A Glossary of WordPress Terms
If you’ve been following the blog over the last few months, you already know that I build WordPress websites. I choose WordPress because it’s easy to use, even for the non-techy. You don’t have to know a lick of code to edit your own website.
But you do have to know how to use WordPress, and that involves knowing the lingo. WordPress has it’s own set of vocabulary words, and learning these is the first step in the WordPress education system.
Start here before jumping into tutorials. Seriously, it’s hard to use WordPress is you don’t know what the dashboard is.
P.S. This is just the basics. Look for more to come.
Usually I like to go in alphabetical order, but in WordPress it all starts with the dashboard.
Think of the dashboard as your home screen. It’s the first thing you’ll see each and every time you log in to your website. It displays an overview of your website in the center of the screen and a menu on the left hand side. Since this is a glossary and not an intro to the WordPress dashboard, I won’t go into all the details. Just know that the dashboard is your starting point for almost all administrative tasks–like editing pages, adding blog posts, managing plugins, etc.
The toolbar displays links to the most commonly used WordPress features. When you log in to your website, you will see it sitting at the top of your dashboard. If you visit your website while logged in, you will also see it at the top of your website. It appears only when you are logged in to your website and won’t be visible to visitors.
The toolbar makes it easy to toggle back and forth between your dashboard and your website by hovering on the house icon. You can also quickly add new posts and pages by hovering on the plus icon.
WordPress was originally created as a blogging platform, so posts are the native content type. Posts typically refer to blog posts, but they can be used for anything article-like (news, press-releases, etc). Generally, posts are displayed on a website in reverse-chronological order .
Pages are WordPress’s other built-in content type. Pages are used for static content (content that doesn’t change regularly) such as an “About” page or a “Contact” page.
Categories are a way to organize posts into groups or topics.
For example, a movie review blog might have the following categories: Action, Comedy, Drama, Sci-Fi, Romance.
You can assign categories to your posts, and visitors can filter your posts by category to see only the posts they’re interested in. You can assign multiple categories to a single post or none at all.
Tags are another way to organize posts by topic. While categories organize posts by broad topics, tags organize posts by specific topics or keywords.
For example, a movie review blog might categorize a review about Raiders of the Lost Ark as Action, but it might tag it with these keywords: Steven Spielberg, Indiana Jones, Harrison Ford.
Now, if someone reading that review wants to see more reviews for Harrison Ford movies, he can use that tag to see other posts with the same keyword.
This is a tricky term in the WordPress world. Web users have come to understand “Home” as being the front page of a website. In WordPress (because it was originally designed for blogging), the default home page displays a list of your most recent posts. This is great if you run a blog. If you’re using WordPress to build a traditional website with a “Home” page, you have to change your front page settings to display a static front page.
Static Front Page
A static front page is what we typically think of when we think of the “home page” of a website. You can create a page with the title “Home” and then change your WordPress settings to display that as your front page (instead of the default home page).
I mentioned permalinks in my Web Development Dictionary.
By default, WordPress uses “ugly” permalinks (Yep, that’s an official WordPress term!) that look something like this: www.example.com/?p=12. Ugly, right?
Fortunately, WordPress allows you to change this setting and define your own permalink structure.
A slug is the part of a permalink that identifies the page/post it is attached to. In the example below, the post slug is “the-wordpress-dictionary.”
Once you’ve changed your permalink settings, you can use your new “pretty permalinks” to create custom URLs for your pages/posts. You can do this by editing the post slug in the WordPress page/post editor.
WordPress will automatically create a slug that matches the title of your page/post, but you can change this by clicking the “edit” button next to the permalink and typing in your desired slug.
The text editor is where you enter your content when creating posts and pages. The text editor has two modes: visual and text. Visual is the default mode and mimics a word processor. It has all toolbar of options that let you alter your formatting sans code. The text editor allows you to write in HTML and requires manual formatting. You can toggle between visual and text by clicking the tabs in the upper right corner.
The media library is the storage spot for all of the images, videos, pdfs, and other files that you upload to your website. It’s accessible from the dashboard menu.
A theme is a collection of files (templates and stylesheets) that define the appearance of your website. Themes control the design, layout, and features of your website. You can completely alter the look of your website–while maintaining your posts and pages–by switching the theme.
WordPress has many free pre-made themes available. You can also buy premium pre-made themes from third-party developers or create a custom WordPress theme.
Menus are a WordPress feature that let you create custom navigation menus for your website. WordPress menus can includes links to pages, posts, categories, custom links, and more. There is no limit, so you can build an unlimited number of menus.
Plugins are small pieces of software that can be installed through WordPress to extend the features of your website. You can use plugins to add design features, like adding an Instagram feed to your website. You can also use plugins for functionality, like adding a contact form or improving your SEO.
WordPress has a very large library of free plugins available for anyone to use. You can also buy premium third-party plugins, which often come with tech support.
Widgets are probably the most difficult WordPress feature to explain, because they don’t have a single set purpose. As you get to know WordPress, they’re kind of a know ’em when I see ’em thing.
Originally, widgets allowed you to add content and features to the sidebars of your website (again, with no code). You could add a menu, a list of your most recent blog posts, categories, tags, etc.
Now, you can add widgets to any widget-ready area of your site. Widget-ready areas are defined by your theme. Some themes have widget-ready areas in the footer, so you can add a custom copyright statement. Other themes have widget-ready areas in the header, so you can add social media links.
With a large plugin library and a the flexibility of widget-ready areas, you can use widgets to add just about anything to any part of your website.