A Basic Guide To HTML For WordPress Users

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

HTML Tags For Non-Technical WordPress UsersThe world wide web, your web site, your web pages and even your web content are built and powered by code.

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

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

One of the great things about using WordPress is that you don’t have to know HTML to compose and format content for your 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 content that allows you to compose and easily format your content just by clicking on a few menu buttons.

As you will learn below, it’s useful to have a basic knowledge of HTML when composing, changing or formatting content in WordPress. Having a basic knowledge of HTML can also save you time and money.

Using Formatting Content With HTML In WordPress

You don’t need to learn HTML in order to use WordPress, but having some basic familiarity with HTML is quite useful as a WordPress user!

A Beginner’s Guide To Formatting Content With HTML For WordPress Users – Step-By-Step Tutorial

If you are managing your own website, having a basic HTML knowledge can be useful when creating, editing or formatting content in WordPress.

Imagine this:

  • You would like to adjust certain elements in your existing content, add formatted text and an image into an area of your sidebar, or direct visitors to a contact form, newsletter subscription page, etc. If you understand basic HTML, you can do this very easily and quickly without having to pay someone else to do this for you.
  • You outsource content work to a freelance article writer and receive back files containing HTML formatting. Having some knowledge of HTML will help you proof and review the quality of the writer’s work before you accept the work.
  • Someone creates your articles or web pages. You spot a couple of mistakes in the text, like a line of text that should not have been made bold, or a hyperlink that points to the wrong URL. Knowing some basic HTML helps you correct simple things in your pages and 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 need to discuss a project with your website development team. Having a little knowledge of HTML not only helps you communicate more effectively with web developers and web designers, it also helps you feel and appear more confident and knowledgeable when discussing ideas or requesting custom work to be done on your site.

A Beginner's Guide To Using Formatting Content With HTML In WordPress

You don’t need to become a code-loving web geek – just have enough knowledge of HTML to be a “web-smart” 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

Info

Important: Like all things online, HTML is also subject to developmental change and evolution, 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 a number of new “tags” to keep up with new advances in web applications and browser technology. As several tags used in older and even recent versions of WordPress become obsolete, you can expect that WordPress will also keep updating its code in order to remain compatible with industry-wide HTML standards.

How To Use HTML Tags To Format Content In WordPress

WordPress gives users the option of adding content to your posts and pages using 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 WordPress HTML Content Editor

Important Info

We discuss the WordPress WYSIWYG Editor and adding content to pages and posts in other tutorials.

HTML Tags Allowed By WordPress

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

HTML Formatting Tags Allowed In WordPress

HTML Tags

The diagram below shows several useful text formatting examples using some of the HTML tags displayed above …

HTML Usage In WordPress

HTML Formatting Tags Used In WordPress

Practical Tip

To learn more about using HTML, go here:

The WordPress HTML (Text) Editor Explained

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

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

WordPress Text Content Editor Menu Buttons

WordPress Text Content Editor

Here is a brief description of what each of the buttons in the Text Editor menu does with their corresponding HTML (see the above diagram):

  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> click this 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> Use this HTML tag to indicate text that has been deleted from the current content. Many web browsers typically display this as striked-through text.
  6. ins: <ins></ins> This HTML tag is used to label text considered as having been inserted into your existing content. Many 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 a user’s web 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 normally appear as a bulleted list of items. Note: this HTML tag needs to be used with the <li> tag (see below) in order for bullet lists to work.
  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: this tag needs to be used with the <li> tag (see below) in order for bullet lists to work.
  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> This HTML tag is used 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 apply your tags and you will get errors (e.g. broken text). Note: content selected within 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 breaks your blog post into “teaser” and main body areas. For example, if you add one or two paragraphs, then insert this tag and compose the rest of your post, visitors will only see the first paragraphs of your post and a hyperlink (e.g. continue reading…), which brings up the rest of your post if clicked on.
  13. close tags button – Closes any open HTML tags left open. Note: proof your content after using this function to ensure that all 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 revert 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 tabs.

WordPress Distraction-Free Writing Mode

WordPress Content Editor Distraction-Free Writing Mode [#14]

Some Useful Tips Related To Using HTML In WordPress

HTML Content Editors

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

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

Kompozer - HTML Editor

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 WordPress.

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

Thrive Content Builder - WordPress Plugin

Content Builder – WordPress Plugin

To learn more about this plugin, see this article:

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

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

In WordPress, there are certain areas like text “widgets” in your sidebar, and the “About Yourself” text box in your User Profile screen that let you insert HTML-formatted content.

These sections, however, don’t come with a content editor like the Visual Content 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/Text Editor

WordPress Visual/Text Editor

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

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

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

Link To Author Page 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 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 bio and promote yourself, your products and services, social media pages, other online properties you own, etc. to your site visitors …

Author Profile

The author profile is located in the About Yourself > Biographical Info field inside your User Profile area …

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 box, 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 description

Creating An Author Description

Next, format your content using the Visual Editor . 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 it simple – use bold, italics and text hyperlinks sparingly over one or two paragraphs to explain who you are and what you do, and include a call to action for your readers …

Creating An Author Description

Continue working inside the Visual Editor tab until you have written 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 from your admin menu …

User Profile Screen

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

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 blog posts and formatted it using basic HTML!

Author Profile

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

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

Practical Tip

Tips

Tip #1 – If you would like to add more complex design elements to your content (e.g. pull quotes, review tables, etc.) without learning HTML, you can use cut & paste HTML resources …

Save time using cut & paste HTML snippets

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 Content Editor using a number of WordPress plugins.

For example:

WordPress HTML

WordPress HTML - Plugin For WordPress

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

WordPress HTML - WordPress Plugin

WordPress HTML. (Screenshot source: plugin website)

Pasting HTML directly into your WordPress editor will often break various elements and corrupt the HTML. By saving the HTML 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 plugin you can add to your site that allows you to have better control of settings for HTML tags like div and span, and add 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 WordPress plugin you can use …

Raw HTML

Raw HTML

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 installed, 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 also very useful if you need to add a CSS block or JavaScript to your post.

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 Editor, not in the Visual Editor.

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 WordPress 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 your code in the Text Tab …

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 frame, input 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 new profile settings, go back 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, go back to your User Profile, 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 does not fix the issue and you still continue to experience problems adding HTML code to your site, 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 probable causes and solutions
  • Reinstalling your WordPress application (i.e. performing a clean installation)
  • Contacting your web hosting company 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

Originally published as A Basic Guide To HTML For WordPress Users.