If you’re fairly new to using WordPress, you’re probably going to come across some terms you don’t know super well. Since WordPress is such an advanced and popular content management system, it contains lots of features and terminology. You don’t need to know all WordPress terms off by heart by any means, but it’s useful to learn about the ones you’re most likely to encounter. This gives you some context and preparation if you need to deal with them! Here’s a list of eight terms that you might hear, but aren’t quite sure what they mean.
Text editor and visual editor
When you’re creating or editing a post in WordPress, you can either do it in the plain text editor or visual text editor tab. When you click “Add new post” you’re automatically taken to the visual text editor. This is a “what you see is what you get” (WYSIWYG) editor that allows you to view your content basically how it would appear on your site. The visual editor is easy for beginners who don’t code, or those who want to see how their post will be formatted once published.
To the right of the visual text editor is the tab for the plain text editor. If you click over to the plain text editor, you’re met with lines of code and a visually unappealing screen. This tab shows HTML in a raw text format, unlike the visual text editor. The plain text editor is there for you to add code to your posts if you want to, as you can’t do this with the visual editor. Think of the plain text editor as the behind-the-scenes section where you build your post from the ground up. The visual editor much more resembles the final product.
If you use a page builder plugin like Divi or Elementor, you will also be able to build blocks on the back end, or edit visually on the front end.
Widgets are extra pieces of content you can add to your site. Widgets usually show up in the headers, footers, or sidebars of your site. They are designed to add extra functionality to your site, without the need to use coding. This is super handy for people who are inexperienced with code or want a shortcut for installing these extra features. Common widgets are menus, social media icons, lists, contact forms, and maps. Whenever you see one of those appear on a site, you’re looking at a widget. You can install plugins for certain widgets, and most themes work with widgets too.
Front end and back end
Every WordPress site has a front end and a back end. These WordPress terms are thrown around fairly often, and it’s essential to understand how each one works. The front end is what visitors see when they access your site. It’s the complete, refined version, with working images, text, visuals, plugins, etc. Basically, it’s the final product. You never edit from the front end of your site.
The back end, on the other hand, is where website owners can add new content, install plugins, write code, and do any other work that contributes to the final look and feel of the front end. The back end is far less visually appealing, since it’s the place where everything is set up. If the front end of a website is the center stage of a Broadway show, the back end is the crew and machines behind the curtains, putting it all together to impress the audience.
Featured images are set up on the back end of your website, and they appear next to the relevant content on the front end. When you create a post, there is a space on the right side to “Set featured image,” which allows you to input a picture for the post. On the front end of your site, this picture will appear next to the accompanying content. It’s important to include an image with your post so readers have a small visual preview of what the post will contain. Featured images generally work well in the 1200 x 628 pixels range to fit across all layouts and themes.
Categories and tags are two WordPress terms that sometimes get mixed up. While they are somewhat similar, they perform different roles. Categories help you sort the content on your website by organizing it into different groups. Every post you publish must be categorized, or it will fall into the “uncategorized” section of your site. You can create your own categories to reflect your site and its content. Categories should be broad, so multiple posts can fit in each group. For example, if you work in real estate, some relevant categories might be “mortgages” or “finances” or “buying & selling.” You should be able to select a category on the front end of your site, which will display all the filtered posts from that category. You can add categories on the back end when you write the content, and also edit or delete categories.
Similar to categories, tags are meant to further specify the content of a post. Tags might contain the keywords of the post, or other words that describe what it’s about. Tags should be narrow in scope and focus on the individual post, not an entire category. For example, if you wrote a post about housing prices in Halifax, some tags might be “halifax housing” or “housing prices halifax.” Tags are optional and don’t always add value to your content, whereas categories are essential.
Permalinks or permanent links are the URLs that lead to a page or post on your website. This means one website can contain several permalinks – as many pages and posts as your site has. Unlike other WordPress terms mentioned here, permalinks aren’t exclusive to WordPress. However, they are an important part of helping your site gain traffic.
Often, permalinks start with the name of your website, and then include an extension at the end to specify its endpoint. For example, atomwp.com is our domain name, and the permalink for our blog section is atomwp.com/blog/. Easy, simple, and clean permalinks are best so people can remember them. Permalinks should help describe what the page or post is about, to give readers an idea of what they can expect.
Also called shortcuts, shortcodes are designed to let people use bits of code instead of long lines of it. With shortcodes, people can use code within WordPress without writing it directly. For example, if you want to embed an audio clip in your post, the shortcode would simply look like instead of being long lines of complicated code. This lets users do more with their site, without having to learn more.
Truthfully, there are endless WordPress terms you can familiarize yourself with that will enhance your knowledge of the system. However, these are great places to start so you can begin to build on your existing experience.
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