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 Tags In WordPressThe web, your website, your web pages and even your web content are built and driven by code.

It is inevitable, then, that sooner or later, you may run into a situation where you will need something done for your business online, for your website, or in your web content that requires having some coding skills.

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

One of the main benefits of using a WordPress-driven web site is that you don’t have to know HTML in order to create and format content in your site’s pages and posts. 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 visual content editor that lets you create and easily format your content just by clicking on a few menu buttons.

This post provides a practical reference guide for WordPress beginners containing basic HTML codes you can use in your WordPress content.

Using Formatting Content Using HTML In WordPress

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

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

As mentioned earlier, it’s handy to have a little knowledge of HTML when creating, changing or formatting content for your WordPress-powered website.

Imagine this:

  • You would like to adjust certain elements in your existing content, add a text link and an image in a section of your sidebar, or direct visitors to your contact form, newsletter subscription page, etc. If you understand basic HTML, you can do this really easily and quickly without having to pay someone else to do this for you.
  • You outsource content work to a freelancer and get back files that contain formatted text. Knowing a little bit of HTML can help you proof and assess the quality of the writer’s work before you accept the work.
  • Someone else creates your web content. You spot a couple of simple text formatting errors, like a word that should not have been made bold, or a hyperlink pointing to an incorrect destination URL. Having a little knowledge of HTML can help you change and correct simple mistakes in your posts without delay, and without needing to ask (or pay) a webmaster, a web designer, or someone else to do it for you.
  • You need to discuss new project 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 can also help reduce the risk of being taken for a ride.

A Basic Guide To Formatting Content Using HTML For Beginners

You don’t need to become a technical web developer – just be familiar enough with HTML to be a “web-smart” business owner!

HTML – A Basic Definition

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 Info

Important: Like everything in the digital realm, HTML is also subject to frequent change, and sometimes these changes will no doubt 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 the latest advances in web applications and web browser technology. As some of the tags used in older and even recent versions of WordPress get phased out of HTML5, you can expect that WordPress will also continue to update its software to ensure compatibility with industry-wide coding standards.

Using HTML In WordPress

WordPress provides users with a option of adding content to your 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 work directly with HTML and other script languages (e.g. Javascript) when composing or editing your content …

Default WP HTML Content Editor

Built-In WP Text Content Editor

Important

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

HTML Tags Allowed By WordPress

The WordPress Text editor lets you insert a range of widely-used HTML tags, such as the following:

WordPress HTML

Commonly-Used HTML Tags

Below are several simple text formatting examples using the HTML tags displayed in the table above …

Formatting WordPress Content With Common HTML Formatting Tags

HTML Formatting Tags Usage In WordPress – Examples

Practical Tip

To learn more about using HTML, go here:

WordPress HTML (Text) Content Editor

The WordPress Text Editor enables you to add, edit and work with HTML code and other web languages (e.g. Javascript) when inputting content into posts and pages.

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

WordPress HTML (Text) Content Editor

WordPress HTML (Text) Content Editor Menu Buttons

Below is a brief description of the function of each Text Editor menu button with their corresponding HTML (refer to the above screenshot):

  1. b: <strong></strong> Use this HTML tag for strong emphasis of text (i.e. bold).
  2. i : <em></em> Use this button to add italics to your text.
  3. hyperlink: <a href="http://example.com"></a> choose this menu button to add a hyperlink to any selected text.
  4. b-quote – <blockquote></blockquote> Select this menu button to quote or cite text.
  5. del: <del></del> This HTML tag is used to label text that has been deleted from a post or page. Many browsers typically display this as strikethrough text.
  6. ins: <ins></ins> Use this HTML tag to label text considered inserted into a post or page. 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” tag (a text description of your image in case the image does not render in your visitor’s browser. Note: you can also use the “Add Media” button (15) to insert images into your content.
  8. ul: <ul></ul> This HTML tag is used to insert an unordered list into your post. Unordered lists usually display as a bulleted list. Note: use this formatting tag together with the <li> tag (see below) in order for bullet lists to display properly.
  9. ol: <ol></ol> This HTML tag is used to insert a numbered list. Items in an ordered list are normally numbered (just like the list you are seeing right now!). Note: use this HTML tag with the <li> tag (see below) in order for bullet lists to display correctly.
  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> Click this menu button to display code (like html formatting 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 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 tag to break your blog post into “teaser” and main body sections. For example, if you type a few paragraphs, then add the “more” tag and add the rest of your post content, visitors will only see the first few paragraphs of your post with a hyperlink (e.g. continue reading…), which when clicked on, will then display the rest of your post’s content.
  13. close tags – This menu button closes any open HTML tags left in your content. Note: proof your content after using this function 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” 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 “full screen” writing mode. Click the button again to revert to the normal editor mode.
  15. Add Media – Click this button to insert media into your content (e.g. images, videos, audio files). This button appears whether you’re in the Visual or Text editor screens.

Distraction-Free Writing Mode

Distraction-Free Writing Mode [#14]

Useful Tips About Using HTML Formatting In WordPress

HTML Content Builders

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

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

Kompozer

Kompozer – 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 with this application, then use plugins that let you insert code into your WordPress pages or posts.

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

Thrive Content Builder

Thrive Content Builder

To learn more about this plugin, see this article:

If you have no need or desire for doing work involving editing code, but would still like to be able to easily create, insert and edit content containing HTML into areas of your site other than your posts or pages (e.g. your sidebar, author profile, etc.), then see the quick tutorial below for a very simple solution that involves spending no extra time downloading software.

Useful Tip: How To Add HTML-Formatted Content To The “About Yourself” Text Box In Your User Profile

In WordPress, there are certain areas like ”widgets” in your sidebar, or the “About Yourself” text area in your User Profile section that allow you to insert HTML tags.

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

WordPress WYSIWYG Editor

WordPress Visual/Text Editor

You can still use the WordPress Visual/Text editor to create 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.

By default, whenever a post is published on your WordPress site, a link to the author is displayed 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 you to the Author Archives section, where blog readers can learn more about you (or other authors registered as users on your site) and browse 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 hyperlinks and simple text formatting like bold and italicized text to enhance your author bio and promote yourself, your services, social media pages, other websites that you own, etc. to all of your site visitors …

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 box 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 field, or create it in an HTML editor, 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.

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 things simple – use bold, italics and anchor text links sparingly over one or two paragraphs to explain who you are and what you do, and remember to include a call to action to help visitors further engage with you or your business …

Creating An Author Description

Keep working inside the Visual Editor tab until you have completed your author profile content …

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 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 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 you can see, you don’t have to know HTML to use WordPress, but it can be useful to have a little basic knowledge of HTML.

Useful Tip

Tips

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

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 WordPress User): You can expand the functionality of your WordPress Text Editor using a number of WordPress plugins.

For example:

WordPress HTML

WordPress HTML - WordPress Plugin

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

WordPress HTML - Plugin For WordPress

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

Pasting HTML directly into the WordPress editor can often break various elements and corrupt the HTML. By pasting the code in the 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 site that lets you have better control of settings for HTML tags like div and span, as well as adding custom buttons and additional functions to the text editor …

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons - WordPress Plugin

WordPress Plugin – Extensible HTML Editor Buttons. (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 installed, any section of your post can be wrapped in [raw]…[/raw] tags, preventing WordPress from converting newlines to HTML paragraphs, replacing apostrophes with typographic quotes and so on. This is also very useful if you want to add JavaScript or a CSS block to your content.

Raw HTML

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-formatted text correctly in the Text Tab, not in the Visual Tab.

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

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

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

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

You can see the problem by switching 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 in the Text Editor …

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 WordPress User): By default, WordPress doesn’t allow a number of HTML tags to be used (e.g. codes such as iframe, object 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 saving your new profile settings, go back to your page or post and re-paste the content with the problematic HTML tags, then republish your post.

If the above suggestion fixes the issue, return to your Profile area, 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 continue experiencing problems adding HTML code to your site, then you should 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. perform a clean WordPress installation)
  • Contacting your web hosting company for help

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