How WordPress Works: A beginners overview
September 27, 2011
What’s the difference between WordPress.org and WordPress.com? Why would I choose one over the other? I love the idea of WordPress but where do I start? If you’ve found yourself puzzling over these questions then this meetup’s for you. We’ll discuss themes — what they are and how to get them. We’ll delve into the basics of plugins and widgets and unlock the secrets of the WordPress Dashboard. With this step by step approach we’ll get you going in the right direction.
ABOUT THE SPEAKER:
Nate Cooper has been a WordPress advocate for many years and a teacher for longer. He prides himself on taking on challenging topics in a way that is approachable by beginners. While he honed this skill during his years running workshops at Apple Inc, he now runs his own consultancy firm and teaches Website Bootcamp for Creative Professionals at New Work City where he is also the director of Education.
Originally presented at the WordPressNYC Meetup.
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How's it going? Everybody good? Cool. So ...
Welcome to New Work City. Ummmm.
How many yous first time here?
Great. Cool. Welcome.
So, my name is Nate and
I'm going to be doing some basics of WordPress.
I kind of got a few bullet points I'm going to hit.
Steve said there's no hard stop time.
I'm kind of going for a roughly 40 minute conversation.
So I'd like to get through most of the topics
stopping for questions
and then if there's a lot of questions on a particular topic
we can always circle back to it.
So to give you some background on who I am and
why I'm here talking.
Is that I actually work for a university.
I was up until February of this past year, working for Apple
at the Fifth Avenue store.
I was running all the workshops
and events at Fifth Avenue
and it's funny that I'm here now in this WordPress event,
giving a presentation because I was in a WordPress,
event just like you are now and I was thinking
about a year ago, that I'd like to leave my job
and start my own company where I teach people
how to do stuff aside from just Apple products.
I'm happy to teach Apple products as well but, you know, doing my own thing basically so,
I left, as I mentioned in February,
and I started doing this class called
"Website Bootcamp For Creative Professionals"
- actually doing my third one tomorrow night.
The idea of that class is that it is a 3 hour class
so if you can imagine that what I want to talk
about roughly fits in between about 45 minutes
and an hour, a 3 hour class, that gives you an overview,
but it covers some topics but you might want
to think about, some of those things when
we're talking about some of these things
that what goes into WordPress might have to relate
to server management, might have
to relate to knowing something about coding
and I'll try to make it as clear as I can about where to go.
My point isn't to sell you classes
but just to get you an idea where my head is.
It's a lot of information to fit into a small span of time so there might be more things to look at down the line.
I'm also doing an introductory WordPress class series,
a four part series that is going to be going over everything I'm talking about more in depth.
There's even more than that can contain too if you really want to get into into this world of WordPress so
just the idea of this is so that you can walk away
with roughly a good broad stroke outline of what WordPress is,
why you might use it, where you might fit in.
There's lots of places you might fit in. Okay.
So, we're going to talk about
WordPress.com versus WordPress.org,
start there and then move into things like the Dashboard,
and if you don't know what that is don't worry,
we're going to talk about it.
Talk about things like themes and plugins and each one of
those, to give you an idea, is a single class
in this 4 class structure.
So you can talk a lot about those things and, hopefully, you'll get a little taste of what it is and where to go from there. Ah ...
and then, dadadadada, that's gonna be a lot to talk about.
So, we're gonna make sure we can kinda stop
and take questions and make sure everybody's
kinda following along.
Sound good? Any questions about the talk
before we jump into that outline? Yeah?
What's your name?
and your site
oooh, my site
you just announced
oh, the, the class, yeah, that's nycwebsitebootcamp.com
But, if you want to go to all that stuff just go to
That's this place and there's classes
on that website as well.
That's probably the better place to go if you're struggling.
That's where we're at. New Work City
[audience comments inaudible]
I'm teaching those classes that I mentioned but we have a lot of other classes as well. Okay.
So, um, just to give you an outline of WordPress.com
versus WordPress.org, I don't really have,
there's not much to show as far as that goes.
I do have a slide that I use in my website bootcamp class
which is that slide
and it kind of illustrates a lot of very complicated things
in a very, you know, overview type slide, so a lot of these things have nothing to do with WordPress but
at least while we are talking it's something we have
on the screen and maybe you can follow along
if you know some of these ideas.
Basically WordPress is an open source project,
as Steve mentioned. It's an application.
It's a script that runs on a server. Okay, and basically it is written in PHP, if you know what that means.
Go ahead, it doesn't matter if you don't know
what that means. That's okay.
But basically, you're going to need to have a host, somebody, a server, right, that keeps all your materials
and gets it all out to the world, okay,
not just your computer alone.
If you want to build a website, you're going to have to have someone else to take care of that material.
Everybody clear on that part?
Regardless, talking about building a website,
you have to have a host, you have to have a server.
Regardless of WordPress. Makes sense?
Okay. So, WordPress is an application
that runs on a server.
Now where it gets really tricky is that WordPress itself
is an application, in that, you can install
on your own host.
If I wanted to setup a website,
I don't have to make a WordPress website.
I could just build a page in HTML or any number of different technologies, whatever, whatever, buy a host,
put it up online and its live. Alright.
WordPress is prebuilt, so it's going to do a lot
of work to help me out to get those things done
even if I don't know a lot of very complex technologies.
Now let's say you're starting from absolute
zero and you want to build a website,
you don't have a host yet. You don't know HTML.
You don't know any of these languages.
I'm speaking Greek to you right now.
You want to setup your own website.
Well, WordPress.com is a place where you can go
which is a hosting service that does have WordPress already going for it. So when you use WordPress.com,
let's say you want to setup a blog.
You want to setup a website.
You don't have to pay anything extra.
In fact, it's free to sign-up for the WordPress Camp.
You want to get a blog going.
You want to get a site going.
You don't have to go to GoDaddy.
You don't have to go to BlueHost
or any one of those other hosting companies.
WordPress.com is doing that work for you.
When we talk about WordPress.org, that's the foundation
for, it's the central place where people go
to get access to this application.
It's also where people go to get documentation.
So, if I already have a host setup
and I want to run it on my own site,
I would go to WordPress.org to actually get that software
and install it, and I would also go there
to get plugins and themes.
So, most of what we are going to be talking
about tonight is actually has to do with WordPress.org
assuming that I am going to be getting
my own host, right, setting WordPress up on it.
A lot of hosts, by the way,
have automatic setup, one-click setup.
So you might sign-up for a host like GoDaddy
and just click a button. [snap]
It installs it for you.
That's WordPress.org roughly if you want to kind of
break them up into categories.
That's more of the WordPress.org category versus WordPress.com which is talking about a self-hosted,
or not a self-hosted but hosted by WordPress installation.
Everyone following along so far.
It's a lot of complex information, I understand. So, yeah.
What does get your own host mean?
So, when you want to put a site online,
you have to get a server.
You have go get someone to keep track of that material.
So I say "get your host," they're not doing for free.
When you go to GoDaddy or something, they make their money by keeping your materials and putting it out online.
So, if you want to set up a website
and you're starting from scratch,
you can go to WordPress.com [snap],
they'll take care of that part for you.
Or you have to go to GoDaddy, or I feel like
I'm advertising for GoDaddy, anybody other than,
I know that GoDaddy is a really poor example
So there's lots of different places you can go
and then they might have WordPress install
or you can actually install it as long it, it's a
It's like buying a URL. It's like buying a URL.
That's a good question. I'm going to talk about that next.
That's a good question.
So, that's something else? Okay.
[Nate Cooper and audience]
With which WordPress.org or WordPress.com
you have to have your own domain name
before you can publish?
Yeah, so with WordPress.com,
you sign up for an account and they give you a domain
which is your account name.wordpress.com.
So it does that automatically for you. It gives you a domain but that domain is automatically .wordpress.com.
So, this question of domain
is a great question to be thinking about.
The domain for those who have no clue
what we are talking about is the name of the site,
right, so nate.com, or whatever, that's,
which is not my site.
But nate.com, right, that's the domain name.
That address can be attached to any site.
You can attach it to WordPress.com.
WordPress.com does have an option
to do a custom domain.
It's not free, you would have to pay for that.
Or, when you sign up for your own host, then you can register the domain at the same time.
Or, if you're not ready yet, you can register the domain
and then decide about hosting later.
If you're worried about that domain being snatched up,
that's a separate process
and it's usually much less expensive.
Hosting might cost closer to $100 or so a year
where as a domain registration is very inexpensive.
Is that making sense? Everybody following that so far?
You guys are good.
That's a really hard concept so
I'm glad to go through that first.
So, this little diagram is just basically illustrating a kind of
typical workflow for someone running
their own WordPress site.
So, in this scenerio, we said that we have our own host
we set up, BlueHost, just as an example.
That's the server, that's the host, up there.
I am a production machine which is my computer where
I do all the work to put this site together.
I put this stuff up on the server
and then the client would be the end user
which technically, it's, you notice there's sort of this area where there's bleed over between the client
and the production machine because I'm also a client,
right, I'm talking to this machine remotely.
The reason I have this diagram in my WordPress Bootcamp classes because what WordPress does
as a content management system is it attempts
to make this a much easier workflow, okay.
For those of you, anybody, uh, build a website
or have to use FTP typically? Or ever have, yeah,
You, who raised your hands?
It's not the easiest technology.
In fact it's pretty old technology.
So, for those who don't know what I'm talk about,
that's great, because you're coming in where
you're living in a world where WordPress
kind of takes care of that for you.
FTP is kind of, it's still used.
It's still necessary, but if you have to manage
your own files in terms of now
I want to put this photo up on my website.
I want to put this page up there.
I want to put a link up on my site.
Right, it's a lot of work. You have to know coding.
You have to know file management.
WordPress and these other content management systems, what they're doing is taking care of that part for you and that's really the advantage of that.
So, you might have to decide, you know,
when you're starting out. What do I do?
Do I do WordPress.com or do I do WordPress.org and that's a really interesting question to start out with.
The nice thing about WordPress.com is that it looks
the same in a lot of respects, not like this,
let me see if I can find my window.
So, if I go to ....
Once you're logged in,
it's going to look roughly the same
as a self-hosted WordPress site,
but where you're going to run into is a lot of limitations using WordPress.com
and most of those have to due with customization,
how far you can go into adding things to it,
adding functionality and then also changing
the look of the site.
So I want to take you through just some of the basic functionality of a WordPress install, start from scratch.
You've just installed it. What is it look like?
How do you navigate it? Basically, how do you move around in it and how do you use it?
And then we'll talk about some of those more specific customizing options like themes and plugins. Questions?
Did you mention that with a client, you don't need
an FTP client to upload a file to server?
Do you use the WordPress client to do that?
So, what I mean when I say it takes the place of FTP
is that, let's say that you have a lot of photos
you know you're going to be adding to your site,
and that's just an example.
You know that every week you're going to add 10 photos.
Traditionally, if you don't have some kind
of content management system like WordPress,
that's a lot of work. You have to keep track of those files.
WordPress is going to do a lot of that work
for you once it's installed.
To get WordPress installed,
you might have to do FTP initially.
If you go with a host that has a one-click install,
you can avoid it pretty much seamlessly
and that's what we're going to look at next
which is the Dashboard and talk about how
you actually manuever through.
What's the difference between Ning?
Ning? Um, it's a different content management system.
I'm not as familiar with Ning.
There's a lot of content management systems out there.
There's WordPress. There's Drupal. There's Joomla.
I'm sure you've heard of a lot of them.
WordPress is pretty popular for a couple of reasons.
One is, it started out as a blog platform.
So if you know you want to do something
that has blogs in it, it's really, really strong
in it's affiliation with a blog.
So, that's great.
The other thing is that it's a lot easier to set up.
I've set up Joomla sites and Drupal sites and WordPress sites and the installation.
I'm intentionally avoiding this
because I don't want to go down the route
of walking you through an installation process but
just because it can vary for everybody,
so, I can show you one way to do it
and then one step is missing
and you totally don't know what I'm talking about.
So, I just want to show you
that it's part of their documentation.
WordPress has, [Nate chuckles] a criticism of it, okay.
[audience chuckles] A five minute installation,
oh, he's talking about why he doesn't use it.
I use the five minute install.
I didn't work for you?
So, I mean, take that as you will,
but roughly speaking I'd say on the whole,
90% of the people I know use it worked fine.
Here’s some further viewing, also aimed at the beginner. Speaker isn’t as charming as our Nate, but he definitely covers the ground.
For the beginner this is great, I wish this video material was available when I was starting out. Thanks Joly for recording and posting the video of the meetups.
For those of you who are beginners or those in need of training for clients there is also an excellent WordPress Video Tutorial series created by Shawn Hesketh of WP101.com. In collaboration with wptuts+ they are offering this video series for free: WP101 Basix Training