June 22, 2010
My new WordPress clients are often confused about some of the terminology of WordPress. This makes it more difficult to communicate effectively with them about what they want from their WordPress sites and blog. So, I’ve decided to list the top 10 WordPress related terms everyone who uses WordPress should know.
Term 1: Themes
A Theme is a collection of files that create the visual look of your WordPress website or blog. Themes are kinda like ‘skins’ that you can easily download, install and start using on your site. Themes also can include some custom features to give you greater control over the presentation and functionality of your site. In general, only one Theme can be used at a time.
Term 2: Templates
In WordPress, templates are one of several specific files that control how a particular page on your site is displayed. For instance, your theme may have multiple page layouts, perhaps one with a sidebar and one without. There are also templates that control the top of all your pages including navigation, called a “header”, the bottom of all your pages, called a “footer”, and “sidebars” (see below). Templates can also be created for a specific page or post, category, and much more.
Term 3: Plugins
Plugins are a collection of files that you can download and install to add some certain functionality to your site. For instance, there are plugins for e-commerce, Search Engine Optimization, to create specific features like a calendar, or to modify how you control and operate your website. There are 1,000’s of plugins, most of which are free.
Term 4: Sidebar
A sidebar is a section of your website that generally displays the along the left or right side of your pages, but can also appear in other places, such as the footer. You can also have multiple sidebars in your site based on the templates you have.
Term 5: Widgets
Widgets are the individual blocks of content that go into a sidebar. You can easily add, delete or rearrange Widgets in your sidebars by dragging and dropping in the WordPress admin center. Many Widgets can also be edited to give you extra control over how the Widgets appear on your site. Some common examples of Widgets are simple text, recent posts, advertising such as AdSense, etc.
Term 6: Pages & Posts
Pages vs. Posts are a bit confusing and could have its own article. In general though, you want to use Pages for any single pages of content that remain in the same place on your site. Pages generally have their own navigation in WordPress and are good for pages like ‘About Us’, ‘Contact Us’, etc. You can easily select different templates for pages and they are not categorized.
Posts on the other hand are used when you will be creating multiple entries about a particular topic. You can put Posts into various Categories. WordPress will then automatically handle creating various Category pages, which will list all of the Posts in that Category, generally showing only an Excerpt of the Post and putting the Posts in chronological order. For instance, if you had a blog on Hollywood happenings, you would use Posts each time you write a new entry about some celebrity doing something stupid.
Term 7: Admin Center
The Admin Center is where you control everything about your WordPress site. To access the Admin Center you will go to a specific URL on the internet and enter your username and password. From there, you will be able to add/edit/delete Pages and Posts, control Plugins and Widgets, manage your users, and much more.
Term 8: Permalinks
How your URL’s are formed is very important to Search Engine Optimization and making your pages more memorable and understandable to your visitors. In WordPress, you can easily create Permalinks, which are a particular structure to your site. Instead of using meaningless URL’s like yourdomain.com/?p=8, you could have yourdomain.com/my-page/. You can control the permalinks for each Page and Post in WordPress.
Term 9: Tags
Tags are similar to Categories, only they are less structured. For instance, you may have a Post about your favorite Football team, which perhaps you are putting in a “Sports” category. You could also use some tags like ‘Football’, ‘Cincinnati Bengals’, and ‘Carson Palmer’. Using the tags makes it possible to have a list of Tags in your sidebar where people can click the different Tags to bring up all the Pages and Posts that have those particular tags. If you have a Search box, then the Tags are also used to retrieve results for the users specific search.
Term 10: Custom Fields
WordPress includes a way to create custom values that you assign to a particular Page or Post. Your Theme, or WordPress developer can then use those fields and values to create custom functionality on your site. For instance, you may want to be able to have a rating system for whatever you are writing about. A developer could set-up a custom field where you just enter your rating and then the system takes that information and makes a pretty display feature based on the rating you assigned. The possibilities are endless with Custom Fields and are a powerful feature of WordPress.
I hope these terms help you to better understand WordPress and how it operates. Even if you have a professional helping you with your WordPress site, you’ll be better off understanding some of the basic principles so you can be on the same page when communicating with your developer.
Best of luck!
Philip Light is the founder of the WordPress WebKit – which provides Professional WordPress Services and Educational Materials including Video Tutorials, Guides, and Resources. It’s a one-stop place for everything you need to have a great WordPress website or blog.