How To Use WordPress

Sunday, October 25th, 2020

Looking for a versatile website platform that allows you to start a blog, post video tutorials, set up an eCommerce site, create a portfolio and manage your own edits and additions? Then WordPress is the one for you! Read on to find out more about how to use WordPress, its functionality and how to safely keep it up to date.

What Is WordPress?

WordPress is a free open-source content management system (CMS) that allows you to create high-quality, modern websites. When using WordPress, website basics can be created, edited and content published all without any programming knowledge.

WordPress works on a plugin architecture where you can add additional functionality depending on what you are looking for while working within pre-existing themes and templates. WordPress is one of the most popular content management system solutions in use around the world with currently over 38% of websites making use of its exceptional features.

While on the surface WordPress presents an intuitive and user-friendly interface, it uses PHP, a general purpose coding language that is especially suited to website development paired with a MySQL database in the background.

What Kinds Of Websites Can I Create with WordPress?

WordPress enables you to create all different kinds of websites – here are just a few great examples, but the possibilities are endless!

  • Blogs. WordPress actually started out as a basic blogging tool so it excels in the personal or influencer style of website that relys heavily on blog content.
  • Business Websites. WordPress is commonly used around the world by small, medium and large sized businesses offering all kinds of products and services.
  • Charity Websites. Because WordPress is a free tool, requires relatively little maintenance, and is easy to learn it works well for charities, church groups and other non-profit organisations.
  • Ecommerce (Online Shopping). Creating an online shopping website with the aid of WordPress plugins is also a popular use for WordPress. WooCommerce is one of the most popular ecommerce plugins, with features such as shopping carts, order management, checkout pages, and other functionality.
  • Artistic Portfolios. Perfect for the artists, photographers and musicians WordPress is a great place to display your online portfolio.

WordPress Themes

WordPress themes provide a fast and easy solution to your website and/or blogging needs. There is a wide selection of top quality themes that can be customised to better suit your business style, or for the more technically advanced, themes can be created from scratch.  Some benefits of WordPress themes are:

  • They’re affordable (and free themes are available)
  • There is a wide selection of great themes to choose from
  • They can be updated easily
  • Most are search engine friendly

Pros And Cons Of WordPress

Running your own website has plenty of advantages, but it can also come with added time pressures and other drawbacks – take a look below for our list of pros and cons to find out if WordPress is right for you.

5 Advantages Of A WordPress Website

  1. Its Free! (Almost).  It is basically free to create a WordPress website all you need to pay for is the domain and web hosting service. You never have to pay for the WordPress open-source software, although it does pay to note that some of the more advanced plugins, and themes do come at an extra cost.
  2. Easy Maintenance. The installation and update process is easy – you can update WordPress with a single click!
  3. Simple To Manage. No programming knowledge is required for the basics such as writing and editing posts, uploading images and installing plugins and changing themes.
  4. Customisable Design. WordPress is a highly customisable tool with over 55,000 plugins and thousands of existing themes which makes it easy to create a website that fits your business. Plus you can alter the source code if necessary.
  5. There Is Lots Of Help. Widely used the world over, there are plenty of people and online communities, businesses, and others who are able to help out when you have a question or a problem.

5 Disadvantages Of A Word Press Website

  1. Security. There are some concerns around the security of open-source software and the third party contributions of developers for plugins and themes; this can make WordPress a frequent target for hackers.
  2. Plugins Can Be Buggy. Most of the plugins and themes for WordPress are created by third parties. This means the software can be buggy at times – always read reviews and ask around before installing any new plugins.  
  3. Lack Of Individuality. If you want your website to stand out and be different from the others this becomes a little more difficult as most of the free themes are overused. You will need to pay extra for the lesser used themes or pay a developer to customise your existing setup.
  4. Open-Source Updates. As part of the open-source software WordPress does offer frequent updates, which is great, but these updates can often render third party plugins unusable or strike some compatibility issues.
  5. Extras Require Coding. If you want to highly customise for functionality, appearance and SEO purposes your WordPress website you will need to possess HTML, CSS and PHP knowledge – or pay someone who does.

Tips For Updating WordPress Safely

WordPress is one of the most popular content management systems in the world, and for good reason. Not only is it free, stable and easy to use, it receives the support of constant updates from its wide community of professional and amateur developers.

While plug-ins are updated as the original creator finds necessary, the core WordPress engine has regular improvements and modifications made by the original development team with the aim to improve usability and performance.

However this can mean that the main WordPress code updates beyond the plug-ins or theme you have installed, causing them to break. That’s why it’s important to take care when updating, and there are several things you can do to protect your website and all your hard work.

5 Tips On Updating WordPress

WordPress developers are constantly on the lookout for bugs and developing fixes, but they only help you if you continuously update your software. However when you do update, it’s important to do so correctly. Updating WordPress can add extra functionality and security, but it can also cause compatibility problems that require patience and testing to solve, so it pays to tread cautiously.

1. Make A Backup

Before attempting to do any WordPress core or plugin updates make sure you have a solid backup procedure in place and your current website is fully backed up. It’s possible for things to go wrong, and if you don’t have a way to restore your old site it can be a nightmare to fix.

Follow the official instructions carefully if you need to make a manual update, however with certain builds or hosts you will be able to update automatically. At the end of the day having a backup you can revert to is the only thing that can really help if things don’t go right in the upgrade process. Using backup plugins such as BackWPup can prove invaluable.

2. Check Functionality After Each Update

Unfortunately even when you upgrade with a fairly stable version, there can be specific compatibility problems with what you already have installed. If something goes awry, it can probably be traced back to either your theme or your plugins.

Plugin updates are almost always automatic (however you need to manually check for and instigate them); however it’s still a good idea to be cautious. Update one at a time and thoroughly check to make sure nothing has broken before moving onto the next. It’s difficult to trouble shoot if you make more than one change before checking.

3. Do Your Research

It can also be a good idea to do a quick Google search of the plugin name and version that you will be updating to before you go ahead with the update. Sometimes there’s a bug or issue that developers don’t catch and it will usually be all over various tech help forums if it’s a widespread issue.

If there is an issue with a particular plugin and your version of WordPress you will find this out pretty quickly by doing a little bit of research. Sometimes it’s better to hold off and wait for the next update if the problem is really major.

4. Keep Up To Date

Plugin updates aren’t released on any particular schedule, as it’s up to each individual developer to create and release them. Check regularly to see if any updates have come out is best practice, but at the very least, scheduling a day every 6-12 months to routinely go through and make any updates is essential.

If you don’t keep up to date with updates you risk exposing your site to serious security threats as well as missing out on improved functionality and features.

5. Hold Fire On Major Updates

Big updates are the ones most likely to wreak havoc on your installed plug-ins, and can in general just have a number of bugs and issues that are the result of major changes to the system. These will become rapidly apparent as the online community collectively updates them, however it can take several weeks for the WordPress team to fix them.

Therefore unless you desperately need functionality or a feature provided by a major upgrade, it’s usually much better to wait a bit until these initial bugs are ironed out. If you do need to upgrade now, check blogs and forums for people’s experiences beforehand.

Click here to download your free version of WordPress, or for more information on creating a WordPress websites and website design tips and advice head on over to our helpful ‘Resources’ pages here.


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Mark is the managing director of Avatar, a Christchurch-based web design and marketing company, that has served a wide range of clients in different industries.

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