WordPress is Easy… they said…
You’ve probably heard that WordPress is easy. Heck, it might be why you’re using WordPress, or why you’re considering using WordPress for your photography website.
And then you get into WordPress and you start to get confused. What the heck is a plugin? Why doesn’t the text look just like I want… do I have to understand HTML or code to make it work? You found a theme that’s pretty close to what you want, shouldn’t it be simple to just change this thing a little bit?
If it’s so easy, why do we have sites like this one, or various learning resources?
Let’s start with some history and figure out what “WordPress is easy” really means…
If we rewind back into the mid- to late–1990s as the internet began to be used by the widespread public, having a website required quite a bit of skill. For a few years in this time period, I was a freelance web developer, and one of my first clients was an artist. Creating a website that could display her artwork in a nice form was tricky, as we only had a basic set of tools (HTML and some rudimentary web scripting languages) to create a website.
If you wanted to add or change something on your website, you needed to learn HTML, as well as how to either upload and download files via FTP or you needed to learn how to connect to a remote UNIX system and edit the files on the server. And that was just to make changes to an existing site. Building an entirely new site would require more advanced use of HTML, possibly server-side includes, or maybe Perl CGI scripts.
As time moved forward, a new class of web application was born… the content management system (CMS), a class of programs that made it easier for folks without extensive technical/coding experience to, well, manage content. WordPress is one example of a CMS. What does it mean to manage content? It means that WordPress makes it relatively easy to write a new blog post, or create a new page on your website, or update the content of an existing page.
Compared to coding HTML by hand and uploading files via FTP, the ability to log into WordPress, click on a page, and change the text on that page is much more straightforward, especially using WordPress’ visual editor.
When it comes to creating or updating information on your website, WordPress is easy… compared to the olden days.
What About Design?
While WordPress makes it easy to create new articles or make changes to the articles already on your site… what about design? What if you want to change your site’s layout? What about color schemes? What if you want to switch your WordPress site from one column with big images to three columns with small images?
Is WordPress easy if you want to design your own website? Yes and no.
It’s pretty straightforward to set up a new WordPress website (here are my recommendations) and to choose a theme that will give you a great-looking site as envisioned by the designer of the theme.
Some of WordPress’ built-in functionality makes it easier for someone to customize their website. The ability to add or change widgets means it’s relatively easy to control what shows on your site’s sidebar, for example. The WordPress Customizer can change overall site color schemes and other such settings. These sorts of changes are pretty easy for the novice user to control.
What if you want to change the overall layout of your site? What if you want the menus in a different place? What if you want a drastically different design? This is where WordPress Themes are used to control the overall look and feel of a site. Swapping a site’s theme can drastically alter the look, feel, and mood of the site. If you want to build a WordPress Theme, you’ll still need to understand HTML, CSS, and PHP.
Which Brings us to WordPress Itself
If you understand those things, you’ll find that WordPress is easy for writing your own themes or plugins. If not, you’ll rely on the built-in functionality of the system or by using themes and plugins written by other developers. The great news is that WordPress has a huge ecosystem of themes and plugins.
Summary: WordPress is Relatively Easy
WordPress makes it relatively easy to add and update the words and images on your website.
WordPress makes it relatively easy to make small changes to the design of your site using the Customizer, or to make large-scale changes to match those of a new theme you might install.
Websites aren’t trivial, and to control the inner workings of WordPress or to make pixel-level design changes you’ll still need to understand the code. As a photographer, it’s probably not the greatest use of your time to get into and muck with the code… you ought to be focusing on what it is that you do best… photos! When you look at the overall ecosystem for your website – options for design, options for editing and updating text, video, and photos, and options for learning and finding resources, WordPress is the easiest overall way to build and establish an internet presence that can be as simple (or powerful) as you wish.