If you read blogs, chances are you've encountered WordPress without even realizing it. Since 2003, WordPress has emerged as the premiere blogging software package and content management system. Because WordPress remains Open Source software, users have developed an astounding number of templates and plugins to enhance your site or blog — the result can be a page rivaling many professionally designed sites.
When I decided to create a site for my freelance writing business, the choice was clear: since I wanted complete control over my website's content and did not want to spend much money on its design, WordPress best fit my needs. While blogs can be hosted through WordPress itself, I chose to store the software on my own site. After downloading and installing the software, I couldn't wait to design and publish my page — after all, I heard that bloggers consider WordPress the most user-friendly of all similar programs. But when I ran the software, all I saw was jumbled code—PHP and CSS. I had some passing familiarity with the codes, but hardly considered myself an expert. No one told me I'd actually have to enter code! And what the heck was an SQL database?
So I did what any reasonable, tech-savvy person would do: I panicked.
All my dreams of my beautiful, professional-looking site slowly dissolved. Would this mean I would have to take a crash course on CSS? I had no interest in programming or coding, nor did I have the time to learn essentially a new language. Customizing a template seemed complicated and the help screens provided little information for complete newcomers. What was I to do?
Over time, I finally stumbled my way through WordPress. After many mistakes, false starts, and even a site crash, I designed an informative site with a clean interface and eye-catching graphics, all without becoming a CSS and PHP expert. If you are thinking of trying WordPress but feel intimidated, as I did, read on for lessons learned in my WordPress adventure.
1. Consider the purpose of your site. Are you blogging? Will the site function as an online resume? Your site's purpose and content determine the design and layout. Think about your intended audience; will they appreciate elaborate graphics or sound loops? Before diving into WordPress, I sketched out an outline and diagram to organize my material. This step helped me determine which elements were essential, and would ultimately assist in my template selection.