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Getting Started with WordPress

What is WordPress?

WordPress is a web application -- essentially a computer program that runs on a web server (where your website is hosted) rather than on your own computer -- that makes it easier to run and maintain a website than it used to be. At its simplest, a website is a collection of text (HTML) and image files (pictures), that come together to produce the pages that you see in your web browser. Without a content management system, managing a website requires one to maintain individual text files -- sometimes many individual text files -- that make up the website. As a website grows, this can become tedious at best, and unmanageable at worst.

WordPress started out as software to run blogs, but has evolved into a content management system suitable for running many, if not most, websites today. It is NinerNet's content management system of choice, although, of course, it can still be used simply to run either a standalone blog, or a blog attached to your main website. The tone of this document generally refers to running an entire website using WordPress, but the same principles apply to using it strictly for running a blog.

What's the point of a content management system?

As suggested by its name, a content management system manages the content of a website. The content is the words and images (and often other multimedia) you see on a website. It is not the design of the website. This means that the content is kept as completely separate as possible from the design, such that it should be possible to change the design of a website without having to go back and make changes to the content of the website, content that may have been created years ago.

That said, many content management systems (including WordPress) also include functions for managing the design of the website, although, in keeping with the statement above about separating content and design, the two are managed separately, and you may never touch the design of your website after setting it up with an initial design, although presumably you will manage the content of your website many times.

First steps with WordPress

After NinerNet has installed and configured WordPress for you, it will usually be using the default template -- or "theme" as it's called by WordPress -- that comes with WordPress. However, because WordPress does such a good job of separating content from design, you can get started on working with your content without delay, safe in the knowledge that applying a new theme (design) later on will not require you to go back and re-enter your content.

WordPress is, by definition, a do-it-yourself system. NinerNet will install, configure and (subject to your needs) set you up with a theme (design) of your choice (either a free theme or a paid theme). In keeping with our ethos of providing useful help, not just (minimal) support, we will do everything we can to get you going, but at the end of the day the reason you've chosen to use a system like WordPress is because you want to do most things yourself. If you need more, we'll happily provide you with a reasonable quote to do what you need us to do.

This guide is not intended to be an exhaustive manual for all of WordPress' features; WordPress themselves and many other websites provide this. It's only meant to get you started by pointing you to existing resources (in some sort of logical order), and as you progress, learn the many features of WordPress, realise its potential and learn some of the lingo, you'll be able to strike out in your own direction, searching out information that pertains to what you want WordPress to help you achieve on your website rather than what we think you might want to know.

A note about videos and screen shots: Some of the videos linked to below may show slightly older versions of WordPress. Additionally, some pages may contain screen captures from older versions of WordPress. The principles generally remain the same, but you might have to look for interface elements -- buttons, links, headings, etc. -- in slightly different locations to what is show in a video or screen shot.

Let's start with some specifics. The first thing you probably want to do is either create a web page or write a post: Next you might want to master adding images to your pages and/or posts, and managing them in your media library:

Moving on: Doing more with WordPress

More about pages and posts: More about managing images and other media on your website: Changing the design of your WordPress website or blog: Pages with broader overviews and links to pages with more detail: Where and how to get help:

Options for your site design

You have three options when it comes to the design of your WordPress-powered website or blog:
  1. Use an existing free theme:
    • Pros:
      • Price: They're free!
      • Availability: There are thousands (or more) available, and they're everywhere.
    • Cons:
      • Uniqueness: Your website won't be the only one using that theme.
      • Support: You may have to get support from a public forum rather than directly from the developer.
  2. Use an existing non-free (or "premium") theme:
    • Pros:
      • Price: Usually quite inexpensive, often as low as $30.
      • Support: May come with support from the developer.
    • Cons:
      • Uniqueness: Your website won't be the only one using that theme, but chances are that there will be a lot fewer websites using your chosen theme than if you chose a free theme. In fact, the chances of someone browsing two websites using the same non-free theme within a short span of time are probably quite low. Additionally, some developers may have a "buyout price" (which will be much higher, closer to what you would pay for option 3 below), meaning the developer will "retire" the theme you buy so that no other website owner can buy your theme after you pay for it outright. However, this doesn't mean that anyone who paid to use the theme before you must stop using it, so unless you're the first to buy it outright, there may still be a few websites out there using the same theme.
      • Price: Not free.
  3. Create a theme from scratch:
    • This involves either you or a professional web designer creating a new website design just as one would be created for a website not managed by a content management system, except that it will be programmed to work with WordPress.
    • Pros:
      • Uniqueness: Your website will be the only one using this design.
      • Satisfaction: You get exactly what you want, and it can be tailored to existing company or organisation logos and colours.
      • Support: You get support for modifications directly from the designer.
    • Cons:
      • Price: Much more expensive, ranging in price from several hundred to several thousand dollars.

Places to find existing themes

NinerNet does not necessarily endorse any of the themes or websites listed on this page. In fact, you should be very careful when choosing a theme (free or not) to ensure that it does not contain hidden code that could compromise your website or server. Read this article for a detailed explanation of why and how (hint: scanning the theme with a virus scanner won't necessarily help), and feel free to contact NinerNet support if you have any questions or concerns about a theme you're considering using.

Free themes (some of these websites also provide "premium" themes): Non-free (or "premium") themes: