A Basic Guide To HTML For WordPress Users

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

An HTML Tags Primer For Non-Technical WordPress UsersThe web, your website, your pages and even your content are all built and driven by a language of code.

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

HTML is one of the “code” languages that is used to power the web, websites, web pages and your web content.

One of the main benefits of using a WordPress-driven website is that you don’t need to learn HTML to compose and format content for your site’s posts. 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 your content simply by clicking on a few buttons.

This article provides a practical reference guide to basic HTML codes you should be familiar with in your WordPress content.

Using HTML In WordPress

You don’t have to know HTML to use WordPress, but having some practical knowledge of HTML is really useful as a WordPress user!

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

If you plan to manage your own web presence, having a practical knowledge of HTML can help save you time and money in various ways.

Let’s say that:

  • You would like to make changes to your existing content, add formatted text and an image to an area of your sidebar, or direct your visitors to a contact page, opt-in form, etc. If you understand basic HTML, you can do this really easily and quickly without having to pay somebody else to do this for you.
  • You outsource content work to a freelance writer and get back files that contain formatted content. Having some knowledge of HTML can help you understand the writer’s work before you accept the work.
  • Someone creates your site’s content. You spot a couple of simple text formatting errors, like a sentence that should not have been made bold, or a hyperlink that is pointing to the wrong URL. Knowing basic HTML can help you fix simple things in your posts without delay, and without needing to go and ask (or pay) a webmaster, a web designer, or someone else to do it for you.
  • You want to discuss new project with your website designer. Knowing a little HTML not only helps you communicate more effectively with web developers and web designers, it can also help to reduce the risk of being taken for a ride by unscrupulous technical service providers.

A Beginner's Guide To HTML For WordPress Users

You don’t need to become a code-loving web geek – just learn enough basic HTML to be a “web-savvy” business owner!

HTML – What Is It?

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

Important

Important: Like everything else, HTML is also subject to constant change, and some of these changes will affect WordPress.

Currently, we are in version 5 of the HTML set of standards (also called HTML5), and this change has introduced several new “tags” to remain up-to-date with new advances in software and browser technology. As several older tags get phased out of HTML5, you should expect that WordPress will also continue to update its code to stay compatible with industry-wide standards.

Using HTML Tags To Format Your Content

WordPress gives you the option of adding content to your pages and posts with its 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 add HTML code and other script languages (e.g. Javascript) when adding or editing your content …

Default WP HTML Editor

Default WP Text Editor

Info

We discuss the WordPress Visual Editor and how to add content to pages and posts in other ”how to” articles.

HTML Tags You Can Use In WordPress

The WordPress Content Management System (CMS) allows you to add many commonly-used HTML tags, such as the tags below:

HTML Allowed In WordPress

HTML Formatting Tags Allowed In WordPress

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

HTML Formatting Tags Examples

Formatting WordPress Content With Basic HTML Formatting Tags

Useful Tip

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

WordPress Text Editor

The WordPress Text Editor lets you paste, edit and work with HTML code and other web languages (e.g. Javascript) in the content.

Out of the box, the WordPress HTML (Text) Content Editor displays a standard set of menu features …

WordPress Text Editor Menu Features

WordPress HTML (Text) Editor Menu

Below is a brief description of the HTML function of each Text Editor menu button with their corresponding HTML tag (see 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 add italics to your text.
  3. hyperlink: <a href="http://example.com"></a> Use this HTML tag to add a hyperlink to any highlighted text.
  4. b-quote – <blockquote></blockquote> Use this HTML tag for quoted or cited text.
  5. del: <del></del> Use this HTML tag to mark text considered as being deleted from a post or page. Most browsers will typically display this as strikethrough text.
  6. ins: <ins></ins> Use this HTML tag to mark text considered inserted into a page or post. Many browsers typically display this as underlined text.
  7. img: src="http://www.yourdomain.com/img/image.jpg" alt="image description" /> This HTML tag lets you insert an image into your post or page and add an “alt” description (a text description of your image in case the image does not display in your visitor’s screen. Note: you can also use the “Add Media” button (15) to insert images into your content.
  8. ul: <ul></ul> Click this button to insert an unordered list into your post. Unordered lists generally display as a bulleted list. Note: this tag needs to be used with the <li> tag (see below) in order for bullet lists to work.
  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> This HTML tag is used 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 apply your tags and you will get errors (e.g. missing text). Note: any content inserted within the <code> tags generally will appear using a pre-formatted text style, such as a monospaced font like Courier. (See the “Tips” section below for more details).
  12. more: <!--more--> Use this menu button to break your blog post into “teaser” and main content areas. For example, if you add a couple of paragraphs, then add the “more” tag and compose the remainder of your post content, readers will only see the first couple of paragraphs of your post with a hyperlink (e.g. continue reading…), which if clicked on, will then display the rest of your post.
  13. Close Tags – This button closes any open HTML tags left in your content. Note: proof your content after using this feature to make sure that all HTML tags have correctly formatted your text.
  14. Distraction-Free Writing Mode – click this button to work in “distraction-free” 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” mode. Click the button again to revert to the normal editor display.
  15. Add Media button – 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

Click on “Distraction-Free Writing Mode” [#14] and everything but your editor disappears, leaving only the content you’re working on in your screen.

Some Useful Tips Related To Using HTML Formatting In WordPress

HTML Content Editors

If you plan to go beyond the basics of HTML and use it more extensively, there are several Free or low cost HTML software tools that you can download and use when getting started.

For example, a popular HTML software tool you can download for free is KompoZer.

Kompozer

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 WordPress.

Another option, if you don’t want to touch any code at all or use an external HTML content editor, is to use a WordPress plugin that lets you build your content inside WordPress itself.

Thrive Content Builder

Thrive Content Builder – Plugin For WordPress

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 containing basic HTML into areas of your WordPress site other than your posts and pages (e.g. your sidebar, author profile, etc.), then refer to the tutorial below for a very simple solution that involves spending no extra time downloading software.

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

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

These areas, however, don’t come with a content editor like the WYSIWYG editor found inside your Posts and Pages areas (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/Text Editor

You can still use the WordPress Visual Content editor to create your HTML-formatted text, and paste it into those areas.

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

By default, whenever a post is published 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 Post

Author Page Link In WordPress

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 articles that you (or other authors) have published …

WordPress Author Archives Section

Note: As you can see from the above screenshot, you can add links and simple formatting like italics and bold text to enhance your author bio and promote yourself, your products and services, social media pages, other online properties you own, etc. to blog readers …

Author Profile

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

About Yourself

Although the Biographical Info text area allows you to add HTML-formatted content, it doesn’t provide you with 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 in the Visual Editor.

In this case, we want to create an author description

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 it simple – use bold, italics and text links sparingly over one or two paragraphs to describe who you are and what you do, and include a call to action for your visitors …

Creating An Author Description

Keep working inside the Visual Editor screen until you have added all of the formatting you want to add to your author promo …

Author Description

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

Creating An Author Description

Go to your profile area by selecting Users > Your Profile in the main navigation menu …

User Profile Screen

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

About Yourself

Click Update Profile 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 more about editing your profile settings, see this tutorial: How To Edit Your WordPress User Profile

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

Tip

Tips

Tip #1 – If you want to add more complex design elements to your content (e.g. pull quotes, multi-columned paragraphs, etc.) without learning HTML, you can use cut & paste HTML resources …

Save time using cut & paste HTML snippets

Save time using cut & paste HTML tools

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

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

For example:

WordPress HTML

WordPress HTML

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

WordPress HTML - WP Plugin

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

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

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

WordPress Plugin - Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons is a free WP plugin you can add to your website 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 – WordPress Plugin. (Screenshot source: plugin website)

Here’s another free plugin you can use …

Raw HTML

Raw HTML - WordPress Plugin

Raw HTML lets you disable automatic formatting like smart quotes and automatic paragraph creation, and use raw HTML/JS/CSS code in your posts without WordPress messing it up.

With this plugin, any part of your post can be wrapped 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 need to add a CSS block or JavaScript to your content.

Raw HTML

Raw HTML – Plugin For WordPress. (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 tags correctly in the Text Tab, not in the Visual Editor.

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

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

Your text will look like this 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 your 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 WordPress User): By default, WordPress does not allow some HTML tags to be used (e.g. codes such as embed, form and others). This is for security reasons.

If you do experience any problems when adding common HTML tags into 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 post or page and reinsert the content with the problematic HTML tags, then republish your post.

If the above suggestion fixes the issue, return to your User Profile, reactivate your 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:

  • 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. you may need to perform a clean site installation)
  • Contacting your hosting provider for assistance

Congratulations! Now you know the basics of using HTML to format and style your content.

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"This is AMAZING! I had learnt about how to use WordPress previously, but this covers absolutely everything and more!! Incredible value! Thank you!" - Monique, Warrior Forum