What Is WordPress and How Does It Work? A Beginner's Guide

As a beginner looking to build your first website, you may have come across WordPress and wondered what exactly it is and how it works. WordPress is … As a beginner looking to build your first website, you may have come across WordPress and wondered what exactly it is and how it works. WordPress is a…

As a beginner looking to build your first website, you may have come across WordPress and wondered what exactly it is and how it works.

WordPress is an open-source content management system that powers over 35% of the internet.

Using WordPress, you can easily create and manage a website without needing to know how to code.

In this guide, you'll discover what WordPress is, how it works, and how you can use it to launch your own website.

What Exactly Is WordPress?

WordPress is an open-source content management system (CMS) based on PHP and MySQL.

A CMS allows you to create and manage digital content on the web without needing extensive coding knowledge.

WordPress started as just a blogging platform but has evolved into a full CMS and is now used by over 35% of websites.

It is a free and flexible tool used to create all kinds of websites - blogs, business sites, e-commerce stores, portfolios, and more.

Some of the main features of WordPress include:

  1. Easy installation and setup.

    You can have a WordPress site up and running in less than 5 minutes.

  2. Thousands of free themes and plugins.

    You can customize your site's design and add extra functionality with themes and plugins.

  3. Intuitive interface.

    The WordPress dashboard is user-friendly, even for non-technical users.

  4. SEO-friendly.

    WordPress makes it easy to optimize your site for search engines.

  5. Secure and scalable.

    WordPress receives regular security updates and can handle huge amounts of traffic.

  6. Community support.

    WordPress has a large, active community to help you with any issues.

The History of WordPress

WordPress began in 2003 as a blogging platform and content management system (CMS).

It was created by Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little as a fork of b2/cafelog.

The platform has since evolved into a popular CMS used by individuals and businesses alike to build websites.

WordPress is open-source software, meaning it is built by a community of volunteer developers and is free to download and use.

The platform is highly customizable through the use of themes and plugins.

There are thousands of free and paid themes and plugins available, allowing you to modify the look, functionality, and features of your WordPress site.

How WordPress Works

WordPress utilizes a template system with header, footer, sidebar, and content sections that can be styled using themes.

Posts and pages are stored in a database and delivered dynamically to visitors.

  1. You install WordPress on your web host or server.

    This can be done through an auto-installer on many web hosts or by uploading the WordPress files manually.

  2. You choose a theme to control the layout and design of your site.

    There are free and paid themes available on wordpress.org or from third-party marketplaces.

  3. You create posts and pages to add content.

    Posts are typically blog entries, while pages are used for static content.

    You can add text, images, galleries, video, audio, and more.

  4. You can modify or extend functionality using plugins.

    There are plugins for ecommerce, contact forms, search engine optimization (SEO), analytics, and much more.

  5. Your website is ready to go live! You can continue adding and customizing content and make changes to themes and plugins over time.

With its simplicity and scalability, WordPress offers an easy way to build a professional website for most types of businesses and personal uses.

The platform continues to power over 38% of all websites on the Internet, a testament to its popularity and success.

How WordPress Works as a CMS

WordPress works as a content management system (CMS) that allows you to easily create and manage your website.

How WordPress Stores Your Website’s Content

All of the content on your WordPress website is stored in a database.

This includes:

  • Posts (blog posts, news articles, etc.)

  • Pages (static pages like an ‘About’ page)

  • Media (images, videos, audio, documents, etc.)

  • Comments

  • Plugins

  • Themes

When a visitor loads your website, WordPress dynamically retrieves the necessary content from the database and displays it to the user.

This allows you to easily manage all your content in one place.

How WordPress Handles Users and Permissions

WordPress allows you to create different types of users with different permission levels.

The major types are:

  • Administrators: Have full control over the site.

    Can manage all content, users, plugins, themes, etc.

  • Editors: Can publish and manage posts and pages as well as manage other users’ content.

  • Authors: Can publish and manage their own posts and pages.

  • Contributors: Can write and edit their own posts and pages but cannot publish them.

  • Subscribers: Can only manage their profile.

By assigning different users to different roles, you can control who has access to what on your site.

This is useful for both security and workflow management.

How WordPress Uses Themes and Plugins

WordPress allows you to customize the appearance and functionality of your site through:

  • Themes: Control the layout, styling, and design of your site.

    You can choose from free and paid themes.

  • Plugins: Add specific features and functions to your site like contact forms, ecommerce, SEO tools, and more.

    There are thousands of free and paid plugins available.

Themes control how your site looks while plugins control what it can do.

By using a combination of themes and plugins, you have a lot of flexibility in designing your WordPress site to meet your needs.

WordPress provides an intuitive way to manage all aspects of your website in one place.

Its user roles and permissions system gives you control over who can access what, while its theme and plugin ecosystem allows you to build a custom website tailored to your needs.

With some basic knowledge, you'll be managing your WordPress site in no time!

The WordPress Dashboard and Key Features

The WordPress dashboard is the main admin area where you can manage your WordPress website.

When you log in, you'll see the dashboard which provides an overview of your site.

The dashboard has several key features to help you customize and control your WordPress site.


The Posts section allows you to create and manage blog posts and web pages.

You can add, edit, publish, and delete posts.

Posts typically contain written content and images.

They make up the bulk of most WordPress websites.


The Media section holds all the images, documents, and other media files you upload to your WordPress site.

You can organize your media into different folders, search for specific files, edit image details, and select files to insert into your posts and pages.


The Pages section is where you can create and manage static web pages for your site.

Pages differ from posts in that they are not part of your site's chronological blog feed.

They are best suited for about pages, contact pages, and other standalone content.

You create and edit pages similarly to posts.


The Comments section shows all the comments left on your posts and pages.

You can view, edit, approve, reply to, mark as spam, or delete comments.

Managing comments helps keep discussions on your site constructive and prevents spam.


The Appearance section allows you to customize the look and layout of your WordPress site.

You can choose a theme, edit menus, set a custom header image, add custom CSS, and more.

Tweaking these settings is how you can give your site a unique design and style.

WordPress offers an abundance of features through its straightforward dashboard and menus.

Spending time exploring all the options will help you gain a better understanding of how to fully leverage the power and flexibility of WordPress.

With regular use, the dashboard will become second nature and allow you to efficiently manage your website.

Choosing and Installing WordPress Themes

One of the first steps in setting up your WordPress website is choosing and installing a theme.

The theme controls the overall look and layout of your site.

There are thousands of free and paid WordPress themes to choose from.

Free Themes

WordPress offers a theme directory with thousands of free themes to choose from.

These themes range from minimalist to ecommerce-focused.

Free themes are a great option if you're on a budget, but they typically offer limited customization options and you're relying on the theme developer to provide updates and support.

Paid Themes

Paid or "premium" WordPress themes typically offer more customization options, better support, and frequent updates.

Prices range from $30 to $200 or more, depending on the features and functionality.

Popular paid theme sources include:

  • Elegant Themes - Elegant Themes offers a membership that provides access to 87 premium themes for $89 per year.

  • StudioPress - StudioPress is a theme shop run by Copyblogger Media.

    Their themes focus on SEO-optimized content and range from $99 to $199.

  • ThemeForest - ThemeForest is a popular theme marketplace with a wide range of WordPress themes at varying price points.

    Themes start at $30.

Once you've chosen a theme, you'll need to install it on your WordPress site.

There are a couple ways to do this:

  1. Install from the WordPress theme directory.

    If you've chosen a free theme, you can install it directly from the WordPress theme directory within your WordPress dashboard.

  2. Download and upload the theme.

    If you've purchased a premium theme, you'll download the theme files from the theme developer's website.

    Then, in your WordPress dashboard, go to Appearance → Themes and click "Add New." Click "Upload Theme" and choose the theme zip file you downloaded.

  3. Install from the theme developer.

    Some theme shops like StudioPress and Elegant Themes offer easy theme installation straight from their website.

    You'll just need to enter your WordPress admin login info and they'll handle the installation for you.

After installing your chosen WordPress theme, be sure to explore the theme options and set up your site header, page layouts, blog settings, and more.

Your theme has the power to make or break your website, so choose wisely! Let me know if you have any other questions about finding and installing WordPress themes.

Adding and Managing Plugins

Plugins are software components that can extend and expand the functionality of WordPress.

There are over 50,000 free and paid plugins available for WordPress.

Some of the most popular types of plugins include:

  • SEO plugins to help optimize your site for search engines

  • Social media sharing plugins to make it easy for visitors to share your content

  • Contact form plugins to add forms for contacting you

  • Image gallery plugins to create image galleries

  • Backup plugins to schedule automatic backups of your site

Adding Plugins

To add a plugin to your WordPress site:

  1. Log in to your WordPress admin dashboard and click "Plugins" -> "Add New".

  2. Search for the plugin you want to add using keywords related to its purpose or functionality.

    For example, search for "contact form" or "SEO".

  3. Click "Install Now" for the plugin you want to add.

  4. Once installed, click "Activate" to enable the plugin.

Some plugins require additional configuration.

Be sure to check if the plugin has additional settings and configure as needed.

You may need to enter an API key or other credentials to connect the plugin to third-party services.

Managing Plugins

It is important to properly manage the plugins on your WordPress site.

Some key things to keep in mind:

  • Update plugins regularly to ensure you have the latest version.

    Outdated plugins can be a security risk.

  • Delete unused plugins.

    Having too many inactive plugins can slow down your site.

  • Check plugin reviews and ratings before installing.

    This helps avoid low-quality or buggy plugins.

  • Monitor plugin performance and compatibility.

    Disable or remove any plugins that are causing issues.

  • Consider using a backup plugin in case you need to restore your site.

    Backups are useful if a plugin update causes problems.

Keeping your plugins up to date and properly managing them will help keep your WordPress site running smoothly and securely.

Let me know if you have any other questions!

Creating and Editing Posts and Pages

To create and edit posts and pages in WordPress, log in to your WordPress admin dashboard and follow these steps:

Creating a New Post

To create a new blog post:

  1. Click “Posts” in the left admin menu.

  2. Click “Add New.” This will open the post editor screen.

  3. Enter a title and content for your post using the visual editor.

    Use headings, bold text, images, and bulleted lists to format as needed.

  4. Select a featured image to display on your blog and post previews.

    Upload an image or choose one from your media library.

  5. Choose a post category to file your post under.

    You can have multiple categories for one post.

  6. Add tags for your post.

    Tags help users find your content through searches.

    Use keywords and phrases.

  7. If desired, schedule when your post is published or save it as a draft.

    Otherwise, click “Publish” and your post will go live immediately.

Editing an Existing Post

To edit an already published post:

  1. Click “Posts” and find the post you want to edit.

  2. Click the title of the post.

    This will open the post editor screen containing your post content.

  3. Make any changes to the title, content, categories, tags, featured image, or publish date.

  4. Click “Update” to save your changes.

    This will re-publish your post with the edits.

Creating and Editing Pages

The process for creating and editing static pages is very similar to posts.

Simply click “Pages” in the admin menu instead of “Posts.” Pages are meant for more permanent content on your site.

They can be used for an “About” page, “Contact” page, or to display important information.

By following these guidelines, you'll be creating and updating WordPress content like a pro in no time.

Let me know if you have any other questions!

Managing Media in WordPress

Once you have media files uploaded to your WordPress site, you’ll want to manage them to ensure the best user experience.

There are a few ways to organize and display your media in WordPress.

Media Library

The Media Library contains all the images, documents, audio files, and videos you’ve uploaded to your site.

You can view files by date uploaded, file type, or search for specific files.

Select a file to edit the file name, caption, alt text, description, and parent page.

You can also replace the file or delete it from your Media Library.

Image Sizes

WordPress automatically generates several image sizes when you upload an image.

This includes thumbnail, medium, large, and full size images.

You can specify the dimensions for each image size under Settings → Media.

Reducing image sizes improves your site's load time and SEO.

Image Galleries

To display a gallery of images on your site, create a new page or post and add the [gallery] shortcode.

Select which images from your Media Library to include in the gallery and WordPress will automatically generate the gallery with thumbnails that link to the full-size images.

You can customize the gallery settings like number of columns, size of thumbnails, and more.

Video and Audio Embeds

Want to add a YouTube, Vimeo, or SoundCloud video/audio to your content? Simply paste the URL into your page or post.

WordPress will automatically convert it into an embedded player.

You can also specify the dimensions for embeds under Settings → Media.

Featured Images

Assign a featured image to your posts, pages, and custom post types to display a representative photo with your content.

The featured image displays on your site's blog page, archives, and within your content.

You can adjust where featured images display in your theme's customizer settings.

With some configuration, you'll have full control over how your media content appears on your WordPress site.

Organizing your media library, utilizing featured images, and embedding third-party media are all effective ways to enhance your content and user experience.

Let me know if you have any other questions!


In summary, WordPress is an open-source content management system that allows you to easily build and maintain a professional website without needing extensive coding experience.

Once you have chosen a theme that suits your needs, you can start adding content like blog posts, images, and pages.

The visual editor and built-in features make it simple to format and organize your content attractively.

With regular updates and a large selection of plugins, WordPress provides all the tools you need to create an engaging site that serves your purpose and audience.

Whether you want to start a blog, build a business website, or launch an online store, WordPress has you covered.

With a little time and practice, you'll be building a great WordPress website in no time.

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