Are you wondering Why is WordPress so hard to use? Maybe we should just give up and stick with Blogger or something like Wix.
Thoughts like these would pop into our discussions back then, trying to build a website for our business was a real pain as we struggled for weeks to figure out how this WordPress thing really worked.
Little did we know the problem was from how we thought about WordPress and the unreal expectations.
About six years ago, when we first got into the internet marketing business and needed a website for our first brand, with no actual coding experience we tried building a website with WordPress, which was praised for being extremely easy.
It took the team and me a few weeks to really understand how it worked, and we almost gave up until we changed how we looked at WordPress as a platform.
In this article, I will explain how WordPress actually works and exactly why it’s not as hard as you think. The misconceptions and lack of actual experiential information are why people think it is.
What is WordPress?
At its core, WordPress is a simple but extensible Content Management System initially meant for powering blogs.
Think of WordPress as a software that allows you to effectively store and manage content, whether it’s text, images, videos, or other forms in which content can exist digitally.
What makes WordPress so complicated is seeing it as a sophisticated application responsible for multiple eCommerce stores and services. Yes, WordPress can be used to create things like that, but that’s where the word Extensible comes to play.
WordPress, at its core, is straightforward; it’s what you want to do with it that determines the complexity.
This is what my team and I had to come to terms with, we focused more on what we wanted to build more than how WordPress itself actually worked, and it made things hard at the start.
So, How Does WordPress Really Work (Simplified)
Realizing our mistakes, we decided to start the entire website project from scratch and visited the good old WordPress Documentation page.
We wanted to know how WordPress was structured and learn each feature, piece by piece to really understand how it worked.
You see, WordPress is primarily powered by two main features: Themes & Plugins.
Everything else revolves around these two features and understanding how they worked made all the difference for us.
WordPress Themes Explained for Beginners
You could see it as an already made template that can be edited easily to build whatever you want.
Every theme comes with its documentation and a different way of doing things, making WordPress more complicated but not hard.
Most WordPress theme developers create easy to follow documentation and setup videos to make things easier.
Trying to install a theme on your own is what makes WordPress harder for most people, they just skip the whole theme learning curve and get building.
In our first attempt, we tried building our website with the default WordPress theme (Twenty Fourteen), which was a total disaster.
After learning how themes worked, we searched the WordPress theme repo & marketplaces like Themeforest, where we found some excellent themes that fit in perfectly.
WordPress from being overwhelming started making a lot of sense, but we didn’t stop there and kept reading the documentation to fully grasp how everything Worked.
WordPress Plugins Explained for Beginners
Understanding how WordPress plugins worked opened us to new possibilities we never even considered, we were feeling like superheroes at this point.
A Plugin at its core is a piece of code that extends the default functionality of the WordPress CMS when you think of WordPress Plugins what should come to mind is the word Extensible.
Most themes come with a few required plugins to be able to work; these plugins power the functionality provided by the theme developer and that my friends, is what connects this whole WordPress thing.
Themes help you tap into pre-designed and easy to use functionality and plugins power everything.
There are thousands of plugins in the WordPress repo other third party marketplaces, but they all have one underlying purpose, extending WordPress functionality.
There are also plugins you can install to add specific functionality to the website; it’s not always about powering theme features, you might want to do something like adding a social like feature to your blogpost page and install a 3rd party plugin to do just that.
With plugins, the functionality you can add to your website is almost limitless without writing a single line of code, and they also come with documentation (at least most I’ve used).
No doubt, WordPress functionality can get complicated really fast, but that’s if you try to do things your way without documentation or enough experience.
What’s The Difference Between WordPress.Com Vs. WordPress.Org (Self-Hosted Version)?
WordPress.com is a company that hosts your WordPress Website for you and take away the stress of installing and maintaining your installation.
If you’re a complete non-techy and you’re just looking for an easy way to build your online presence with little to no learning curve, then WordPress.com would be the best bet.
One let down about WordPress.com are the limitations, since you’re not hosting the site on a private server, you won’t be able to extend WordPress as much as you’d like but that’s ok, it just depends on what your needs are at the time.
With the self-hosted version of WordPress offered for free at WordPress.org, the sky is your limit as it’s what people actually refer to when they talk about WordPress.
All you have to do is pay for a hosting account and install the software on your server. Yes, it sounds a little hard but with WordPress hosting companies like BlueHost who provide you with WordPress all configured out of the box, it’s not as hard as it used to be.
No doubt, the self-hosted option is always the best and budget-friendly, keeping a site running on WordPress.com costs money, months of recurring fees would make you wish you never even tried using them in the first place.
Things you need to learn before WordPress (Prerequisites)
To make things easier, there are a few technologies and concepts that once understood, make your WordPress journey a lot easier, the situation with WordPress is it requires little to no coding skills, but having even basic knowledge would set you miles apart from the average Bob.
HTML & CSS
The entire web is built on two main technologies, HTML which is responsible for the markup (structure of web pages), and CSS which is responsible for styling web pages (Adding colors, positioning, etc.)
Understanding how these two technologies work is something that will make learning WordPress way easier compared to diving straight at it.
You will find yourself, not always but sometimes working with HTML & CSS, to customize or implement new features. Without this knowledge, WordPress would seem pretty complicated when it actually isn’t.
The Cpanel, Domain Configuration & The File manager
The thing with WordPress is, it forces you to learn arbitrary technologies and become as versatile as possible.
You see, WordPress is just software installed on your server under a domain name, you need to understand the basics of your hosting environment and the tools available to you outside WordPress.
As an Expert WordPress user, over the years, I have picked up several skills just because WordPress required me to. It might be due to a plugin requirement or a database issue, but at the end of the day, you will always find yourself learning something new for WordPress.
Some common tools or technologies you will have to understand include the Cpanel, the file manager & how to connect and secure domains.
Using WordPress isn’t just about adding plugins or customizing themes; you also need to be ready to learn anything when it is required.
Thankfully though, most of these things are easy to grasp and have thousands of tutorials (videos & articles) in the community.
How Long Does It Take To Learn WordPress?
Learning WordPress is a journey and not a one-time thing; every day, you will come across problems that force you to learn about new settings, plugins, and tools.
WordPress is growing, and things change every day, but for a beginner who is just starting out, the learning curve is shallow, a week or two should get you comfortable enough to be able to use the platform, not at an expert level but enough for the basics.
It takes experience to master WordPress, and it really depends on how extensively you’re using WordPress.
For most people, it’s just adding a theme, installing plugins, and creating blog posts every week.
For some, it’s actively adding new features every day while maintaining a private codebase of custom plugins.
The more you use WordPress, the better Accustomed you will be, with all the various aspects of WordPress it really depends on your needs but at a basic level, one week should be more than enough.
Why WordPress Is Not so hard to use as You Think
Have you ever thought about how things would be if WordPress didn’t exist? Yes, there are other platforms like WordPress, but most of them are paid and require monthly fees, not to mention the limitations out in your way.
Before WordPress, creating and managing content for a website was really hard and required raw coding skills. Existing platforms like Blogger.com were ok for some, but the constraints they came with (restricted technology and functionality) made things harder and more expensive.
Coding a secure custom content management system is not as it sounds; it requires some serious security and optimization experience. This fact alone discouraged a lot of people from even trying and stuck to limited alternatives.
WordPress created on 27 May 2003 came about to fix just that, initially starting out a blogging platform grew to become the most popular CMS on the planet that could be used as a starting point for almost any kind of project you can think of.
With over 30% of the internet using WordPress, you have to agree that it’s not as difficult as it’s painted to be, it’s all just a lack of understanding.
Can I use WordPress as a Non-Techy?
Without any technical skills, you can still be a good WordPress User but will find certain things hard to achieve, using WordPress features like Posts or adding images to the gallery is quite natural for anyone as WordPress is made to be a User intuitive.
What you might find challenging is installing and setting up the software initially, which does require some technical skills.
You don’t necessarily have to do this yourself, though; you can always get someone to setup WordPress for you or use something a managed WordPress plan like BlueHost WP Pro, which comes with WordPress Pre-installed and a lot of technical stuff already setup.
Adding content on WordPress is easy, and anyone can learn to do that but for more advanced stuff, you need to learn a few technologies or hire an Expert to work alongside you.
Is WordPress Easy for clients to learn & operate?
Again, if we’re talking about adding or editing content, that’s one of WordPress’s strong points. Still, when it comes to the implementation and extensibility part, it’s best left to WordPress Experts.
Just think of it this way, WordPress is split into two: Content Management & Feature Implementation.
Clients or Non-techies can handle Content Management but would require extra knowledge to be able to implement new stuff even though it’s easy.
Is WordPress not complicated For Web Developers?
Short answer? Yes, WordPress is easy for web developers to pick up compared to most Content management systems out there.
As you know, technology is only as easy to grasp as its documentation, and WordPress has one of the best documentation you can find online.
It’s so well explained, and even a junior developer would be able to dive in right away.
WordPress is built mainly with PHP, which is a reasonably natural language to pick up with many similarities to the “C programming language”.
In a way, you could say PHP is C but on the web as I have used both of these languages myself.
There are three main paths you can take as an aspiring WordPress Developer, and it’s always a good idea to specialize at the beginning;
- Theme Development
- Plugin Development
- The Core Software
Theme development is often the most popular choice of new developers as it allows you to learn about what WordPress has to offer to developers.
From designing complex dynamic layouts to pulling data from the database, It can get complicated really fast.
Luckily, there are thousands of articles and videos on almost every aspect of WordPress Theme development that you learn from and an excellent documentation resource page in case you run into issues.
Frequently as a WordPress Developer, you would find yourself writing the same piece of code for functionality across several client websites to save time and effort, creating a plugin for most of the functionality you always implement a considerable time saver.
That’s where plugin development comes into play, after learning to create themes effortlessly, the next step would be splitting standard functionality into plugins and modularizing your entire WordPress development workflow.
The Core Software
WordPress is open-source software available at Github for any developer to contribute to (Add features, fix bugs, and improve for the general public).
If you’ve found a new way of doing things better than the WordPress default behavior, then you can fork the repo and implement it and see if other people support it.
If your contributions are good enough, there’s a chance it will become the new WordPress behavior in a future version of WordPress.
At this point, you should already be a full-fledged WordPress Developer and if you break it up into the three levels listed above, then you won’t find it hard learning WordPress as a Developer.
In this article, we have gone over the reasons why people think WordPress is hard and how to get past all that, we have also gone through a sensible and fail-proof approach to learning WordPress from beginner level to Expert level.
Whether you’re just starting with WordPress or you’ve had a bad experience trying it out before, this article should have provided a better way of seeing things and convinced you to try out WordPress one more time.