A Basic Guide To HTML For WordPress Users

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

Using Formatting Content With HTML In WordPressThe web, your website, your web pages and even your content are all built and driven by code.

It is inevitable, then, that at some point, you may run into a situation where you will probably need something done for your business online, for your website, or in your content that will require having some knowledge of code.

HTML is one of the main “code” languages that is used to power the world wide web, web sites, web pages and even your web content.

One of the best things about using WordPress is that you don’t have to learn HTML to create and format content for your pages. WordPress has unique features like “themes”, “plugins” and “widgets” that let you manage your website without having to touch code, and a powerful, built-in editor that allows you to create and easily format content simply by clicking on a few menu buttons.

This article provides a useful reference guide for beginners to basic HTML codes you can use to format your WordPress content.

HTML Tags - A Primer For WordPress Beginners

You don’t need to learn HTML to use WordPress, but having a little bit of familiarity with HTML is quite useful as a WordPress user!

HTML Formatting Tags For Non-Technical WordPress Users – Tutorial

If you are managing your own website, having some understanding of HTML can help save you time and money in a number of different ways.

Imagine that:

  • You would like to make changes to your existing content, insert formatted text and an image in an area of your sidebar, or direct your visitors to the contact page, newsletter subscription page, etc. If you know basic HTML, you can do this very easily without professional help needed.
  • You outsource content work to an article writer and get back files that contain HTML code. Having a little knowledge of HTML will help you better proof your content before you accept and pay for the work.
  • Someone creates your articles or web copy. You spot a couple of mistakes in the text, like a word that could have been made bold, or a hyperlink that has not been added to your text. Having some knowledge of HTML will help you change and fix simple things in your copy without delay, and without having to 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 designer. Having a little knowledge of HTML not only helps you communicate more effectively with web developers and web designers, it can also help you feel and appear more confident and knowledgeable when presenting your ideas or requesting changes to be done on your website.

A Beginner's Guide To Using HTML Formatting Tags In WordPress

You don’t need to become a code-loving web programmer – just be familiar enough with HTML to be a “web-savvy” 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

Info

Important: Like all things online, HTML is also subject to changes on a regular basis, and sometimes these changes will affect WordPress.

Currently, HTML is in version 5 (also called HTML5), and this change has introduced a number of new “tags” to remain up-to-date with the latest advances in web applications and browser technology. As some of the older tags get dropped from HTML5, you should expect that WordPress will also continue to update its core application in order to remain compatible with industry-wide HTML standards.

How To Use HTML In WordPress

WordPress provides users with a option of adding content to your posts and pages with a built-in 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 HTML code and other web languages (e.g. Javascript) when composing or editing your content …

WordPress HTML Content Editor

WordPress HTML Content Editor

Useful Info

We cover the WordPress Visual Editor and how to add content to posts and pages in other tutorials.

HTML You Can Use In WordPress Pages & Posts

WordPress lets you add most commonly-used HTML formatting tags, including the ones shown in the table below:

HTML

HTML – WordPress

The diagram below shows some simple text formatting examples that use a number of the HTML tags displayed in the illustration above …

Using Common HTML Formatting Tags In WordPress Content

Formatting WordPress Content With Basic HTML Tags

Tip

If you would like to learn more about HTML, go here:

The WordPress HTML (Text) Editor Explained

The WordPress Text Editor enables users to insert, edit and work directly with code like HTML and other script languages (e.g. Javascript) in the content.

Out of the box, the HTML (Text) Content Editor comes with a number of standard menu features …

WordPress HTML (Text) Content Editor Menu

WordPress HTML (Text) Editor Features

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 emphasis of text (i.e. bold).
  2. i : <em></em> Use this HTML tag to italicize text.
  3. hyperlink: <a href="http://example.com"></a> click this menu button to add a hyperlink to your selected text.
  4. b-quote – <blockquote></blockquote> Use this HTML tag for quoted or cited text.
  5. del: <del></del> This HTML tag is used to mark text that has been deleted from your content. Many web browsers typically display this as striked-through text.
  6. ins: <ins></ins> Use this HTML tag to indicate text considered as having been inserted into the current content. 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” tag (a text description of your image in case the image is not displayed in the user’s web browser. Note: you can also use the “Add Media” button (15) to insert an image into your content.
  8. ul: <ul></ul> This HTML tag is used to insert an unordered list into your post. Unordered lists generally appear as a list of items preceded by bullets. Note: use this HTML tag with the <li> tag (see below) in order for bullet lists to work correctly.
  9. ol: <ol></ol> This HTML tag is used to insert a numbered list. Items in an ordered list are usually numbered (just like the list you are seeing right now!). Note: use this tag together with the <li> tag (see below) in order for bullet lists to display.
  10. li: <li></li> Click this 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> Use this HTML tag 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. missing text). Note: any content inserted within the <code> tags usually will display using a pre-formatted styling of text, such as a monospaced font like Courier. (See the “Tips” section below for more details).
  12. more: <!--more--> Use this WordPress tag to break your post into “teaser” and main content sections. For example, if you type one or two paragraphs, then add the “more” tag and compose the remainder of your post content, visitors will only see the first couple of paragraphs of your post with a hyperlink (e.g. continue reading…), which will display the rest of the post’s content if clicked on.
  13. Close Tags – Closes any open HTML tags left in your content. Note: proof your content after using this function to make sure that all tags have formatted your text correctly.
  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 revert to the normal text editor mode.
  15. Add Media – Click this button to insert media into your content (e.g. images, videos, audio files). This button displays for both the Visual and Text editors.

Distraction-Free Writing Mode

Distraction-Free Writing Mode [#14]

Some Useful Tips About Using HTML In WordPress

HTML Content Builders

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

For example, a popular HTML software application you can download at no cost is KompoZer.

Kompozer - Free HTML Editor

Kompozer

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 WP posts or pages.

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

Thrive Content Builder - Plugin For WordPress

Thrive Content Builder

To learn more about this plugin, see this article:

If you have no need or desire for doing work involving technical coding, but would still like to be able to easily create, insert and edit content that may contain basic HTML into areas of your WordPress site other than your posts or pages (e.g. your sidebar, author biography, etc.), then see the useful tutorial below for a really simple solution that involves spending no extra time downloading HTML software.

Quick Tutorial: Adding HTML-Formatted Text To The “About Yourself” Section Of Your Profile

In WordPress, there are some areas like ”widgets” in your sidebar, and the “About Yourself” section in your User Profile section that allow you to insert HTML.

These areas, however, don’t come with their own content editor like the Visual editor found in 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 Content Editor

WordPress WYSIWYG Editor

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

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

Typically, whenever a post is published in WordPress, a link to the post author displays somewhere in your posts (i.e. at the bottom or top of the post) …

Author Page Link In WordPress Blog Post

Link To Author Page In WordPress

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

WordPress Author Archives Section

Note: As the above screenshot illustrates, you can add links and simple text formatting like bold and italicized text to enhance your author resource box and promote yourself, your services and products, social media pages, other websites that you own, etc. to blog readers …

Author Profile

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

About Yourself

Although the Biographical Info text box lets you 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 elsewhere, then copy and paste content with the HTML already embedded in it …

About Yourself

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

First, create a new post and type your content inside the Visual Editor.

In this case, we want to create an author bio

Creating An Author Description

Next, format your content using the Visual Editor . Please note that you can only use simple formatting in your author description such as hyperlinks, bold, underline and italicized text, so keep things simple – use bold, italics and anchor text links sparingly across one or two paragraphs to describe who you are and what you do, and remember to include a useful link for your visitors …

Creating An Author Description

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

Author Description

After creating your content, switch over to the Text Editor and copy everything to your clipboard …

Creating An Author Description

Go to your profile 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 area ….

About Yourself

Remember to click Update Profile to save your changes …

Update Profile Button

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

Author Profile

To learn more about editing your profile settings, refer to this ”how to” article: How To Edit Your WordPress User Profile

As mentioned earlier, you don’t have to learn HTML to use WordPress, but it can be useful to have a little basic knowledge of HTML.

Practical Tip

HTML Tips

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

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 for non-technical WordPress users here:

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

For example:

WordPress HTML

WordPress HTML

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

WordPress HTML - Plugin For WordPress

WordPress HTML. (Screenshot source: plugin website)

Pasting HTML directly into the WordPress editor can break various elements and corrupt the HTML. By pasting the HTML code in the custom fields dialogue boxes, you can output HTML to your post or page.

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons is a plugin you can add to your site 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

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

Here’s another free WordPress plugin you can use …

Raw HTML

Raw HTML - WordPress Plugin

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

Raw HTML - WordPress Plugin

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

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

For example, if you type the text shown below in the Visual Editor …

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

This is what your text will look like when you publish your post …

Troubleshooting WordPress HTML Formatting 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 into the Text Editor …

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

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

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

Tip #4 (Advanced WP User): By default, WordPress doesn’t allow a number of HTML tags to be used (e.g. codes such as iframe, input 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 section …

Disabling the WordPress visual editor

After disabling the visual editor and saving your settings, go back to your post or page and re-paste the content with the problematic HTML tags, then republish your post.

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

Tip

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

  • Asking someone with experience troubleshooting WordPress errors to help you
  • Searching the WordPress Support Forum or WordPress troubleshooting resources for possible causes and solutions
  • Reinstalling your WordPress application (i.e. you may need to perform a clean installation)
  • Contacting your hosting provider for help

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

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"If you're new to WordPress, this can stand on its own as a training course and will stay with you as you progress from beginner to advanced and even guru status." - Bruce (Columbus, Ohio)