A Basic Guide To HTML For WordPress Users

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

A Basic Guide To HTML Formatting Tags For BeginnersThe world wide web, your website, your pages and even your content are 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 probably need something done for your business online, for your website, or in your pages that will require having coding skills.

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

You don’t have to know HTML to use WordPress. 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 your content simply by clicking on a few menu buttons.

In this article you will learn the basic HTML codes you can use in WordPress.

HTML Tags Basics For Non-Geek WordPress Users

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

An Formatting Content With HTML Primer For Non-Geek WordPress Users – Tutorial

As mentioned above, having a bit of HTML knowledge is useful when creating, editing or formatting content for your WordPress-powered site.

Imagine this:

  • You want to adjust certain elements in 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 understand basic HTML, you can do this very easily without professional assistance needed.
  • You outsource your content creation to a freelance article writer and get back files containing formatted content. Knowing a little HTML helps you proof the work before you sign off on the work.
  • Someone creates your site’s content. You spot a couple of basic text formatting errors, like a sentence that could have been made bold, or a hyperlink that is missing in your copy. Knowing a little HTML will help you change and fix simple errors in your blog posts very quickly without needing to ask (or pay) a webmaster, a web designer, or someone else to do it for you.
  • You want to discuss a project or requirement with a website designer. Having a little knowledge of HTML not only can help you communicate more effectively with web developers and web designers, it will also make you feel and sound more confident and knowledgeable when discussing your ideas or requesting changes to be done on your website.

A Useful Guide To Formatting Content With HTML For WordPress Newbies

You don’t need to become a code-loving web programmer – 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

Info

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

Currently, HTML is in version 5 (also called HTML5), and this change has introduced a number of new “tags” to keep up with new advances in web applications and web browser technology. As several older tags get phased out of HTML5, you should expect that WordPress will also keep updating its code in order to ensure compatibility with industry-wide standards.

Using HTML Tags To Format Content In WordPress

WordPress gives users the choice of adding content to pages and posts with a 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 script languages (e.g. Javascript) when creating or editing your content …

WP Text Editor

Default WordPress HTML Editor

Info

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

What HTML Can Be Inserted Into WordPress Pages & Posts?

WordPress allows you to use a range of widely-used HTML tags, including the ones below:

HTML - WordPress

Basic HTML Formatting Tags

Here are a few practical content formatting examples that use the HTML tags listed above …

Using Basic HTML Formatting Tags In WordPress Content

HTML Formatting Tags Used In WordPress Content

Practical Tip

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

WordPress HTML (Text) Editor Features

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

By default, the Text (HTML) Editor comes with a number of standard menu buttons already installed …

WordPress Text Content Editor Menu Features

WordPress HTML (Text) Editor Menu Features

Here is a brief description of the function of each of the Text Editor menu buttons with their corresponding HTML (see 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 menu button adds a hyperlink to your 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 mark text that has been deleted from a page or post. Most web browsers typically display this as strikethrough text.
  6. ins: <ins></ins> Use this HTML tag to indicate text considered as having been inserted into a post. Most web browsers will 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 is not displayed in a user’s screen. Note: you can also use the “Add Media” button (15) to insert an image into your content.
  8. ul: <ul></ul> Choose this menu button to insert an unordered list into your post. Unordered lists usually display as a bullet-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 now!). Note: use this tag together with the <li> tag (see below) in order for bullet lists to work properly.
  10. li: <li></li> Use this HTML tag 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 convert your tags and you will get errors (e.g. missing text). Note: content inserted within the <code> tags typically will appear using a preformatted 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 main content sections. For example, if you add one or two paragraphs, then add this tag and compose the remaining section of your post content, visitors will only be able to see the first paragraphs of your post and a hyperlink (e.g. continue reading…), which displays the rest of your post’s content when clicked on.
  13. close tags button – This menu 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 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” 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 displays for both the Visual and Text editors.

WordPress 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.

Useful Tips Related To Using HTML In WordPress

HTML Content Builders

If you plan to go beyond just knowing the basics of HTML, like simple text formatting, there are several Free HTML editor software tools that you can download and use when getting started.

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

Kompozer

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 WordPress.

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

Thrive Content Builder - Plugin For WordPress

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 containing basic HTML tags 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 software.

Useful Tip: Adding Formatted Text To The “About Yourself” Text Box In Your Profile

In WordPress, there are certain locations like ”widgets” in your sidebar, and the “About Yourself” section in your User Profile screen that let you add HTML.

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

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

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

Typically, whenever you publish a post in WordPress, 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 they can learn more about you (or other registered users) and see other blog 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 italics and bold text to enhance your author bio box and promote yourself, your services, social media pages, other online properties you own, etc. to all of your site visitors …

Author Profile

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

About Yourself

Although the Biographical Info text area 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 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 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 the content inside the Visual Editor tab. 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 explain who you are and what you do, and 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 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 area by selecting Users > Your Profile from the main menu …

User Profile Screen

Scroll down 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 description for your posts and formatted it using basic HTML!

Author Profile

To learn more about editing your profile settings, see this ”how to” article: 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 would like to add more complex design elements to your content (e.g. highlighted segments, review tables, etc.) without learning HTML, you can use cut & paste HTML tools …

Save time using cut & paste HTML snippets

Save time using cut & paste HTML resources

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

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

For example:

WordPress HTML

WordPress HTML - WP Plugin

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

WordPress HTML

WordPress HTML. (Screenshot source: plugin website)

Pasting HTML directly into your WordPress editor can break various elements and corrupt the HTML. By inputting the code in the plugin’s 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 WP plugin you can add to your blog that enables you to have better control of settings for HTML tags like div and span, as well as adding custom buttons and extra functions to your text editor …

WP Plugin - Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

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

Here’s another free 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, any part 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 a CSS block or JavaScript to your content.

Raw HTML - WP Plugin

Raw HTML. (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 enter the text shown below in the Visual Content Editor …

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

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

Troubleshooting HTML Errors

You can see what is causing 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 Tab …

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

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

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

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

If you do experience any issues when adding common 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 profile 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 your Profile page, reactivate the Visual Editor, and see if the HTML code is still working fine with the visual editor restored.

Useful 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 probable causes and solutions
  • Reinstalling your WordPress application (i.e. you may need to perform a new installation)
  • Contacting your web host for assistance

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

***

"Learning WordPress has been a huge stumbling block for me. I've been looking for something that covers absolutely everything but doesn't cost an arm and a leg. Thank you so much ... you have just provided me with what I have been looking for! Truly appreciated!" - Tanya

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Author: Martin Aranovitch

Martin Aranovitch is the owner of WPCompendium.org and the author of The WordPress User Manual. WPCompendium.org provides hundreds of FREE tutorials that show you how to use WordPress to grow your business online with no coding skills required! Get our FREE "101+ WordPress Tips, Tricks & Hacks For Non-Techies" e-course with loads of useful WordPress tips!

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