I think that non-designers get hung up by asking, What is WordPress? Really, it’s a lot of things: a blogging platform, a website platform, an e-commerce platform. But that’s more about what it can do.
WordPress is a CMS
Long story short: WordPress is a content management system or CMS. It is a system for managing your website’s content. Pretty simple when you think about it that way, isn’t it? But I can see how that might not be enough of an explanation.
WordPress is like a filing cabinet
I think of WordPress as a filing cabinet for your website. Or, more specifically, the filing cabinet of your website.
Envision a traditional filing cabinet. The cabinet itself is the entirety of your website. This cabinet and its contents are entirely devoted to your website. The size of your site is irrelevant as this is a magic filing cabinet. It can grow and produce new drawers as needed without (much) work from you.
Each drawer in your filing cabinet represents an element of what makes your site work. One drawer contains everything needed for the styling of your site. This includes things like your color codes, typography, etc. Another drawer holds all of your content, such as your posts and pages. Yet another drawer handles all of your media.
Inside each drawer are folders representing all the parts related to that specific element of your website. In the drawer that handles your styling, for example, you would find folders representing how your top-level header is styled, how your body copy is styled, etc. Every tiny detail on why your site looks the way it looks will be found in folders in this drawer. (Remember, it’s a magic filing cabinet, so drawers can be super deep if need be.)
This is where it gets a little tricky. Just like in a traditional filing cabinet, some files are related to other files in different drawers. Those files are cross-referenced, usually with notes or addendums directing you to another drawer and folder. It works exactly the same with your WordPress website, except that it’s all done automatically. The filing cabinet that is WordPress knows that the file related to styling your site has to be cross-referenced with the file of all your content so that said content is styled the way you want.
Strictly speaking, you don’t need to know the answer to “What is WordPress” in order to use it effectively. I don’t need to understand everything going on under the hood to know that my car gets me where I need to go. Still, it’s good to have some idea how everything works together with something as important as your website (or your car for that matter). Now that you have a basic understanding of how all the components of WordPress websites are related, you’re ready to get going on your own website!