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 web site, your pages and even your web content are all built and driven by code.

It is inevitable, then, that sooner or later, you will probably need something done for your business online, for your web site, or in your web content that will require having some knowledge of code.

HTML is one of the main “code” languages used to power the web, websites, web pages and even web content.

One of the main benefits of using a WordPress-powered website is that you don’t have to know HTML to create and format content for your pages. WordPress has unique features like “themes”, “plugins” and “widgets” that let you manage your website without having to touch code, and an easy-to-use, built-in visual editor that allows you to create and easily format content just by clicking on a few menu buttons.

As you will learn below, it’s useful to have a little knowledge of HTML when writing, editing or formatting content in your WordPress website. Having a little knowledge of HTML can also save you time and money.

A Useful Guide To HTML Tags For Beginners

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

A Practical Guide To HTML Formatting Tags – Tutorial

If you are running your own website, having a little bit of HTML knowledge can be a handy skill to have when composing, changing or formatting content on WordPress.

For example, let’s say that:

  • You would like to edit your existing content, add a text link and an image into a section of your sidebar, or direct your visitors to your contact page, newsletter subscription page, etc. If you know 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 web copywriter and get back files containing formatted text. Having some basic knowledge of HTML can help you understand and review the quality of the work before you accept the work.
  • Someone creates your articles or web pages. You spot a couple of mistakes in the text, like a word or phrase that should not have been made bold, or a hyperlink that points to an incorrect URL. Having a little knowledge of HTML can help you edit and correct simple things in your posts or pages very quickly 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 new project or requirement with a web development team. Knowing some basic HTML not only can help 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 making requests for changes to your website.

A Useful Guide To Formatting Content Using HTML For WordPress Site Owners

You don’t need to become a code-loving web geek – just have enough knowledge of basic HTML to be a “web-savvy” business owner!

What Is HTML?

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 in the digital realm, HTML is subject to changes, and some of these changes will affect WordPress.

Currently, the latest version of HTML is version 5 (also called HTML5), and this change has introduced a number of new “tags” to keep up with the latest advances in web applications 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 keep updating its code to remain compatible with industry-wide standards.

Using HTML Tags To Format Content In Your WordPress Pages

WordPress provides users with a choice of adding content to pages and posts with its built-in 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 code like HTML and other script languages (e.g. Javascript) when composing or editing your content …

Built-In WordPress Text Content Editor

WP HTML Content Editor

Info

We cover the WordPress WYSIWYG Editor and how to create pages and posts in separate articles.

What HTML Formatting Tags Can Be Inserted Into WordPress?

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

Basic HTML Formatting Tags Allowed In WordPress

HTML Formatting Tags

Below are several practical text formatting examples that use a number of the HTML tags listed in the chart above …

Using Common HTML Formatting Tags In WordPress

Using HTML Tags In WordPress

Useful Tip

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

The WordPress HTML (Text) Content Editor Menu Explained

The WordPress Text Editor lets you paste, edit and work directly with code like HTML and other web languages (e.g. Javascript) when inputting content into pages and posts.

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

WordPress Text Content Editor Menu

WordPress HTML (Text) Content Editor

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

  1. b: <strong></strong> Use this button to make text bold.
  2. i : <em></em> Use this HTML tag to italicize text.
  3. hyperlink: <a href="http://example.com"></a> click this menu 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> This HTML tag is used to highlight text that has been deleted from a post. Many web browsers typically display this as striked-through text.
  6. ins: <ins></ins> Use this HTML tag to indicate text considered inserted into your content. Most web 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 the user’s browser. Note: you can also use the “Add Media” button (15) to insert an image into your content.
  8. ul: <ul></ul> Use this HTML tag to insert an unordered list into your post. Unordered lists normally display as a bullet-list. Note: use this HTML tag together with the <li> tag (see below) in order for bullet lists to display properly.
  9. ol: <ol></ol> Use this HTML tag to insert a numbered list. Items in an ordered list are normally numbered (just like the list you are seeing now!). Note: use this HTML tag with the <li> tag (see below) in order for bullet lists to display properly.
  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 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 enclosed in the <code> tags typically will display using a different styling of text, such as a monospaced font like Courier. (See the “Tips” section below for more details).
  12. more: <!--more--> Use this button to break your blog post into “teaser” and ”rest of content” sections. For example, if you add a couple of paragraphs, then add the “more” tag and compose the rest of your post content, readers will only be able to read the first paragraphs of your post and a hyperlink (e.g. continue reading…), which displays the rest of your post if clicked on.
  13. Close Tags – 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” 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 return to the normal editor display.
  15. Add Media button – 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 tabs.

Distraction-Free Writing Mode

With “Distraction-Free Writing Mode” [#14] everything but your editor disappears, leaving only the content you’re working on in your screen.

Useful Tips Related To Using HTML Formatting In WordPress

HTML Content Builders

If you plan to learn and use HTML, there are several Free HTML software tools 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 in this application, then use plugins that let you insert code into WordPress.

Another option, if you don’t want to mess around with any 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 technical coding, but would still like to be able to easily create, insert and edit content containing basic HTML tags into areas of your WordPress site other than your posts and pages (e.g. your sidebar, author biography, etc.), then see the tutorial below for a really simple solution that involves spending no extra time downloading HTML-editing software.

Quick Tutorial: Adding Formatted Content To The “About Yourself” Section Of Your Profile

In WordPress, there are certain places like text “widgets” in your sidebar, or the “About Yourself” text area in your User Profile screen that let you insert content formatted with HTML.

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

WordPress Visual Editor

You can still use the WordPress Visual editor to create 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.

Typically, whenever a post is published in WordPress, a link to the author displays 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 Blog Post

Clicking on the author link takes visitors to the Author Archives section, where blog readers can learn more information about you (or other registered users) and browse 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 bold and italicized text to enhance your author bio box and promote yourself, your products and services, social media pages, other sites you own, etc. to your blog readers …

Author Profile

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

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 box, or create it somewhere else, then copy and paste it in …

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 description

Creating An Author Description

Next, format your content using the Visual Editor . Please note that you can only use simple formatting in your author description such as hyperlinks, bold, underline and italicized text, so keep it simple – use bold, italics and text links sparingly across one or two paragraphs to describe who you are and what you do, and remember to include a useful link to help your readers further engage with you and your business …

Creating An Author Description

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

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 by selecting Users > Your Profile from the dashboard menu …

User Profile Screen

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

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 how to edit your profile settings, see 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 have a little basic knowledge of HTML.

Tip

Tips

Tip #1 – If you want to add more complex styled elements to your content (e.g. highlighted segments, review tables, etc.) without learning HTML, you can use cut & paste HTML snippets …

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 Text Editor using various plugins.

For example:

WordPress HTML

WordPress HTML - Plugin For WP

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

WordPress HTML - Plugin For WP

WordPress HTML. (Screenshot source: plugin website)

Pasting HTML directly into your WordPress editor will often break various elements and corrupt the HTML. By inputting the code inside the 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 free plugin you can add to your website that allows 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 is another free WordPress plugin you can use …

Raw HTML

Raw HTML - WP 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, you can wrap any part of your post in [raw]…[/raw] tags to prevent WordPress from converting newlines to HTML paragraphs, replacing apostrophes with typographic quotes and so on. This is very useful if you want 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 tags correctly in the Text Editor, not in the Visual Editor.

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

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

This is what your text will look like when you publish your post …

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 Tab …

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 WP User): By default, WordPress doesn’t allow a number of HTML tags to be used (e.g. codes such as frame, 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 section …

Disabling the WordPress visual editor

After disabling the visual editor and saving your new profile settings, return 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 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, 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 new installation)
  • Contacting your web host for help

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

***

"If you're new to WordPress, this can stand on its own as a training course and will stay with you as you progress from beginner to advanced and even guru status." - Bruce (Columbus, Ohio)

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