The short answer is WordPress is a CMS, an abbreviation for Content Management System. The basic idea is that a non computer programmer\web designer can update the content of a website from their web browser with tools that work a little bit like Microsoft Word and Power Point. No HTML, Dreamweaver, FTP, or server configuration required. In the early days this was mainly used for “Blogging”. Now all of this sounds great, but it’s a bit of an over simplification of the situation. It makes life easier if you do know a little HTML, and you will still need a computer savvy person to setup and maintain a WordPress site for you.
WordPress all grown up.
WordPress is much more than just a blogging CMS these days. The Software platform that is WordPress also has other software products that can be added to provide more features. There are thousands of these add-on, called Plug-ins in the WordPress world. Some of them include Shopping Cart Software, Slide Show for cool banners, stuff for Search Engine Optimization, and the list goes on and on. There is even a plug-in that will alter your text to sound like it “Pirate Speak”, “Arr Matey”, “There she blows” and phrases like that magically appears when you activate the plug-in.
Themes and Design
If you are reading this article you probably don’t know much about HTML, CSS, and responsive design. For the most part, you can go look at a huge library of templates, pick the one you want, install it, and that is what your website will look like after a little bit of work. Then if you get tired of that theme, you can install a new one, configure it, and you don’t have to rebuild your entire website from scratch. This all sounds great, but is a little more difficult in practice. It’s still far superior, especially for sites with a large number of pages, to re-building from scratch every time you want a fresh look.
WordPress under the hood
WordPress was initially built on the LAMP stack. It runs on a Linux Server running Apache, PHP is the Programming language, and all the content data is stored in a MySQL database. A frequent newbie HTML web designer quick question when they eyeball a WordPress website for the first time is: Where are all my pages and html files? Answer: There aren’t any, WordPress and LAMP stack build them on the fly with a template system and database content when a user requests a page.
The WordPress Community
What started as an Open Source project many years ago has now become a large commercial enterprise. WordPress.com is one of many hosting providers that will help run your WordPress site for you at a cost. Most of the popular plug-in are run by for profit commercial software companies. The software is still Open Source, free to download and open for modification, but it is no longer a completely free system.