What Is WordPress and How Does It Work?13 min read

What Is WordPress and How Does It Work?13 min read

27/01/2019 1 By Vasyl Tsyktor

WordPress is now the most popular blog post publication platform on the Internet. According to W3Techs, the closest competitor is Joomla with its 5.4% market share compared to around 60% for WordPress. Since its launch in 2003, the content management system has gained recognition of thousands of bloggers. Almost one-third of all websites use this tool. What is WordPress? Why do people prefer it to other similar instruments?


WordPress is a web-based content management system (CMS) written in the PHP programming language. Initially designed for blog posting, it also enables businesses to easily create corporate websites, landing pages, and even online stores. WordPress is an open source software used by many well-known blogs and online news magazines like TechCrunch, Reuters, and Time.


As a content management system, WordPress consists of four major components that bloggers deal with when using it. They are:

  • Engine
  • Themes
  • Plugins
  • Dashboard

Below, we will cover each of these components in details.


An engine is a set of algorithms that control content management processes. It’s a logic behind publishing a new post, creating a new page, adding a new image to the media storage, or customizing a website design. A WordPress engine is what you can’t see but what makes the platform functional just like modern hydrogen or electric cars rely on silent engines to move. As of the time of writing this post, the latest WordPress version is 5.0.3.

Admin panel

Admin panel is a visual user interface that enables users to manage their website content. Using a WordPress admin panel, you can easily customize your site, create new pages, edit posts, manage comments, etc.

It has the following main sections:

  • Dashboard
  • Home
  • Updates
  • Posts
  • Media
  • Pages
  • Comments
  • Appearance
  • Plugins
  • Users
  • Tools
  • Settings

To access a WordPress admin panel, you have to log in first using your credentials. To ensure a higher level of cybersecurity, you can enable two-factor authentication that will request entering a one-time password sent to your smartphone.


Themes in WordPress are templates that define how a website will look like in front-end. You can choose from hundreds of different free and paid themes. As of 2019, the initial WordPress package comes with the standard Twenty Nineteen theme. Depending on a theme, you can customize your template design by adding or removing widgets, changing colors, opting-in sliders, managing navigation menu options, etc. You can easily install a theme right in the admin panel in a couple of clicks.


Plugins are add-ons that expand the WordPress functionality or add new features. If you need to add some new functions to your site, there’s often a plugin for that. For example, you can make your website more attractive for search engines like Google by installing the Yoast SEO plugin. WordPress plugins are either paid or free and they eliminate the need for writing the code for features you need to add to the initial package. You can install or uninstall a plugin in a couple of clicks without editing website files stored on your web hosting server.

How does WordPress work?

The code of each WordPress page consists of functions and database queries. The WordPress engine, theme, and plugins work together to display text, images, videos, stylesheets, and other content. Your web browser interprets the code stored in different files like header.php, footer.php, and functions.php thus allowing you to see a page which is easy to read. The WordPress code relies on “hooks” that are a basic platform logic or principle that makes efficient adding or modifying website functions possible. In other words, due to these hooks, users can easily add their own code.

Benefits of hooks in WordPress:

  • You can modify core WordPress functions without editing the initial code. Instead, you can just add a new piece of code.
  • With the knowledge of how WordPress works, you can change complex functions in a few minutes.
  • You can alter how your theme works with a couple of hooks instead of creating tones of code in HTML and CSS.
  • It’s easy to debug your code since it takes little place in the functions.php file.
  • Unlike Opencart, WordPress requires no copying core theme or plugin files to make changes in the code.

There are two types of hooks: actions and filters.


Actions are hooks that allow users to expand WordPress functionality at a certain point of the processing of a specific webpage. If you need to add a Google Analytics code, insert an extra menu, or display some promo text, you can use an add_action function.


// Adding an action with the function_name title
add_action( ‘when_a_specific_function_happens’ , ‘function_name’, 10 , 2 );
function function_name( $condition_1, $condition_2 ) {
 // If both conditions are true
 if ( $condition_1 && $condition_2 ) {
   echo ‘Mission complete’;

This example of the WordPress action hook has the following logic:

  1. FIrst, we add a new function (action).
  2. We hang a new action on the existing hook called .“when_a_specific_function_happens”.
  3. We set the “function_name” title for the new action.
  4. We set the function priority as 10 (default). It means that the system will call our new function first among other functions hooked to the same “when_a_specific_function_happens” action.
  5. We set the number of arguments (conditions) involved in our functions. This number equals 2.
  6. We set function conditions named “condition_1” and “condition_2”.
  7. We check whether the set conditions are true.
  8. We tell the system to display a message with the text “Mission complete”.

In short, we added a new function to display the message on our WordPress-based website.


Filters are hooks that allow you to intercept and alter data. In other words, you can use filters to change rather than add functionality If you need to change the color for a specific element on your site or replace a link anchored to a website logo.


// Change a uniform resource locator (URL) linked from a logo image
add_filter( ‘set_a_logo_url’, ‘change_a_logo_url’ );
function change_a_logo_url() {
 return ‘https://cyberpulse.info’;

This example of the WordPress filter hook has the following logic:

  1. We add a new filter (modificator).
  2. We hang our filter to the existing action (function) called “set_a_logo_url”.
  3. We set the name of the new filter as “change_a_logo_url”.
  4. By initiating the change_a_logo_url filter, we tell the system to replace an existing logo link with the https://cyberpulse.info URL.

Note: “return” is a required command for any filter.

functions.php is the file where you have to add your actions and filters. Before adding any hooks, you should first create a child theme and then modify its functions.php file. This measure will save your changes with the next theme update. When modifying a child functions.php file, don’t copy the code from the initial theme file.

Content types

WordPress provides rich capabilities for managing your blog. The platform has all the necessary features needed for adding, editing, and categorizing your posts. This content management system enables you to create posts, pages, categories, and tags. Understanding the difference between them and proper leveraging each type of content is crucial for building an SEO-friendly WordPress-based website with great usability.


Posts in WordPress are what developers have created this CMS. Posts are the main type of content for bloggers who use the platform as a base for their websites. With WordPress, you can create posts, edit them before and after the publication, plan the automatic publication for a specific date, format your text, insert images and videos to your posts, etc. Furthermore, you can set human-readable URLs for your posts as well as categories, tags, and pages.


Categories are the way how you can put posts in order on your website. With WordPress, you can categorize your posts according to suitable sections. For example, the post you’re reading refers to the Adtech category on this website. Categorizing your posts helps readers find an article they need in a fast and easy way. Besides categories, you also can create subcategories to categorize your posts in a more precise manner. Furthermore, categorizing your posts makes a blog more attractive for search engines like Google since you can get additional traffic for high-frequency keywords. When it comes to corporate websites for service agencies, categories are a good choice for service landing pages.


Tags are the other way to categorize posts in WordPress. In short, tags are niche categories that can’t or shouldn’t be highlighted as separate categories. They allow you to categorize your posts in a more precise manner compared to WordPress categories. You shouldn’t create a separate category for each narrow topic you describe in your posts because it will overload a menu on your website. Instead, you can create a particular tag for a number of posts referring to a niche topic. For example, the article you’re reading refers to the WordPress tag on this site.


When it comes to blogs, pages in WordPress are best suitable for additional information about a website. For example, CyberPulse uses pages for contact, privacy policy, and advertising information. It’s worth mentioning that you can edit page text in the same way as posts, tags, and categories. WordPress 5.0 has a built-in Gutenberg text editor that provides a block-based content editing capabilities instead of the classic editor based on HTML tags.


Every month, users create 41.7 million posts and 60.5 million comments worldwide using WordPress. Such popularity of this CMS isn’t accidental. It has a wide range of significant benefits mostly related to the availability, user experience, and customization options. Let’s consider the advantages of WordPress in details.

Free of charge

You can download and install WordPress absolutely for free. Furthermore, the directory contains numerous free themes you can use. Many of them have a responsive and modern design. In addition, you can find thousands of free plugins that can help you add extra functionality to your website. In short, you can develop a professional WordPress website for free using a zero-cost wordpress.com domain. However, I would recommend you to use custom domains like your-website-name.com to drive more trust to your site.


One of the amazing things about WordPress is that you can customize your website functionality as well as its design. You can turn your blog into an online store by installing a plugin in a couple of clicks. You can totally change the overall site design by installing another theme. You can customize an installed theme by changing its color palettes, adding or removing content blocks, setting your menu options, etc. In other words, you can easily create a website you need. Moreover, all your changes will remain active with next theme, plugin, or engine updates in the case you do modifications in a proper way.


Search engine optimization, also known as SEO, is what makes your website appear in search results when someone is looking for some information. Unlike other content management systems based on a drag-and-drop principle like WIX, WordPress provides full control over a website file system and meta tags like a title and description with special SEO plugins. It means you can effectively optimize your site to drive more traffic from search engines like Google.


To change the functionality of custom websites created from scratch, developers have to write the code. Without programming skills, you can’t even change the color of a single word on a webpage. The working principle of WordPress based on hooks enables you to add new features in a couple of clicks. Themes and plugins already contain the code you need. In many cases, you just need to activate or deactivate what they do on your site by clicking on a button. WordPress has a user-friendly interface which allows non-developers to make significant changes to their resources.


WordPress get frequent updates. Developers all over the world continuously work on improving its cybersecurity thus ensuring a reliable blogging platform. Unlike other content management systems like Opencart, you can update the engine, plugin, or theme only by clicking on the Update button. You need to neither copy any files nor configure anything with each update. Furthermore, you can always check whether your current plugin version has been tested with the new engine version. So you can make sure that a specific plugin is compatible with the last WordPress version.


WordPress has many fans that’s why you can easily find the right person to ask questions about the CMS. There are dozens of forums where you can find the answer you need. On the Internet, you can find almost any solution based on a certain plugin or code. When you have issues with a specific plugin, you can either approach its developers or look for help in online communities.


It’s easy to add ads on your WordPress blog to start making money online. For example, to use Google Adsense, you need to create an Adsense account and install an official plugin. You don’t have to copy the code and navigate through your file system to find where to insert that code. You also can easily integrate affiliate links in your posts using a built-in text editor to receive commissions from advertisers.


Despite numerous benefits of the open-source system, it also has a few drawbacks mostly related to use cases and cybersecurity. In short, the CMS is unsuitable for large online stores and unique websites. In addition, the other drawback is the vulnerability. Let’s consider the disadvantages of WordPress in details.

Unsuitability for unique websites

WordPress is best suitable for what it was created for. It can cover the needs of most types of service and media businesses. With WordPress, you can build any kind of typical websites.

Here’s what you can create with WordPress:

  • blog
  • online magazine
  • portfolio
  • job board
  • business directory
  • forum
  • service agency website
  • Ecommerce website, etc.

However, you can’t build original websites with unique and complex features using this CMS. For example, you can’t develop an online freelance platform, banking website, online payment system, and more. When you need advanced solutions, you should consider developing a website from scratch rather than using WordPress or any other content management system.

Unsuitability for large online stores

With WordPress, you can create an Ecommerce website using a special popular plugin like Woocommerce. More than 4,000,000 users have installed it for their online stores. However, the CMS isn’t the right platform for large Ecommerce projects with more than 1,000 products. Despite Woocommerce developers claim that the plugin can handle an online store with over 100,000 products, you should choose a CMS designed specially for such purposes, for example, Opencart. Otherwise, you will have to invest much in your server and database optimization.


The most significant disadvantage of WordPress is its vulnerability. This platform is open source which means that anyone can developer themes or plugins. If you download any of these components from third-party directories, you put your website at risk. Those plugins and themes which haven’t surpassed official verification can contain malicious code. So by installing an unverified theme or plugin, you may install a malware that will insert inappropriate ads in your posts, collect user data, or steal your credentials. According to a 2017 report by Securi, WordPress is the most hacked CMS worldwide.

Final thoughts

If you need a typical website, then choose WordPress. If you want to spend as little time and money as possible to develop a website, then choose WordPress. If you need to easily create a site while keeping full control over a file system and have rich search engine optimization capabilities, then again, choose WordPress. It’s the best blogging platform for non-developers that provides with everything you need to build a scalable online resource with a minimal budget.