An Introduction to WordPress
WordPress is the world’s most popular open source content management system. WordPress began as a blogging tool, enabling practically anyone to publish their thoughts regularly in an attractive blogging format without worrying about the mechanics of their blogging site. Being open source means that the underlying code is available for anyone to modify, improve, and adapt to their own purposes. Because it is easy to use, open source, and structured in a way to encourage the development of new themes and plugins, WordPress grew rapidly and is now used for many types of websites.
However, with success has also come hundreds and thousands of variations and choices. Here is what you need to know about WordPress in order to make some initial decisions.
WordPress – DotCOM vs. DotORG
The organization in charge of WordPress development runs its own WordPress.com website, hosting free personal sites at .wordpress.com. They make money by advertising on the site in the hopes that you will pay for premium services.
At the same time, the open source code of WordPress is available at WordPress.org. Mennonite.net takes that code, giving our customers their own stand-alone installation of WordPress on a server managed by Mennonite.net. You pay a monthly or yearly fee, get your own domain name, choose the theme and plugin features that you want, and insert your content. There are no ads bugging you to buy upgraded features.
What is involved in a hosting and maintaining a WordPress site?
Being a content management system, WordPress is optimized to provide easy-to-use methods for inserting your content into your site. However, before you get to content, you need to think about the following considerations:
The underlying code of WordPress needs to be installed on a computer server to which you are granted access. This is called hosting your website. Every Mennonite.net hosting customer that wants to use WordPress can request an initial installation. For those who have the technical expertise to install WordPress on their own, Mennonite.net will provide a username and password to get on our system.
How do you want your site to look? What kind of features (blog, calendar, photo gallery, etc.) do you want to include? Here is where you start making decisions. WordPress has hundreds of “themes” available which help determine the essential look of your website. Some are free and some cost extra. Almost all of them require some additional design expertise in WordPress to make your own. Here is where Mennonite.net starts making decisions in its hosting plans.
- With Basic+ Hosting, you find the designer, the themes, and the plugin features that you want to use. You have access to our simpler themes, currently Simplicity and Peace.
- With Managed Hosting, Mennonite.net offers themes that we believe have the design sensibilities and the features to meet the needs of the majority of our customers. Our most advanced theme, Hope, built using the Divi visual builder, is included as an option. If you need more customized work, Managed Hosting gives you reduced rates on extra hours of work by Mennonite.net staff. There is no need to hire a designer and sort through thousands of options, although if you decide there is another theme you want, you are welcome to discuss that with our team.
Although it does not take special expertise to put in your text or pictures, WordPress can be challenging to maintain.
- First, the underlying WordPress structure itself is constantly improved and upgraded. This not only improves WordPress but helps guard against the constantly challenging security concerns on the Internet.
- Secondly, the theme you choose (see Design above) will likely be upgraded.
- Thirdly, there are many plugin features developed by WordPress or by others that are constantly needing to be improved and upgraded.
Starting with WordPress version 3.7, many of these upgrades can happen automatically. However, because of the unpredictability of the interaction between versions, themes, and plugin features, there are no guarantees that all upgrades will continue to work smoothly. So you need to think about who will manage these technical aspects and make sure your site keeps functioning smoothly:
- With Basic+ Hosting, you provide the technical maintenance, either through hiring someone or having an expert volunteer.
- With Managed Hosting, Mennonite.net provides this service in the background without you ever needing to worry about it. If there is a problem, you just call us or send us an email.
With all of the above taken care of, your text, pictures, and information can now be inserted in the proper places on your WordPress site. This is your responsibility as a customer, regardless of your hosting plan. You are in control of content. However, at points, you may have questions about how to do something or show something on your site.
- With Basic or Basic+ Hosting, your questions should be posed to your designer or technical maintenance person. If that person believes that an issue involves Mennonite.net’s hosting service, he/she can contact us. If our technical services are needed, the cost is $50/hour.
- With Managed Hosting, Mennonite.net is happy to provide routine answers to your content-related questions. Just call us or send us an email. If a solution requires technical staff time, consulting services are available at reduced rates.