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You can create powerful, polished sites with WordPress without learning a lot of coding. Once you’re comfortable with WordPress, you can do in a week or a weekend what could take you a month or more to code from scratch. The WordPress software, once installed on a server, provides a ton of tools for building and managing great websites.

WordPress works best for certain types of sites. Personal portfolios, blogs, and brochure sites, for instance, are super-easy with WordPress. Thanks to well-developed WordPress plug-ins, you can also easily build e-commerce sites, job boards, social networks and other custom sites. More developers are even talking about using WordPress as an application framework; however, this is a less-developed use case for WordPress at the moment.

When Should I Use WordPress?

For super-simple websites, WordPress is an overkill.  It’s better to code from scratch by using a simpler CMS like Perch or a lightweight development tool like Jekyll. You can learn how to make a website from scratch on Treehouse.

For complex sites that require too much bending, tweaking and hacking to make WordPress a viable solution, you should explore building the site from the ground up, likely relying on JavaScript and back-end programming languages like PHP or Ruby.

Most website creators using WordPress today run basic sites, those with static pages, a blog or news section, some sort of custom content, and a variety of common features like slideshows, contact forms, and more. WordPress plug-ins handle those features with no problems. It has the ability to create custom content and assign them your own fields and options. This helps when your content doesn’t fit into the default title and content options that WordPress offers for blog posts and static pages. Unless your theme comes with custom content by default, you will have to activate a few plug-ins and do some template coding to include custom content on your WordPress site.

Using Themes in WordPress

Themes make it easy to pass as a professional designer from the start. Themes exists in the thousands upon thousands and so many of them are beautiful, well-supported and cover the gambit of common web industries and trends. In fact, working solely developing and selling WordPress themes is a common goal for Treehouse students taking the WordPress Development Track.

When you start building websites with WordPress, you will likely start off customizing themes that you either download for free or purchase from a theme developer or theme marketplace. To properly customize a WordPress theme to suit you or your client, you will likely create a child theme, the preferred method for customizing themes. This involves setting up a new folder in your themes folder into which you copy and paste any files from the main theme you want to customize. This can include the main style.css file or one of the theme PHP files.

When it gets to the point of creating child themes and customizing themes, someone learning to build websites with WordPress needs to come to terms with beginning to learn a little HTML, CSS and even some PHP. Luckily, unlike when building sites from scratch, knowing just a little bit of each of these languages will let you do much of what you will want to in terms of customizing a theme.  Since themes, plugins, and WordPress itself do most of the work for you, a little coding goes a long way.

If you learn the basic skills that take you from being able to use WordPress to being able to make WordPress sites from start to finish, you will find yourself in a healthy, happy, and successful marketplace. Watch our trailer for How to Make a Website with WordPress to see how easy it is to get there.