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A Basic Guide To HTML For WordPress Users

The world wide web, your web site, your web pages and even your web content are all built and powered by code.

It is inevitable, then, that sooner or later, you will run into a situation where you will probably need something done for your business online, for your website, or in your web content that requires having knowledge of code.

HTML is one of the “code” languages that is used throughout the world wide web, web sites, blog pages and even your web content.

One of the best things about using WordPress is that you don’t need to know HTML in order to compose and format content for your blog’s pages. 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 editor that lets you compose and easily format content simply by clicking on a few buttons.

This post provides a practical reference guide to basic HTML codes you should be familiar with in WordPress.

You don’t have to learn HTML to use WordPress, but having a basic familiarity with HTML is useful as a WordPress user!

HTML Tags – A Primer For Non-Geek WordPress Site Owners – Tutorial

If you plan to manage your own web presence, it’s handy to have a basic HTML knowledge when creating, changing or formatting content in WordPress.

Imagine, for example, that:

You don’t need to become a technical web developer – just have enough knowledge of basic HTML to be a “web-smart” 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: Like everything in the digital realm, HTML is also subject to developmental change and evolution, and sometimes these changes will have an impact on WordPress.

Currently, we are in version 5 of the HTML set of standards (also called HTML5), and this change has introduced several new “tags” to remain up-to-date with new advances in web applications and web browser technology. As a number of older tags become obsolete, you should expect that WordPress will also keep updating its code to ensure compatibility with industry-wide HTML standards.

How To Use HTML Tags In WordPress

WordPress provides users with a option of adding content to posts and pages with its 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 creating or editing your content …

Default WordPress HTML Content Editor

We discuss the WordPress WYSIWYG Editor and how to create posts and pages in other articles.

HTML Tags Allowed By WordPress

The WordPress Content Management System (CMS) lets you add most common HTML tags, such as the tags shown in the table below:

Common HTML Tags – WordPress

Here are a few practical text formatting examples using some of the HTML tags listed above …

Formatting WordPress Content With HTML

If you are interested in learning more about using HTML, go here:

The WordPress Text Content Editor Menu Explained

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

Out of the box, the Text Editor displays a number of standard menu buttons …

WordPress HTML (Text) Content Editor Menu Features

Below is a brief description of what each of the menu buttons in the Text Editor does with their corresponding HTML formatting tag (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> Use this HTML tag for quoted or cited text.
  5. del: <del></del> Use this HTML tag to indicate text considered deleted from the current page. Many web browsers typically display this as strikethrough text.
  6. ins: <ins></ins> This HTML tag is used to mark text that has been inserted into a post or page. Most web browsers will 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 display in the user’s web browser. Note: you can also use the “Add Media” button (15) to insert images into your content.
  8. ul: <ul></ul> Choose this menu button to insert an unordered list into your content. Unordered lists generally appear 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 right now!). Note: use this formatting tag together with the <li> tag (see below) in order for bullet lists to work properly.
  10. li: <li></li> Click 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 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. broken text). Note: any content selected within the <code> tags normally will display using a preformatted styling of text, such as a monospaced font like Courier. (See the “Tips” section below for more details).
  12. more: <!--more--> This button breaks a post into “teaser” and main content sections. For example, if you add one or two paragraphs, then add the “more” tag and add the remaining section of your post, visitors will only see the first few paragraphs of your post and a hyperlink (e.g. continue reading…), which when clicked on, will then bring up the rest of your post.
  13. close tags button – This function closes any open HTML tags left open. Note: proof your content after using this function 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” writing 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 displays for both the Visual and Text editors.

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

Useful Tips About Using HTML Formatting In WordPress

HTML Content Builders

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

For example, a popular HTML software tool you can download for free is 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 pages or posts.

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 content inside WordPress itself.

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 edit content containing basic HTML tags into areas of your WordPress site other than your posts or pages (e.g. your sidebar, author profile, etc.), then refer to the quick tutorial below for a very simple solution that involves spending no extra time downloading HTML-editing tools.

Quick Tutorial: Adding Formatted Content To The “About Yourself” Text Box In Your Profile

In WordPress, there are places like text “widgets” in your sidebar, or the “About Yourself” text area in your User Profile section that let you use HTML tags.

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

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

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

Typically, whenever a post is published on your WordPress blog, 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 Blog Post

Clicking on the author link takes visitors to the Author Archives section, where they can learn more information about you (or other registered users) and see other posts that you (or other authors) have published …

Note: As you can see from the above screenshot, you can add hyperlinks and simple formatting like bold and italicized text to enhance your author description and promote yourself, your business, social media pages, other sites you own, etc. to all of your blog readers …

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

Although the Biographical Info text area 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 elsewhere, then copy and paste it in …

Let’s “paste the content” into this field using the simple method described below.

Create a new post and type your content inside the Visual Editor.

In this case, we want to create 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 it simple – use bold, italics and text links sparingly across one or two paragraphs to explain who you are and what you do, and remember to include a useful link for your readers …

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

When you are happy with your author description, switch over to the Text Editor and copy everything to your clipboard …

Go to your profile by selecting Users > Your Profile in your navigation menu …

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

Click the Update Profile button to save your changes …

Congratulations … You have just created an author promo for your posts and formatted it using basic HTML!

To learn more about editing your profile settings, see this ”how to” article: How To Edit Your WordPress User Profile

As we’ve already mentioned, you don’t have to know HTML to use WordPress, but it can be useful to have a little basic knowledge of HTML.

HTML Tips

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

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 plugins.

For example:

WordPress HTML

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

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

Pasting HTML directly into your WordPress editor can break various elements and corrupt the HTML. By saving the HTML code in the custom fields dialogue boxes, you can output the exact HTML to your post or page.

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons

Extensible HTML Editor Buttons is a plugin you can add to your site that lets you have better control of settings for HTML tags like div and span, and add custom buttons and additional functions to your text editor …

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

Here’s another free plugin you can use …

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, any part of your post can be wrapped in [raw]…[/raw] tags to prevent WordPress from converting newlines to HTML paragraphs, replacing apostrophes with typographic quotes and so on. This is also very useful if you need to add JavaScript or a CSS block to your content.

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 enter the following text in the Visual Content Tab …

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

You can see the problem by switching over to the Text Tab …

As you can see in the screenshot above, WordPress converts the symbols “<” and “>” into their HTML code equivalents (called ASCII characters).

So:

To preserve the symbols “<” and “>” intact and ensure that your text will format correctly, you need to paste the code into the Text Tab …

Now … when you publish your post, you should find that your text has been formatted correctly …

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

If you do experience any issues when adding commonly-used HTML tags into your content that are allowed to be used in WordPress, try disabling the visual editor in your user profile section …

After disabling the visual editor and updating your new profile settings, go back 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 check if the HTML code is still working fine with the visual editor restored.

Note: If the above suggestion does not fix the issue and you continue experiencing problems adding HTML code to your content, then you should look at other options. This may include:

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

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"This is an awesome training series. I have a pretty good understanding of WordPress already, but this is helping me to move somewhere from intermediate to advanced user!" - Kim Lednum