WordPressCredit: javrsmith

When the World Wide Web was first envisioned, Sir Timothy Berners-Lee intended that everyone should create at least as much content as they viewed. Back in the late 1990's, however, this vision did not get implemented. Instead, most Internet users were viewers of content. Most people had no way to create web content, even if they were motivated to do so.

Back in the early web days, a web site was a complicated thing to implement. A server would have to be set up, one that could be dedicated to serving Internet requests. The standard servers of the day were expensive and not actually very powerful. To top it off, the actual creation process was a patchwork of various editors, file transfer programs and server settings. It's little wonder that sites like Facebook and Myspace started to gain a lot of users. These sites allowed normal people to post content on the Internet, even if they didn't have as much control of their information as they would like.

In time, WordPress was invented. This "Content Management System" started to change the web early on. Implemented as a set of programs that used a database, WordPress provided a simple, but powerful mechanism that nearly anyone could use to generate Internet content. In the years since it was introduced, WordPress has become very powerful, while managing to preserve a simple control interface.

The core functionality of WordPress involves programs that store and retrieve data from a server database. Installation is a simple exercise involving the copying of the core files to a suitable server host. Now many hosting companies exist which provide very capable servers for WordPress. A simple sign-up process is necessary, followed by core program installation. Security of the server, and the database, is assured at all times.

Part of the power of WordPress involves the design of extensions. Custom themes and "plugins" provide system features that are much more powerful than the core set of programs. Each installation can be customized for particular purposes. If a site intends to provide a large number of image galleries, special plugins are available to aid configuration. Similarly, data entry sites can use other plugins in order to simplify the data gathering and storage operations.

One theme that is particularly flexible is "Thesis". Provided by DIYThemes, Thesis provides a high degree of customization for a site operator. The theme establishes the site's look and feel, or personality. Most themes lock the site operator into a fairly rigid design structure. While some changes are easily allowed, such as color settings, others are not. Many themes impose rigid structures on the page layouts. The result is that many sites are required to have similar headers, footers and sidebars on all pages. Thesis does not impose such restrictions.

ThesisCredit: javrsmith

Instead, Thesis allows the site administrator to choose how each page should be designed. The theme uses a template approach to page design. The standard installation establishes a set of regular templates which adequately serve the needs of many web sites. The site administrator is free to create new templates that extend the design of pages to styles that are radically different than other site pages. This can be helpful in several ways.

One feature that is easily implemented with the Thesis theme is the notion of "Squeeze" or "Landing" pages. With Thesis, such pages can be created with the same dashboard controls. WordPress landing pages should be rather plain. Design elements like site headers, footers, sidebars, and other graphic features, should be minimized. With many themes such elements cannot be turned off for individual pages. Thesis give full control, however, with it, each page can be styled with any relevant theme. While most site pages will use the standard style template, squeeze or landing pages will usually be quite plain.

Thesis even goes quite a lot further. It allows distinct alternate templates to be established. This lets site designers create standard style templates for most site pages. Other pages can be given separate templates. These can be re-used for particular sets of related site pages. For example, if certain landing pages should be entirely plain, a Thesis landing template can be established which strips every optional design feature from the page. If other landing pages require certain elements such as sidebar sign-up forms, these can be specified in an alternate template, one that is patterned after the minimal template but which has a few added controls.

Content management systems are perhaps the most important development in modern computer technology. These have taken over a great deal of the content creation process on millions of web sites. They are very capable platforms and, with the use of themes and plugins, are entirely customizable. Amazingly, content management systems are free for anyone to use for any purpose as is "MySQL", the database used by a majority of web servers. This database is very capable of providing service to an extremely large number of simultaneous requests coming in from the Internet.

Not long ago, the creation of Internet content for world wide web users was a daunting task. The technologies used were complicated and they didn't always mesh together well. Practioners needed to learn many skills, often needed to be quite expert at many of them. With the advent of content management systems, the content creation process has been delivered to regular computer users. The Internet today is far more like Sir Timothy Berners-Lee's original vision that is was for the first 20 years after it was invented. His goal of having regular people create content for distribution to practically anyone in the world is now a reality. This ability did not come overnight, to be sure, but instead has been added to world wide web programs in the 24+ years since the core functions were established. Progress has been steady, and amazing, over the years. The future should provide more of the same.[1]

WordPress Tutorial Guide: Exploring and Learning WordPress - The Beginner's Guide
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A good resource for beginners. Recently updated.