If you’ve spent much time online looking to build a blog, create a personal website, or find a content management system, you’ve undoubtedly heard of WordPress. While WordPress has been around for a while, its popularity as a website and blogging platform has grown immensely in the last year thanks to new versions 2.7 and 2.8. These latest releases added a great deal of new functionality and truly developed WordPress into a state-of-the-art blogging platform and content management system.

It doesn’t hurt that WordPress is free, either. It is an open source publishing platform, which means that developers have full access to creating their own customizations and additions to the platform’s functionality. This results in benefits for you, the end user, because there is a great deal of customization available for your WordPress site for free or a low cost.

WordPress is a great choice if you’re looking to start a blog or if you want to create an attractive website without having much knowledge of html or other web languages. There is a wealth of information available about installing WordPress on your own domain to be found, and many companies (Domain.com included) provide an automatic installation option. With Domain.com, you’ve got two options for installation. You can use our application vault to do an auto-install of WordPress (recommended for novice users) or you can do the famous 5 minute WordPress Manual Installation (the best choice for experience users).

The installation is usually fairly straightforward, even when done manually. What to do once you’ve got WordPress installed may not immediately be quite as apparent. The rest of this post will explore the best ways to make WordPress work for you as a complete content management system.

Why WordPress?

WordPress is most commonly known as a blogging platform, and that’s still its primary function for most users. However, WordPress can be used as a complete content management system – that is, a database-driven website that uses the coding language PHP to produce dynamic web pages (as opposed to static un-changing pages written using html). A great example of the ability to use WordPress for a complete website can be found being used by our friends over at Sprout.

Sproutinc.com – 100% WordPress-driven

By using PHP, WordPress serves dynamic content that is created from information stored in databases. This allows things such as blog posts, pages, and sidebar elements to be pulled into a template that is specified by basic files utilized by all the pages it creates. WordPress has become a popular CMS primarily because of its straightforward, easy-to-learn user interface combined with the flexibility to customize your sites using it.

Using WordPress

The WordPress Dashboard is your control interface for editing all aspects of your blog. You access your dashboard directly through your web browser just like a website. It’s arranged with links on the left to all the important sections of content control, a quick-post box on the right, and an overview of posts, comments, and other pertinent information.

The Basic WordPress Dashboard

When editing a post or a page, it’s as simple as using a document editor similar to Microsoft Word. You can write in various styles of text, import images and media, and align everything as you please.

Writing a Post in WordPress couldn’t be easier

The basic settings for WordPress are vast and let you control every aspect of your site, but for the most part are simple to understand.

Ample settings to control all the functionality of your WordPress-driven site

Where to Start

You’ll find that your fresh installation of WordPress comes with a default theme. You can start writing and add content to your site using this theme, but you’ll quickly find yourself wanting something more interesting.

The default theme is rather… default

Luckily, customized WordPress themes abound, and many (if not most) are free! Head over to the WordPress Themes Directory or search for themes under the “Appearance” tab in your dashboard and find one you like. Installation is simple either by direct installation through your dashboard or by uploading a .zip file to your server.

There are WordPress themes for every style and layout you could possibly want

If you can’t find something that meets your needs at WordPress.org, there are plenty of other places to find excellent themes as well. A few of the best include Smashing Magazine, WPThemes360.com, and Natty WP.

If you find a theme you like for your blog or website and later change it, you’re completely in luck. Because WordPress is a content management system, themes are mostly interchangeable and you can change themes without having to significantly modify any content.

Once you’re familiar with WordPress, you can even jump into the Theme Editor in the WordPress interface and try your hand at editing your theme using basic PHP and CSS if you’re feeling adventurous.

Adding sidebar elements is just one of the many things you can customize with a little knowledge of PHP

You can go as far as creating an entire theme from scratch if you take the time to learn PHP and CSS. Don’t worry though, you don’t need any coding knowledge to create a WordPress site that looks great straight out of the box.

Customize and Widgetize

Just like there are numerous custom themes available for WordPress, there are also thousands of add-ons and plugins available to add functionality to your site. There are plugins for everything from weather sidebar widgets to post popularity ranking to poll functionality to post feature galleries like the one we use on the main page of this blog. Check out the WordPress Plugin Directory to get a sense for all the different plugins that exist to make WordPress even more useful.

Here are a few of the best WordPress Plugins that we’d recommend for every WordPress blog:

Akismet – Akismet comes with every WordPress installation, and once you’ve gone through the simple set-up process, it blocks the majority of spam comments your blog would otherwise receive.

All-In-One SEO Pack – Improve your site’s search engine rankings by customizing your titles, meta content, and more for your posts and pages.

Google Analyticator – Integrate your site with Google Analytics to learn more about who your visitors are.

Sociable – Add links to all the major social media and social bookmarking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Digg to your posts.

See Results

There are unlimited options to what you can do using WordPress. It’s a great option if you’re looking to create a website without knowledge of coding, and can get you started with a great-looking blog or website quickly. If you’ve never tried WordPress before, give it a shot. You’ll be surprised how easy and intuitive it is to use. Here are a few examples of great uses for WordPress:

Create a Social Media News blog that receives millions of monthly visitors


Start a photo blog


Build a personal portfolio site


Blog about your family


Build a business blog, like us!