin area. Many settings can be made there, which we will briefly introduce in the following:

  • General. Here you can change the main URL (website address), the time zone, the title and the description of the website.
  • Letter. In this section you can set the standard category and the contribution format, among other things.
  • Read. Here you can choose how the title page should look like: Whether the latest post or a static page should be displayed. You can also control how many blog posts are displayed and whether visitors see the complete post or just a summary.
  • Discussion. In this section, settings are configured that relate to comments.
  • Media. Here you can change the default image size and select the way uploaded files are organized
  • Permalinks. Permalinks allow you to control the URL structure of posts and pages.

WordPress: How do I create articles and pages?

WordPress offers two possibilities to publish content: Articles and pages. Contributions are for example blog articles, news or magazine entries. Pages, on the other hand, are static, so they are suitable for a contact page or an imprint, for example. In addition, many designs (themes) offer further possibilities for content. A WordPress Theme can, for example, provide special portfolio elements that are then displayed differently on the website than articles and pages.

This is how articles are created in WordPress:

To create a new post, click the "Create" button under the Posts section on the left side. This will open the content creation editor, which looks a lot like a word processor.

The content area consists of two tabs: the visual and the text view. The visual view shows the text as it would appear on the finished page, and the text view shows the post in HTML format.

Directly above the content area there is a toolbar of the editor that helps you format your post. There is a variety of formatting aids available here: Grease, italic, underlinedbut also other functions such as add media (where photos and videos are added to the post, HTML tags, text alignment and many others.

On the right side there is a button called "Draft" which allows you to save your work and return to it later. Next to it, there is a button called "Preview", which shows what the post will look like on the website when it is published. The "Publish" option does just that, it publishes the post. After that it is visible to readers of the website. In this section, posts can also be scheduled for later, instead of publishing it immediately.

At the bottom of the editor page you can select categories and add tags (keywords) to your post.

Pages can be created almost exactly like contributions.

How can I extend WordPress with plugins?

The software WordPress offers a basic framework for websites, which can be extended at will. These extensions are called plugins. Many plugins are available free of charge from the central directory of WordPress.org, they can be easily installed from the admin area of WP. In addition, there are also paid plugins, which support a higher range of functions and also better support.

Tip:

Instead of immediately accessing the premium version of a plugin, the free version should be installed and tested. Especially beginners often find the range of functions offered there sufficient. 

Which plugins should be installed depends entirely on the type of website. Some extensions fit the theme perfectly, others only make sense on other websites. Nevertheless, over the years something like a List of plugins established, which almost always fit well. This includes a caching plugin like wp-Rocket, cache enabler or WP Super Cache, a contact form as provided by FormCraft or Contact Form 7 or even a sitemap plugin like Google XML Sitemaps. Furthermore, the important topic of backups should not be forgotten. This can also be easily done via plugins.

This is how new plugins are installed:

In the admin area of WP there is a button "Plugins" on the left side. There all installed extensions are listed, active and inactive ones. New plugins can be added via "Install". An overview page appears, where popular plugins are displayed. In the upper right corner you can search for plug-ins and install them. Please make sure that the plugin is not too old and is compatible with the existing WP installation. This is the case for most plugins.

install wordpress plugins

Tip:

For the optimization of the site for search engines there are a lot of plugins. We present the best of them here: Top WordPress SEO Plugins in comparison.

WordPress themes: Where can I get them and how are they set up?

The design of a website with WordPress is called Themes. With every new installation of the software there are a few official themes included. But there are also thousands of other themes available, some of which are free, others for a fee. Which theme is best to choose depends on the type of website.

There are themes specifically for a single area of application (for example, Portfolio), but increasingly there are also "premium themes" that cover a whole range of possible cases. So you basically buy a single design and get many in one big package. Depending on the area, you then decide on one of the themes.

This is how new themes are installed:

Under the button "Design" in the admin area of WP you will find the item "Themes". All installed themes are listed there, including the currently activated one. After clicking on "Add Theme" a list of presented themes appears, which can be downloaded and installed directly. However, you should use the preview function before installation. This often allows you to see at first glance whether or not this theme is suitable for you.

install wordpress theme-install

Chargeable themes can be downloaded from external sources such as ThemeForest obtain. The prices here are often between 30 and 60 euros. For this amount you get the theme itself, instructions for use and often one year of support included.

A purchased theme can sometimes not be installed easily via the admin area of WP. Instead, the theme must be unpacked from its ZIP file and then uploaded to the wp-content/themes/ directory. Afterwards it is activated via the admin area as described above.

Tip:

More information about WP-Themes can be found in our Instructions: Install WordPress Theme.

How to set up WordPress themes:

After installation and activation, the theme is ready to use, but not yet configured. Even today, there are still big differences depending on the design. Basically you should familiarize yourself with the settings of the theme. The menus can be edited via an options page provided by WordPress. In addition, the "Customizer" helps, with which many settings can be made directly in the frontend of the page. Just playing around helps to better understand the individual elements and their effects.

Example Customizer for the Astra Theme
Example Customizer for the Astra Theme

Another way to customize themes is always available with Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), although this section is explicitly not intended for WP beginners. If you feel brave enough, you can determine the appearance of your WP page 100% via CSS. Themes offer "Own CSS" for this purpose, which is created by the user and is then adopted every time the page is called up.

If this is not enough and you prefer a total conversion of the design, you should definitely create a child theme. Working on a child theme allows you to make many changes to the design without changing the original code of the theme. But at the latest here we clearly leave the area for WordPress beginners.

How can you make WordPress more secure?

Wordpress Security

WordPress is not an insecure system per se, but unfortunately a popular target for hackers. Since it is by far the most common CMS, it is a worthwhile target for hackers who do not leave any vulnerability unused. It is therefore recommended not to take the security of your own WP installation lightly. Here are a few tips:

  • Secure passwords help to keep hackers away. When setting a password, WordPress shows how secure the password is considered to be.
  • Use different passwords. Using the same password everywhere is never advisable - of course, this also applies to all other accounts.
  • Keep WordPress up-to-date. As soon as an update is offered, it should also be installed. New weaknesses in the system are ironed out by WP itself.
  • Do not blindly trust plugins. Unfortunately, attackers can often use plugins to access the entire WP installation. Only established extensions should be used, which can ideally be found in the official plugin directory of WordPress.
  • Remove inactive plug-ins and themes to make backdoors in old software disappear.
  • Create Backups. Here there are automatic solutions that create backups of databases at intervals.
  • SSL is mandatory. Using an SSL certificate today must be easy. Without encryption of the transmitted data, even Google does not want to have the website at the top of the search results.

Tip:

Click here for our ultimate article on the WordPress security!

WordPress too slow: How can the CMS be made faster?

WordPress is certainly not the slimmest system. Over the years more and more functions have been added, which can be seen as ballast. Unfortunately, the core system is not really modular either, so that functions that are not needed cannot simply be switched off.

wordpress-on-speed

In addition, the system may become slower with each new plugin. It is therefore recommended to use as few plugins as necessary. Whatever is not needed - this also applies to themes - should be deleted.

The theme itself can also contribute greatly to WordPress loading slower than desired. Especially so-called "Premium-Themes" with many functions and applications are often not only huge in terms of file size, but slow down the system itself. The best thing to do is to have your own design, created for the individual needs of the website - but this is quite expensive.

In many cases the use of WordPress cachingso that visitors do not always have to wait for a newly generated page. Instead, a static page is created, which is then delivered to the visitors. Such a principle is offered by caching solutions like W3 Total Cache or WP Super Cache.

Tip:

The hosting of the WordPress page is still often underestimated. The speed and configuration of the server has a significant influence on how quickly visitors can fully view the contents of the page. In no case should the cheapest offer be used here.

What are typical beginner mistakes of WordPress beginners?

Very few people fall from the sky as masters - which is completely understandable if at some point in the beginning you simply don't know what to do or have overestimated yourself.

These are the most common mistakes made by WP novices:

  • Not recognizing the difference between WordPress.org and WordPress.com. At the very beginning, the question arises as to whether WP should be hosted by itself or whether it should be left to the experts at Automattic. WordPress.com offers faster access and you don't have to worry about uploading themes and designs - that's up to the more powerful WordPress.org.
  • Neglect aspects of security. Securing the installation and protecting it from attacks should not be seen as an annoying secondary matter, but rather as a duty. Action should be taken here before anything happens.
  • Install too many plugins. Not every minor problem should be solved with a plugin. Often it is enough to deal more with the matter itself. Every plugin increases the loading time, which in turn has a negative effect on the Google ranking.
  • Do not update WordPress. WP is constantly being developed and should be kept up to date for security reasons alone. Automatic updates help to achieve this.
  • Auf the cheapest hoster. This is rarely a good idea and is almost always noticeable in longer loading times of the website.
  • Do without an SSL certificate can also take revenge. Google is leaving such websites in the back of the pack more and more often. Some browsers also warn when an unencrypted page is called. An SSL certificate is a must, even if it costs more money.
  • Put form over function. Not necessarily specific to WordPress, but a typical beginner's mistake on the web is to care more about the look of the page instead of interesting content worth reading. With good content, readers will come back, with good design they will rather not.

Tip:

We have collected typical mistakes, which not only beginners make, in a separate article: 10 typical WordPress errors - and how you can easily fix them.

Problems with WordPress? Here you can get help

WordPress is so popular and widespread that basically every problem has come up before. If you have questions, you can often find answers quite easily, for example in the official codex of WordPress (English). In addition official forums and the largest German forum WPDE.org at your disposal.

WordPress agencies and freelancers are also happy to take care of you. You can find them, for example, on our fastWP page.

Conclusion: What is WordPress? Questions and answers for beginners

WordPress is worth it. The system is flexible, open source, and also free of charge. Whoever has dealt with the subject matter once, quickly realizes that it is not so difficult to build a website with the most popular CMS in the world. But there are still obstacles to getting started more than 15 years after WP was first released. Especially the installation on a server contains pitfalls for newcomers. But with the second installation everything happens quite fast.

We hope that we could answer many questions about WordPress with our overview.

About Christian

ChristianMy name is Christian and I am co-founder of the platform fastWP. Here in the magazine I am responsible for the more "technical" topics but I like to write about SEO, which has been my passion for over 10 years now.

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