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

It is inevitable, then, that sooner or later, you will need something done for your business online, for your web site, or in your web content that requires having coding expertise.

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

You don’t need 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 web editor that allows you to compose and easily format your content simply by clicking on a few menu buttons.

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

A Useful Guide To HTML Tags

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

HTML Formatting Tags For WordPress Beginners – Step-By-Step Tutorial

If you are running your own website, having some knowledge of HTML can help save you time and money in various ways.

Imagine that:

  • You would like to adjust certain elements in your existing content, insert formatted text and an image to an area of your sidebar, or direct visitors to your contact form, opt-in form, etc. If you understand basic HTML, you can do this really easily and quickly without professional assistance.
  • You outsource content writing to a web copywriter and get back files containing HTML code. Having a little knowledge of HTML will help you better proof the content before you accept and pay for the work.
  • Someone else creates content for your site. You see a couple of simple mistakes in the text, like a line of text that should not have been made bold, or a hyperlink that has not been added to your text. Having some knowledge of HTML helps you fix simple things in your content 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 new project or requirement with your website development team. Having some basic knowledge of HTML not only can help you communicate more effectively with web developers and web designers, it can also help prevent you from being taken advantage of.

A Beginner's Guide To HTML Tags For WordPress Users

You don’t need to become a technical web developer – just have enough knowledge of HTML to be a “web-smart” business owner!

HTML – 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

Important: Like all things online, HTML is subject to changes, and some of these changes will no doubt affect WordPress.

Currently, the latest version of HTML is version 5 (also called HTML5), and this change has introduced several new “tags” to remain up-to-date with new advances in web applications and browser technology. As several tags used in older and even recent versions of WordPress get dropped from HTML5, you can expect that WordPress will also continue to update its core application in order to remain compatible with industry-wide coding standards.

Using HTML Formatting Tags In WordPress

WordPress provides users with a 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 composing or editing your content …

Built-In WordPress Text Editor

WP Text Content Editor

Useful Info

We cover the WordPress WYSIWYG Editor and creating pages and posts in other ”how to” articles.

What HTML Formatting Tags Are OK To Use In WordPress Posts & Pages?

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

Basic HTML Tags Allowed In WordPress

HTML Tags – WordPress

The diagram below shows some useful content formatting examples that use some of the HTML tags displayed in the table above …

HTML Used In WordPress

HTML Tags Used In WordPress

Practical Tip

To learn more about using HTML, go here:

The WordPress Text Editor Menu Explained

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

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

WordPress Text Editor

WordPress Text Content Editor

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

  1. b: <strong></strong> Use this button to make text bold.
  2. i : <em></em> Use this HTML tag to format your text using italics.
  3. hyperlink: <a href="http://example.com"></a> Use this HTML tag 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 label text considered deleted from a page or post. Most web browsers typically display this as strikethrough text.
  6. ins: <ins></ins> Use this HTML tag to mark text considered inserted into a post. Most browsers 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” description (a text description of your image in case the image is not displayed in your visitor’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 content. Unordered lists typically display as a list of items preceded by bullets. Note: use this HTML tag together with the <li> tag (see below) in order for bullet lists to display correctly.
  9. ol: <ol></ol> Use this HTML tag to insert a numbered list. Items in an ordered list are typically numbered (just like the list you are reading 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> 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> 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 typically will appear using a different styling of text, 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 content sections. For example, if you add one or two paragraphs, then add the “more” tag and add the rest of your post, readers will only be able to read the first few paragraphs of your post with a hyperlink (e.g. continue reading…), which displays the rest of your post’s content when clicked on.
  13. close tags – Closes any open HTML tags left in your content. Note: proof your content after using this feature to ensure that all HTML 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” mode. Click the button again to revert to the normal text editor mode.
  15. Add Media button – 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 Content Editor Distraction-Free Writing Mode

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

Useful Tips Related To Using HTML Formatting In WordPress

HTML Content Editors

If you plan to go beyond the basics of HTML and use it more extensively, there are several Free HTML software applications that 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 – Free 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 in this application, then use plugins that let you insert code into your WP posts or pages.

Another option, if you don’t want to touch any code at all or use an external HTML content application, is to use a WordPress plugin that lets you build HTML-based 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 editing code, but would still like to be able to easily create, insert and edit content containing HTML into areas of your site other than your posts and pages (e.g. your sidebar, author profile, etc.), then refer to the tutorial below for a very simple solution that involves spending no extra time downloading HTML software.

Useful Tip: Adding HTML-Formatted Text To The “About Yourself” Section Of Your Profile

In WordPress, there are some areas like ”widgets” in your sidebar, or the “About Yourself” text area in your User Profile screen that let you add HTML.

These sections, however, don’t provide a content editor like the WYSIWYG 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 editor to create your HTML-formatted text, and then simply paste it into these other areas.

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

Normally, 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 you to the Author Archives section, where site readers can learn more information 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 hyperlinks 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 websites you own, etc. to all of your blog readers …

Author Profile

The author resource 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 have a content editor, so you have to either know how to type HTML code directly into the text area, or create it elsewhere, 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 promo

Creating An Author Description

Next, format your content inside the Visual Editor tab. 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 anchor text hyperlinks sparingly across one or two paragraphs to describe who you are and what you do, and remember to include a call to action for your visitors …

Creating An Author Description

Keep working in the Visual Editor screen until you have added all of the formatting you want to add to your author description …

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

Next, go to your profile area by selecting Users > Your Profile from the main navigation menu …

User Profile Screen

Scroll down the screen to the About Yourself section and paste your content 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 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

HTML Tips For WordPress Users

Tip #1 – If you plan to add more complex formatted elements to your content (e.g. pull quotes, multi-columned paragraphs, etc.) without learning HTML, you can use cut & paste HTML snippets …

Save time using cut & paste HTML snippets

Save time using cut & paste HTML tools

Learn about a time-saving “cut & paste” HTML resource we recommend for non-technical WP users here:

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

For example:

WordPress HTML

WordPress HTML - WordPress Plugin

WordPress HTML lets you 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 break various elements and corrupt the HTML. By entering the HTML code inside the custom fields dialogue boxes, you can output the exact HTML-formatted content to your post or page.

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons is a free WordPress 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 add custom buttons and additional functions to your text editor …

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons - WordPress Plugin

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

Here is another free plugin you can use …

Raw HTML

Raw HTML - WP Plugin

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, 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 need to add a CSS block or JavaScript 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 Tab.

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

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

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

Troubleshooting WordPress HTML Formatting 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 Editor …

Troubleshooting HTML Formatting Errors

Now … when you publish your post, you should find that your text formatting is correct …

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, form and others). This is for security reasons.

If you do experience any problems 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 updating your profile settings, return 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, return to the User Profile, reactivate your Visual Editor, and check 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 still continue to experience 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. performing a clean installation)
  • Contacting your web hosting company for help

Congratulations! Now you know the basics of using 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.