Finding WordPress Help

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When starting to use WordPress, finding answers to your questions can be overwhelming.  Because so many people use WordPress to run their websites, there are countless options for finding assistance.  WordPress support forums, tutorials on individual blogs, the WordPress Codex, wordpress.tv, among others, all provide users with help for using WordPress software.  Understanding a little more about WordPress can help you narrow down your options and get the help you need.

WordPress.com vs.  Self-Hosted

One of the main hurdles, albeit a fairly low one, for finding WordPress help is understanding what type of WordPress help you need. Generally speaking, there are two different types of WordPress help–help for WordPress.com and help for self-hosted sites (sites that run from WordPress installed on your own server space).  WordPress.com is the commercial site that allows you to sign up for a site that they host.  Self-hosted WordPress sites are sites you install and manage yourself or your own server space.  In both of these situations, you are still using WordPress to run your site, it is just a matter of where it is hosted and who maintains the software (making sure it is updated, etc.).

For many users of WordPress, they can just go to the sources that match how their site is hosted.  They can find help at WordPress.com if that is where their site is or WordPress.org if they self-host the site.  However, if you are a user on blogs.wm.edu or a service like it at another institution, your path to finding support might be a little more complicated.  Like many other schools and institutions, we use a single self-hosted installation of WordPress to manage many websites.  This simplifies things for you when you sign up for an account on blogs.wm.edu because you only have to worry about your content – the text and images you create and put on your site.  However, using WordPress this way puts you into a different relationship to your website.  You don’t have access to every aspect of WordPress because you aren’t using a self-hosted site.  You also aren’t using using WordPress.com, but since we are running the software for you, your experience is not all that different from running a site on WordPress.com.  Consequently, if you are looking for help on the web for WordPress as a user of blogs.wm.edu, you will most likely cobble together support documents about self-hosted WordPress installations and WordPress.com.  Luckily, there are several central sources for WordPress-related help that can make finding help on your own easy to do.

WordPress.com Support Can Help Everyone (more or less)

The help you can locate for WordPress.com will cover the most basic principles of using WordPress.  However, not all of it will apply to you if you are self-hosting your WordPress installation.  For example, you might have Plugins installed they WordPress.com does not. Learn.wordpress.com is one of the most easy-to-understand guides for WordPress beginners.  If you want to learn the WordPress basics, such as how to post or upload an image, learn.wordpress.com is a fantastic place to start.  The support documents at support.wordpress.com can be a great help too.

The WordPress Codex

The WordPress Codex is the main source for support for self-hosted WordPress installations (like blogs.wm.edu).  While not as concise as learn.wordpress.com, the Codex has a tremendous amount of information in it.  The WordPress community writes the Codex collaboratively, but this is not without its issues.  While the Codex is meant for all types of users, its main focus seems to be the people running their self-hosted WordPress site completely, not just maintaining the site through the web browser (as you are doing if you are a user of blogs.wm.edu).  Additionally, it often assumes you are familiar with the basics of WordPress covered in learn.wordpress.com.

The beginning-level resources in the Codex are always getting better and the WordPress Lessons provide a lot of help for those just starting out.

Support Forums and Video Resources

Both WordPress.com and WordPress.org host support forums   These forums can be very helpful not only for getting your questions answered, but also for searching previous questions from other people.  Because so many people use WordPress in some form or another, there are rarely questions that are so obscure that no one can help or point you in the right direction.

If you are looking for a more visual way to find support, you might be interested in WordPress.tv.  WordPress.tv provides videos on all different aspects of WordPress.  And videos like creating a static front page for your blog lead beginners step by step through the basics of setting up a WordPress-managed website.

Overall, finding WordPress help is easy once you realize that every site run by WordPress is mostly the same. If you stay flexible when reading help documents and realize that you might need to check a few sources before finding a definitive answer, you will almost always figure things out.

Resources

About Evan Cordulack

Evan Cordulack is a Web Applications Specialist for Academic Technology. He helps faculty members with Web-based projects related to their research and teaching. He earned his PhD in American Studies at William & Mary in 2013. Find him at http://cordulack.net/