WordPress for Websites
As I mention on the Website Design Software page, there are 2 main flavours of WordPress: hosted (simply sign up at wordpress.com and it's all free) and self-hosted. It is the latter that I am going to focus on.
[For guidance on self-hosted WordPress Installation.]
WordPress Flexibility - Design & Themes
The great strength of WordPress is its flexibility. From a design perspective, changing the entire look and feel of your website can be accomplished with a couple of clicks through the use of themes. There are literally thousands to choose from, many of them free. Most automated installations will come with a variety of themes and others can be added by uploading the theme into the themes folder via ftp. One of my favourite sources of both free (have a look at the Excellence, Statement and Firebug themes) and commercial themes is Blog Oh Blog
Themes and templates are big business - and that means lots of vendors, which means lots of websites. You could spend a good proportion of your life looking through WordPress themes. I know because I spent f-a-r too long doing this. Eventually, I followed the advice of several professional bloggers (including Matt Cutts of Google) and installed the Thesis theme by Chris Pearson. You can have a look at it on this site's blog.
What's so good about Thesis?
Flexibility : Professional Design : Support : Monetization
Thesis WordPress Theme optionsWhen you first activate Thesis, you may well wonder what all the fuss is about. It is a very minimalist theme 'out-of-the-box'. However, don't be fooled. It is exceptionally easy to customize Thesis. What's more, this customization is possible without any editing of the base templates. In addition to changing fonts etc through the options pages, Thesis allows you to create your own custom CSS stylesheets Thesis WordPress theme design options which can add to or override default styles.
Why is this so important? Because WordPress is updated regularly and updates often require theme updates. And if you have edited the base files, then you are probably going to have to do it all over again. Tedious, inefficient and prone to error. By separating out customization, you need never worry about future updates.
But the real power of Thesis is in custom functions. Don't worry if you're not a programmer, these are very easy to insert. Custom functions use hooks around the WordPress page. For instance, on my blog I have added custom functions to the hook at the bottom of each post to enable printing, emailing and social bookmarking.
There are many uses for hooks, particularly related to monetization and the display of banners and AdSense.
There is a very active support forum for Thesis. Indeed the current version of Thesis has been driven by the suggestions and ideas of the many users.
Why not have a look at the excellent videos on the Thesis site.