A Basic Guide To HTML For WordPress Users

Learn basic HTML formatting you can use to format content in your posts and pages …

Using HTML Formatting Tags In WordPressThe world wide web, your web site, your pages and even your content are all built and powered by a language of code.

It is inevitable, then, that at some point, you may need something done for your business online, for your web site, or in your content that will require having some knowledge of code.

HTML is one of the “code” languages that is used to build the web, web sites, web pages and web content.

You don’t need to know HTML in order to use WordPress. WordPress has unique features like “themes”, “plugins” and “widgets” that let you manage your website without having to touch code, and an easy-to-use, built-in visual editor that allows you to create and easily format content just by clicking on a few buttons.

As you will discover below, it’s handy to have a little HTML knowledge when creating, changing or formatting content in your WordPress web site. Knowing a little bit of HTML can also save you time and money.

An HTML Primer For Non-Technical WordPress Users

You don’t have to know HTML to use WordPress, but having a little knowledge of HTML can be useful as a WordPress user!

A Beginner’s Guide To Using HTML In WordPress – Step-By-Step Tutorial

As stated in the introduction, it’s useful to have a basic knowledge of HTML when creating, changing or formatting content on your WordPress site.

Imagine that:

  • You would like to make changes to your existing content, add a text link and an image into a section of your sidebar, or direct visitors to the contact form, newsletter subscription page, etc. If you understand basic HTML, you can do this very quickly and easily without having to pay someone else to do this for you.
  • You outsource your content creation to a freelance writer and receive back files that contain HTML formatting. Having some basic knowledge of HTML will help you understand the writer’s work before you accept and pay for the work.
  • Someone else creates your web content. You see a couple of basic text formatting errors, like a passage that could have been made bold, or a hyperlink that points to an incorrect URL. Knowing a little HTML can help you fix simple errors in your content very quickly without needing to go and ask (or pay) a webmaster, a web designer, or someone else to do it for you.
  • You need to discuss changes on your site with your website development team. Having some basic knowledge of HTML not only can help you communicate more effectively with web developers and web designers, it also helps you feel and sound more confident and knowledgeable when discussing ideas or making requests for changes to your site.

Using HTML In WordPress

You don’t need to become a technical web programmer – just have enough knowledge of HTML to be a “web-smart” business owner!

What Is HTML?

HTML is an acronym for HyperText Markup Language. According to Wikipedia’s definition of HTML …

HTML is the main markup language for creating web pages and other information that can be displayed in a web browser.

HTML is written in the form of HTML elements consisting of tags enclosed in angle brackets (like <table>), within the web page content. HTML tags most commonly come in pairs like <h1> and </h1>, although some tags, known as empty elements, are unpaired, for example <img>. The first tag in a pair is the start tag, the second tag is the end tag (they are also called opening tags and closing tags). In between these tags web designers can add text, tags, comments and other types of text-based content.

The purpose of a web browser is to read HTML documents and compose them into visible or audible web pages. The browser does not display the HTML tags, but uses the tags to interpret the content of the page.

HTML elements form the building blocks of all websites. HTML allows images and objects to be embedded and can be used to create interactive forms. It provides a means to create structured documents by denoting structural semantics for text such as headings, paragraphs, lists, links, quotes and other items. It can embed scripts written in languages such as JavaScript which affect the behavior of HTML web pages.

Source: Wikipedia, HTML

Useful Information

Important: Like everything else on the web, HTML is subject to frequent change, and sometimes these changes will no doubt have an impact on WordPress.

Currently, we are in version 5 of the HTML set of standards (also called HTML5), and this change has introduced a number of new “tags” to keep up with the latest advances in software and web browser technology. As several older tags get dropped from HTML5, you can expect that WordPress will also continue updating its software to stay compatible with industry-wide HTML standards.

Using HTML Tags In Your WordPress Posts

WordPress gives users the option of adding content to posts and pages using its default rich Visual Editor (also called a WYSIWYG editor, which stands for What You See Is What You Get) and a Text Editor that allows you to input code like HTML and other web languages (e.g. Javascript) when adding or editing your content …

WordPress Text Content Editor

WordPress HTML Content Editor

Important Info

We cover the WordPress Visual Editor and creating posts and pages in separate tutorials.

HTML Formatting Tags Allowed In WordPress

The WordPress Text editor lets you add various widely-used HTML tags, including the following:

HTML Formatting Tags - WordPress

Common HTML Formatting Tags – WordPress

The diagram below shows several practical content formatting examples that use some of the HTML tags listed in the illustration above …

HTML Used In WordPress

HTML Used In WordPress Content

Practical Tip

To learn more about using HTML, see the tutorials in the website below:

The WordPress Text Content Editor Explained

The WordPress Text Editor lets users insert, edit and work with HTML code and other web languages (e.g. Javascript) when inputting content into pages and posts.

By default, the WordPress Text (HTML) Editor displays a standard set of menu features …

WordPress HTML (Text) Content Editor Features

WordPress HTML (Text) Editor Menu

Here is a brief description of what each of the menu buttons in the Text Editor does with their corresponding HTML formatting tag (refer to the screenshot above):

  1. b: <strong></strong> Use this HTML tag for strong text emphasis (i.e. bold).
  2. i : <em></em> Use this HTML tag for text emphasis (i.e. italicize).
  3. hyperlink: <a href="http://example.com"></a> Clicking this button adds a hyperlink to any highlighted text.
  4. b-quote – <blockquote></blockquote> Click this button to quote or cite selected text.
  5. del: <del></del> This HTML tag is used to highlight text considered as having been deleted from the existing content. Many browsers typically display this as striked-through text.
  6. ins: <ins></ins> Use this HTML tag to label text considered as having been inserted into a page or post. Many web browsers typically display this as underlined text.
  7. img: src="http://www.yourdomain.com/img/image.jpg" alt="image description" /> Use this HTML tag to insert an image into your post or page and add an “alt” description (a text description of your image in case the image is not displayed in your visitor’s screen. Note: you can also use the “Add Media” button (15) to insert an image into your content.
  8. ul: <ul></ul> Use this HTML tag to insert an unordered list into your post. Unordered lists generally display as a bulleted list. Note: use this tag together with the <li> tag (see below) in order for bullet lists to display properly.
  9. ol: <ol></ol> Use this HTML tag to insert a numbered list. Items in an ordered list are generally numbered (just like the list you are seeing right now!). Note: this formatting tag needs to be used with the <li> tag (see below) in order for bullet lists to work.
  10. li: <li></li> Click this menu button to insert or turn your selected text into a list item. (This tag should be used in conjunction with the ul or ol tag).
  11. code: <code></code> This HTML tag is used to display code (like html tags) in your text. If you don’t use these tags to surround the code you want to display, WordPress will convert your tags and you will get errors (e.g. broken text). Note: any content added inside the <code> tags usually will display using a different text style, such as a monospaced font like Courier. (See the “Tips” section below for more details).
  12. more: <!--more--> This tag will break your post into “teaser” and ”rest of content” areas. For example, if you type a couple of paragraphs, then insert the “more” tag and add the remainder of your post, readers will only see the first paragraphs of your post with a hyperlink (e.g. continue reading…), which when clicked on, will display the rest of the post’s content.
  13. close tags button – Closes any open HTML tags left open. Note: proof your content after using this feature to ensure that all HTML tags have correctly formatted your text.
  14. Distraction-Free Writing Mode – click this button to work in “distraction-free” writing mode (see screenshot example below). You can toggle between the Visual Editor and Text Editor modes, insert media and hyperlinks and update your content while in “distraction-free” writing mode. Click the button again to return to the normal editor display.
  15. Add Media – Click this button to insert media into your content (e.g. images, videos, audio files). This button appears whether you’ve chosen the Visual or Text editor screens.

WordPress Editor Distraction-Free Writing Mode

Distraction-Free Writing Mode [#14]

Useful Tips Related To Using HTML Formatting In WordPress

HTML Content Builders

If you plan to use HTML extensively, there are several Free or inexpensive HTML editor software applications you can download and use when getting started.

A popular free HTML software tool, for example, is KompoZer.

Kompozer - Free HTML Editor

Kompozer – Free HTML Editor

KompoZer is Free Open Source software built as a complete web authoring system that combines web file management and easy-to-use WYSIWYG web page editing. It’s designed to be extremely easy to use, especially for non-technical computer users who just want to create attractive, professional-looking web pages without needing to know HTML or web coding. You can build HTML-based content in this application, then use plugins that let you insert code into your pages or posts.

Another option, if you don’t want to mess around with code or use an external HTML content editor, is to use a WordPress plugin that lets you build content inside WordPress itself.

Thrive Content Builder - WordPress Plugin

Thrive Content Builder

To learn more about this plugin, see this article:

If you have no need or desire for doing any kind of work that involves editing code, but would still like to be able to easily create, insert and edit content that may contain basic HTML into areas of your site other than your posts and pages (e.g. your sidebar, author bio, etc.), then refer to the useful tutorial below for a very simple solution that involves spending no extra time downloading HTML-editing tools.

Quick Tutorial: How To Add Formatted Text To The “About Yourself” Section Of Your Profile

In your WordPress site, there are certain locations like ”widgets” in your sidebar, and the “About Yourself” text area in your User Profile section that allow you to insert HTML-formatted content.

These areas, however, don’t come with their own content editor like the Visual Content editor found inside your Posts and Pages screens (Quick update: WordPress version 4.8 introduced rich text widgets that now let you format content inside the widget using a WYSIWYG editor) …

WordPress Visual Editor

WordPress Visual Content Editor

You can still use the WordPress Visual Content editor to compose HTML-formatted text, and paste it into these other areas.

Let’s go through an example, so you can see how simple this can be.

By default, whenever you publish a post in WordPress, a link to the author displays somewhere in your posts (i.e. at the bottom or top of the post) …

Author Page Link In WordPress

Link To Author Page In WordPress Blog Post

Clicking on the author link takes visitors to the Author Archives section, where blog readers can learn more about you (or other authors registered as users on your site) and see other posts that you (or other authors) have published …

WordPress Author Archives Section

Note: As the above screenshot illustrates, you can add hyperlinks and simple text formatting like bold and italicized text to enhance your author bio box and promote yourself, your business, social media pages, other websites that you own, etc. to your site visitors …

Author Profile

The author resource box is located in the About Yourself > Biographical Info field in your Profile area …

About Yourself

Although the Biographical Info text area allows you to add HTML-formatted content, it doesn’t have a content editor, so you have to either know how to type HTML code directly into the text area, or create it in an HTML editor, then copy and paste it in …

About Yourself

Let’s “paste the content” into this field using the simple method described below.

Create a new post and type your content in the Visual Editor.

In this case, we want to create an author promo

Creating An Author Description

Next, format the content inside the Visual Editor tab. Please note that you will only be able to use simple formatting in your author description such as hyperlinks, bold, underline and italicized text, so keep the formatting simple – use bold, italics and anchor text hyperlinks sparingly over one or two paragraphs to describe who you are and what you do, and remember to include a call to action for your readers …

Creating An Author Description

Keep working in the Visual Editor screen until you have written your author bio …

Author Description

When you are happy with your author description, switch over to the Text Editor and copy everything to your clipboard …

Creating An Author Description

Next, go to your profile area by selecting Users > Your Profile from your admin menu …

User Profile Screen

Scroll down to the About Yourself section and paste your content into the Biographical Info text box ….

About Yourself

Remember to click the Update Profile button to save your changes …

Update Profile Button

Congratulations … You have just created an author bio for your posts and formatted it using basic HTML!

Author Profile

To learn how to edit your profile settings, see this tutorial: How To Edit Your WordPress User Profile

As mentioned earlier, you don’t have to know HTML to use WordPress, but it can be useful to know the basics of HTML.

Practical Tip

Tips

Tip #1 – If you plan to add more complex design elements to your content (e.g. section boxes, pricing boxes, etc.) without learning HTML, you can use cut & paste HTML tools …

Save time using cut & paste HTML tools

Save time using cut & paste HTML snippets

Learn about a time-saving “cut & paste” HTML resource we recommend here:

Tip #2 (Advanced WordPress User): You can expand the functionality of your WordPress Content Editor using different WordPress plugins.

For example:

WordPress HTML

WordPress HTML - WP Plugin

WordPress HTML lets you add custom HTML to both the post and page body and head sections.

WordPress HTML

WordPress HTML. (Screenshot source: plugin website)

Pasting HTML directly into the WordPress editor can often break various elements and corrupt the HTML. By inputting the code into the plugin’s custom fields dialogue boxes, you can output the exact HTML-formatted content to your page or post.

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons is a free WordPress plugin you can add to your blog that gives you better control of settings for HTML tags like div and span, as well as adding custom buttons and extra functions to your text editor …

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons - WordPress Plugin

WordPress Plugin – Extensible HTML Editor Buttons. (Screenshot source: plugin website)

Here’s another free plugin you can use …

Raw HTML

Raw HTML - Plugin For WordPress

Raw HTML lets you disable automatic formatting like automatic paragraph creation and smart quotes, and use raw HTML/JS/CSS code in your WordPress posts.

With this plugin installed, you can wrap any part of your post in [raw]…[/raw] tags, preventing WordPress from converting newlines to HTML paragraphs, replacing apostrophes with typographic quotes and so on. This is very useful if you want to add JavaScript or a CSS block to your post.

Raw HTML - Plugin For WordPress

Raw HTML – WordPress Plugin. (Screenshot source: plugin website)

Tip #3 – Troubleshooting HTML Tag Errors: If your text formatting displays incorrectly after publishing your page or post, make sure that you have entered your HTML-formatted text correctly in the Text Editor, not in the Visual Tab.

For example, if you type the following text in the Visual Tab …

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

This is what your text will look like when your post is published …

Troubleshooting HTML Errors

You can see the problem if you switch over to the Text Tab …

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

As you can see in the screenshot above, WordPress converts the symbols “<” and “>” into their HTML code equivalents (called ASCII characters).

So:

  • <(open angled bracket) = “&lt;
  • >(closed angled bracket) = “&gt;

To preserve the symbols “<” and “>” intact and ensure that your text will format correctly, you need to paste the code in the Text Tab …

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

Now … when you publish your post, you will find that your text has been formatted correctly …

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

Tip #4 (Advanced WP User): By default, WordPress does not allow some HTML tags to be used (e.g. codes such as frame, textarea and others). This is for security reasons.

If you do experience any problems when adding commonly-used HTML tags to your content that are allowed to be used in WordPress, try disabling the visual editor in your user profile …

Disabling the WordPress visual editor

After disabling the visual editor and updating your settings, return to your page or post and reinsert the content with the problematic HTML tags, then republish your post.

If the above suggestion fixes the issue, return to the User Profile, reactivate your Visual Editor, and see if the HTML code is still working fine with the visual editor restored.

Practical Tip

Note: If the above suggestion doesn’t fix the issue and you still continue to experience problems adding HTML code to your content, you may need to look at other options. This may include:

  • Getting help from an experienced WordPress support service provider
  • Searching the WordPress Support Forum or WordPress troubleshooting resources for probable causes and solutions
  • Reinstalling your WordPress application (i.e. performing a clean installation)
  • Contacting your hosting provider for assistance

Congratulations! Now you know how to use basic HTML to format and style your content.

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"This is an awesome training series. I have a pretty good understanding of WordPress already, but this is helping me to move somewhere from intermediate to advanced user!" - Kim Lednum