WordPress is one of many PHP/MySQL content management systems that allow content editors to use a web interface to maintain their sites instead of editing and uploading HTML files to a server. Some systems, like Movable Type and Textpattern, have reputations as good blogging platforms. Others such as Joomla, Drupal, and Expression Engine are more commonly associated with commercial or community sites.
WordPress began as a blogging tool, but early on the developers added pages as a separate content type. This opened the door for people who didn’t want a blog, but did want an easy, web-based interface to create and manage web content. (And if they later decided they needed a blog after all, the world’s best was just one menu click away!) Since then, the page features have evolved. Whether WordPress acts a blogging tool or a true content management system, then, depends on which content you choose to emphasize in your site.
Despite its flexibility as a simple content management system, and despite winning the Overall Best Open Source CMS Award at the 2009 Open Source CMS Awards, WordPress is still widely considered to be a blogging tool. So why would you choose WordPress over a more traditional CMS?
WordPress.com is a commercial entity operated by Automattic, which provides hosted blogging using the WordPress platform. It’s free to use, though there are a number of premium features available for a fee.
Here are the pros and cons of each:
■ access to thousands of custom themes
■ use of custom widgets and plugins
■ retention of 100% control over the markup
■ access to the MySQL database, should you need to make revisions or create new tables
■ responsible for acquiring your own hosting, at a cost
■ manual installation of software required
■ download required of necessary plugins to prevent spam (typically Automattic’s popular Akismet plugin)
■ hosted and managed by Automattic for free
■ hosted on hundreds of servers, resulting in virtually 99% uptime
■ set up, comment spam, and database back ups performed automatically for free
■ limited access to themes (around 100), and custom themes not permitted
■ unable to modify underlying PHP code
■ custom plugins can’t be implemented
■ initial listing as a subdomain of wordpress.com, such as mysite.wordpress.com, though it’s possible to map your own domain address to this URL
For the purposes of website development, you’ll need to use the software downloaded from wordpress.org, and installed either on your desktop computer, web server, or virtual machine. Head over to wordpress.organd download the latest version, then install it according to the instructions.
What is a Theme?
Don’t confuse the content—the pages and posts—with the theme; they’re unrelated. In fact, this separation is what makes WordPress and theming so powerful!
WordPress is a framework that provides all of the functionality for RSS, commenting, searching, querying the database, displaying posts, creating pages, and the like. The theme, on the other hand, is the skin: how it looks, the layout of the design, the CSS, added functionality, and images. Because each theme hooks into WordPress’s core functions and filters in the same way, you can switch between themes with a click of a button. Any WordPress-powered site can instantly don your theme and rock a whole new look.
Themes are essentially divided into three components:
Presentation – A file called style.css contains all the style rules that will be applied to your theme.
Content- Template files describe what content should be output on each of WordPress’s pages: lists of posts, single posts, search results, and so on.
Logic- A file called functions.php contains any additional logic your theme needs in order to, well, this is where you’d include plugin-like functionality in your theme: new custom widgets, or a theme-specific admin panel for customizing the color scheme and layout.