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 world wide web, your website, your web pages and even your content are all built and powered by a language of code.

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

HTML is one of the main “code” languages used throughout the world wide web, websites, blog pages and also your web content.

You don’t have to learn 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 web editor that allows you to create and easily format content just by clicking on a few buttons.

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

Using HTML Formatting Tags In WordPress

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

A Practical Guide To Formatting Content Using HTML For WordPress Site Owners – Step-By-Step Tutorial

If you plan to manage your own web presence, having some practical familiarity with HTML can be a handy skill to have when creating, editing or formatting content on WordPress.

Imagine that:

  • You would like to edit your existing content, insert a text link and an image into an area of your sidebar, or direct your visitors to a contact form, opt-in form, etc. If you understand basic HTML, you can do this really quickly without having to pay someone else to do this for you.
  • You outsource content work to a web copywriter and receive back files containing formatted text. Having some knowledge of HTML helps you better understand your content before you sign off on the work.
  • Someone creates your site’s content. You see a couple of basic text formatting errors, like a word that could have been made bold, or a hyperlink that has not been added to your text. Having a little knowledge of HTML will help you change and correct simple mistakes in your copy 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 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 to prevent you from being taken advantage of by sales-motivated web service providers.

A Useful Guide To Formatting Content Using HTML For WordPress Users

You don’t need to become a code-loving web geek – just be familiar enough with basic 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

Important Info

Important: Like everything else on the web, HTML is subject to frequent changes, 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 a number of new “tags” to keep up with the latest advances in software and browser technology. As some of the tags used in older and even recent versions of WordPress get dropped from HTML5, you should expect that WordPress will also continue updating its code in order to remain compatible with industry-wide HTML standards.

How To Use HTML Tags In Your WordPress Content

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

Default WordPress HTML Content Editor

Default WordPress HTML Editor

Useful Info

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

HTML WordPress Allows You To Use In Content

The WordPress Content Management System (CMS) lets you insert many common HTML formatting tags, including the ones below:

HTML Tags - WordPress

WordPress HTML

Here are a few simple content formatting examples that use some of the HTML tags displayed above …

Using Common HTML Formatting Tags In WordPress Content

HTML Used In WordPress Content

Useful Tip

If you are interested in learning more about using HTML, see the free tutorials in the site below:

The WordPress HTML (Text) Editor Explained

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

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

WordPress Text Editor Menu Buttons

WordPress Text Content Editor Features

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

  1. b: <strong></strong> Use this button to make text bold.
  2. i : <em></em> Use this button for text emphasis (i.e. italicize).
  3. hyperlink: <a href="http://example.com"></a> Clicking this button adds a hyperlink to your highlighted text.
  4. b-quote – <blockquote></blockquote> Click this menu button to quote or cite selected text.
  5. del: <del></del> Use this HTML tag to highlight text considered as having been deleted from a post. Most web browsers will typically display this as striked-through text.
  6. ins: <ins></ins> Use this HTML tag to highlight text that has been inserted into the existing content. Most 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 does not render in a user’s browser. Note: you can also use the “Add Media” button (15) to insert images into your content.
  8. ul: <ul></ul> Select this menu button to insert an unordered list into your content. Unordered lists typically appear as a list of items preceded by bullets. Note: this 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: use this HTML tag with the <li> tag (see below) in order for bullet lists to work correctly.
  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> 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: content selected within the <code> tags usually will appear using a different text style, such as a monospaced font like Courier. (See the “Tips” section below for more details).
  12. more: <!--more--> Use this button to break a blog post into “teaser” and main body sections. For example, if you add a few paragraphs, then add this tag and compose the remainder of your post, readers will only be able to see the first few paragraphs of your post and a hyperlink (e.g. continue reading…), which if clicked on, will display the rest of your post’s content.
  13. Close Tags button – Closes any open HTML tags left in your content. Note: proof your content after using this function to ensure that all tags have formatted your text correctly.
  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” writing mode. Click the button again to return 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’ve chosen the Visual or Text editor tabs.

Distraction-Free Writing Mode

Click on “Distraction-Free Writing Mode” [#14] and everything but your editor fades away, removing all distractions from your screen.

Some Useful Tips About Using HTML Formatting In WordPress

HTML Content Builders

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

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

Kompozer - HTML Editor

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 mess with code or use an external HTML content builder, 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 format content containing HTML into areas of your site other than your posts and pages (e.g. your sidebar, author biography, etc.), then see the quick tutorial below for a really simple solution that involves spending no extra time downloading HTML software.

Tutorial: How To Add Formatted Text To The “About Yourself” Text Box In Your Profile

In your WordPress site, there are certain locations like text “widgets” in your sidebar, and the “About Yourself” section in your User Profile section that allow you to use HTML.

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

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

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

Normally, whenever you publish a post 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

Author Page Link In WordPress Blog Post

Clicking on the author link takes you to the Author Archives section, where blog readers can learn more information about you (or other authors registered as users on your site) and view 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 description and promote yourself, your services, social media pages, other sites you own, etc. to your site visitors …

Author Profile

The author bio box is located in the About Yourself > Biographical Info field in your 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 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 the formatting simple – use bold, italics and anchor text links sparingly across one or two paragraphs to describe who you are and what you do, and include a call to action for your readers …

Creating An Author Description

Keep working in the Visual Editor tab until you have written your author description …

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

Next, go to your profile by selecting Users > Your Profile in your navigation menu …

User Profile Screen

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

About Yourself

Click the Update Profile button 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 you can see, you don’t need to learn HTML to use WordPress, but it can be useful to know the basics of HTML.

Tip

Tips

Tip #1 – If you would like to add more complex design elements to your content (e.g. highlighted segments, pricing boxes, etc.) without learning HTML, you can use cut & paste HTML tools …

Save time using cut & paste HTML tools

Save time using cut & paste HTML snippets

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

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

For example:

WordPress HTML

WordPress HTML - WP Plugin

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

WordPress HTML

WordPress HTML. (Screenshot source: plugin website)

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

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons is a free WP plugin you can add to your website 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 - WP 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 automatic paragraph creation and smart quotes, and use raw HTML/JS/CSS code in your posts without WordPress messing it up.

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 a CSS block or JavaScript to your post.

Raw HTML - WordPress 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 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 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 the code in the Text Tab …

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

Now … when your post is published, you will find that your text formatting is correct …

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 frame, input and others). This is for security reasons.

If you do experience any issues 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 section …

Disabling the WordPress visual editor

After disabling the visual editor and saving your 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 the 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 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 possible causes and solutions
  • Reinstalling your WordPress application (i.e. you may need to perform a clean site installation)
  • Contacting your web host for help

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

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"I have used the tutorials to teach all of my clients and it has probably never been so easy for everyone to learn WordPress ... Now I don't need to buy all these very expensive video courses that often don't deliver what they promise." - Stefan Wendt, Internet Marketing Success Group

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