A Basic Guide To HTML For WordPress Users

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

A Beginner's Guide To Using HTML In WordPressThe web, your website, your pages and even your content are all built and driven by code.

It is inevitable, then, that at some point, you may need something done for your business online, for your web site, or in your content that will require having coding skills.

HTML is one of the main “code” languages used to power the web, web sites, blog pages and formatting your web content.

You don’t need to know HTML in order 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 visual content editor that lets you compose and easily format your content simply by clicking on a few menu buttons.

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

An HTML Formatting Tags Primer For Non-Technical WordPress Users

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

Using HTML Tags In WordPress – Step-By-Step Tutorial

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

Imagine this:

  • You want to make changes to your existing content, insert formatted text and an image in a section of your sidebar, or direct visitors to the contact page, opt-in form, etc. If you understand basic HTML, you can do this really easily with no assistance from others.
  • You outsource content writing to a web copywriter and get back files that contain HTML formatting. Knowing some basic HTML can help you better understand your content before you sign off on the work.
  • Someone creates copy for your website. You see a couple of simple text formatting errors, like a word that should have been made bold, or a hyperlink that points to the wrong destination URL. Having some knowledge of HTML will help you correct simple mistakes in your blog posts or pages very quickly without having to ask (or pay) a webmaster, a web designer, or someone else to do it for you.
  • You want to discuss changes on your site with your web designer. Having a little knowledge of HTML not only will help you communicate more effectively with web developers and web designers, it can also help prevent you from being taken advantage of.

A Useful Guide To HTML

You don’t need to become a technical web developer – just be familiar enough with HTML to be a “web-savvy” 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 else on the web, HTML is subject to frequent changes, and sometimes these changes will 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 remain up-to-date with the latest advances in web applications and browser technology. As some of the older tags become obsolete, you can expect that WordPress will also continue to update its core application in order to ensure compatibility with industry-wide standards.

Using HTML Tags To Format Content In Your WordPress Posts And Pages

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

Default WordPress HTML Editor

Default WordPress Text Editor

Info

We cover the WordPress WYSIWYG Editor and creating pages and posts in separate tutorials.

HTML Tags WordPress Allows You To Use

The WordPress Text editor allows you to insert a range of common HTML tags, including the ones shown below:

Basic HTML Formatting Tags - WordPress

HTML Tags – WordPress

Here are some useful content formatting examples that use some of the HTML tags displayed above …

Using HTML Formatting Tags In WordPress Content

HTML Tags Tutorial

Tip

If you are interested in learning some more HTML, see the tutorials in the website below:

WordPress Text Content Editor Menu Buttons

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

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

WordPress Text Editor

WordPress HTML (Text) Editor Menu Buttons

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 button to italicize text.
  3. hyperlink: <a href="http://example.com"></a> Use this HTML tag to add a hyperlink to any 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 label text that has been deleted from a post. Most browsers typically display this as strikethrough text.
  6. ins: <ins></ins> This HTML tag is used to mark text considered as having been inserted into the existing content. Many web browsers will typically display this as underlined text.
  7. img: src="http://www.yourdomain.com/img/image.jpg" alt="image description" /> Select this button 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 rendered in a user’s browser. Note: you can also use the “Add Media” button (15) to insert an image into your content.
  8. ul: <ul></ul> Click this menu button to insert an unordered list into your content. Unordered lists generally display as a bullet-list. 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 generally numbered (just like the list you are seeing now!). Note: use this HTML tag together with the <li> tag (see below) in order for bullet lists to work properly.
  10. li: <li></li> Choose this menu 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 added inside the <code> tags normally will display using a preformatted text style, such as a monospaced font like Courier. (See the “Tips” section below for more details).
  12. more: <!--more--> This menu button will break your post into “teaser” and main body areas. For example, if you type a couple of paragraphs, then insert the “more” tag and compose the remaining section of your post content, readers will only see the first couple of paragraphs of your post and a hyperlink (e.g. continue reading…), which brings up the rest of the 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 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” 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.

Distraction-Free Writing Mode

Distraction-Free Writing Mode [#14]

Some Useful Tips Related To Using HTML Formatting In WordPress

HTML Content Builders

If you plan to go beyond the basics of HTML and use it more extensively, there are several Free HTML editor software applications you can download and use when getting started.

For example, a popular HTML editor software tool you can download for free 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 with this application, then use plugins that let you insert code into your posts or pages.

Another option, if you don’t want to mess around with any code or use an external HTML content editor, is to use a WordPress plugin that lets you build 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 tags into areas of your site other than your posts and pages (e.g. your sidebar, author biography, etc.), then see the tutorial below for a very simple solution that involves spending no extra time downloading HTML-editing software.

Tutorial: Adding HTML-Formatted Text To The “About Yourself” Text Box In Your User Profile

In your WordPress site, there are certain areas like ”widgets” in your sidebar, or the “About Yourself” text field in your User Profile screen that let you use HTML.

These sections, however, don’t come with a content editor like the WYSIWYG editor found in 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 Visual Content Editor

WordPress Visual Editor

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

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

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 Post

Link To Author Page In WordPress Blog Post

Clicking on the author link takes you 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 you can see from the above screenshot, you can add links and simple formatting like bold and italicized text to enhance your author profile and promote yourself, your services, social media pages, other online properties you own, etc. to your blog readers …

Author Profile

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

About Yourself

Although the Biographical Info text box 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 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 in the Visual Editor.

In this case, we want to create an author promo

Creating An Author Description

Next, format the 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 things 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 useful link for your readers …

Creating An Author Description

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

Author Description

When you are happy with your author description, 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 main navigation 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 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 how to edit your profile settings, refer to this ”how to” article: How To Edit Your WordPress User Profile

As we’ve mentioned a number of times, 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 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 resources …

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 a number of 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

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

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

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

WP Plugin - Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons is a WordPress plugin you can add to your site that gives you better control of settings for HTML tags like div and span, as well as add custom buttons and extra functions to the text editor …

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons - WordPress Plugin

WP 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 WordPress posts.

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

Raw HTML

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 Editor.

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

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

Your text will look like this when you publish your post …

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

You can see what is causing 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 should find that your text has been formatted correctly …

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

Tip #4 (Advanced WordPress 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 commonly-used 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 settings, return 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 screen, reactivate your Visual Editor, and check 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 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 new site installation)
  • Contacting your web host for assistance

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

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"I am beyond impressed with what you have put together. I can tell that you put a ton of hard work into building what you have. You have the absolute best content on WordPress I have ever seen!" - Robert T. Jillie

Disclaimer: We have no direct association with WordPress, Automattic, or any of the products reviewed on this site. We may receive an affiliate commission from the purchase of any third-party services and/or products mentioned on this website. All images and descriptions sourced from product websites remain the copyright of their respective owners, comply with all license terms and agreements of use are used solely for illustrative or training purposes.

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Author: Martin Aranovitch

Martin Aranovitch is the founder of WPCompendium.org and the author of The Small Business Digital Manager. 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.