Launching your first WordPress website can feel like learning a whole new language. So if you’re feeling like you can’t keep up, never fear. We’ve put together a list of more than 50 different WordPress terms you need to know – along with their definitions – into this handy reference article.
We hope you find it helpful as you get your site up-and-running!
WordPress Terms: Basics
According to WordPress.org, “WordPress is open source software you can use to create a beautiful website, blog, or app.” W3Techs suggests that WordPress holds nearly 60% of the market share for similar content management software programs.
WordPress websites come in two flavors: .COM sites and .ORG sites. WordPress.com websites are hosted on WordPress’s servers and offer varying features at each of the company’s four free or paid plans.
Conversely, WordPress.org websites are self-hosted and self-managed on a user’s personal WordPress hosting plan or server.
Content management system (CMS)
A content management system is a type of software that’s intended to manage digital content. In many cases, websites that use a CMS can be “skinned” with different themes in order to create a new visual look without changing any of the underlying content.
The word “blog” is short for web log. Though blogs were initially treated as personal journals, they are now commonly found on business and professional websites as well.
Web Hosting Basics
A domain name is the combination of words, numbers and letters visitors enter into their internet browsers in order to reach your site. Our domain name, for instance, is bluehost.com. Domain names commonly use the .COM, .ORG, .NET, .GOV, .CO and .IO extensions, though many other options are available.
The URL (short for “uniform resource locator”) and domain name are often used interchangeably, a site’s URL technically refers to all the components that make up its address. This generally includes a protocol identifier (such as http or ftp) and the domain name, but it may also include dynamically-generated strings of characters that provide tracking data to webmasters.
DNS stands for “domain name servers” and controls what servers an internet browser points to when a specific URL is entered. If you use separate domain name registrars and web hosting services, you will need to set the DNS records within your domain registrar’s account to point to the servers provided by your web host.
Your web host is the digital location where your website’s files are stored. Typically, web hosting is purchased through a hosting provider like Bluehost, which offers a set amount of space and bandwidth in exchange for a monthly or yearly fee.
Individual domains can be broken up into multiple subdomains for organizational purposes. In the case of the URL http://blog.bluehost.com, “blog” is the subdomain.
Subfolders (sometimes called “subdirectories”) can be used to achieve a similar purpose. They are denoted after the URL, as in the case of http://www.bluehost.com/blog.
Per Wikipedia, a cPanel is “an online (Linux-based) web hosting control panel that provides a graphical interface and automation tools designed to simplify the process of hosting a web site.”
An SSL certificate (short for “secured socket layer”) is an additional layer of security that can be used to create a secure channel between your site and your visitors’ browsers. SSL certificates are necessary to activate the padlock icon and HTTPS protocol identifier that indicate a site is secure.
A dedicated IP address is often required by web hosts to activate an SSL certificate. Using a dedicated IP gives a shared hosting account its own IP address, rather than using an address that’s shared between all hosted accounts on the server.
HTML stands for “hypertext markup language” and is the standard markup language used to create websites and web applications.
CSS, or cascading style sheets, is another web language that allows stylistic elements to be applied to HTML without editing them into the HTML itself.
RSS stands for “really simple syndication.” RSS feeds are used to enable a website’s content to be loaded into another site (such as a content aggregator like Alltop.com) or into a dedicated RSS reader (such as Feedly).
WordPress Structure & Features
A WordPress theme (or “skin”) is a design file that customizes the look and feel of a WordPress site without affecting all of the underlying content. Free and paid WordPress themes are available through both WordPress and private sellers.
A plugin is, essentially, a miniature program that can be added to a WordPress to give it some desirable functionality.
Widgets allow WordPress users to add content blocks to the widget areas built into their theme or plugins. The WordPress sidebar is one place where widgets are commonly added to manage post lists, page lists, word clouds and other features.
The WordPress dashboard is the first page you see upon logging into a default installation. It acts as a home page for your site’s back-end, allowing quick access to WordPress’s many features.
Posts, within WordPress, are typically displayed in reverse-chronological order within a site’s blog.
Pages, compared to posts, are intended to be static pages that are not displaced by newer updates, but that instead provide information that will be relevant to all site visitors over time.
Categories are groups of posts created around a central theme. Categories are self-defined and are often used in a site’s navigation to dynamically-generate blogs or content streams on individual subjects.
Tags represent an even more granular approach to blog organization. Multiple tags can be added to individual blog posts, enabling future search by both users and the site on specific tags.
Some WordPress themes incorporate the use of a featured image (typically positioned at the start of a blog post) to create a consistent look across different posts.
Your WordPress permalink settings define how your individual post and page URLs will look. Standard options within WordPress include the following, though custom permalink structures can be defined as well:
- Plain (using the post or page’s numerical identifier)
- Day and name
- Month and name
- Post name
Metadata is supplementary data that’s added to your site to give additional information to the search engines, not to your users. Common metadata fields include title tags, meta descriptions, meta keywords and image alt tags.
Standard WordPress installations give visitors the ability to add comments to your posts and pages, though this feature can be turned off if desired.
Your navigation bar refers to the series of menus users click on to access different sections and pages of your website.
Many WordPress websites make use of a sidebar that presents additional information alongside the site’s main content.
A site’s header may be small or large, but traditionally, it encompasses the site’s logo, any banners used, and any top-level navigation displayed at the top of the website, before the “meat” of a website’s content begins.
Though it’s becoming less common, many websites use series of sliding images or video clips as part of their headers to emphasize several different features. These are called “sliders.”
The website footer is the information listed at the bottom of the page. The footer is treated as its own section of the page as it is separate from the header, content, and sidebars. The footer is always coded in either HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) or CSS (Cascading Style Sheets).
A sitemap is a text-based map of every page published on the website. Often these are automatically generated, and they’re generally used more by the search engines than by website visitors.
A pingback is an automatic notification that a page on your site has been linked to by another website. Technically treated as comments by WordPress, you’ll be given the chance to approve these (and have a reciprocal link created as part of your comment stream) or deny them.
WordPress offers a role management system that restricts certain privileges according to a user’s defined role. For example, a site could have an administrator who has full access to the site’s dashboard, as well as several authors or contributors who can create and/or publish content, but not adjust your site’s setting or code.
WPBeginner defines shortcodes as:
“[L]ittle bits of code that allow you to do various things with little effort. They were introduced in WordPress 2.5, and the reason to introduce them was to allow people to execute code inside WordPress posts, pages, and widgets without writing any code directly. This allows you to embed files or create objects that would normally require a lot of code in just one single line.”
WordPress custom fields let you add extra, self-defined metadata to posts for display by your theme. The WordPress Codex gives the following example of how a “Currently Reading” custom field would be created.
A lightbox, pop-up or modal is an element that appears to display content in a window that hovers over the site’s main content.
A responsive design is one that alters the way website information is displayed based on the size of the device WordPress detects. This ensures that a site that looks good on a desktop computer will also look good on a tablet or smartphone.
Akismet is a popular, free WordPress plugin that’s used to detect and delete spam comments left on a site.
Apache is an open source program that’s the most widely-used web server software in the world.
The .htaccess file is a configuration file used by servers running Apache. Editing this file is not recommended for beginning webmasters, as mistakes made can lead to major functionality issues on the site.
FTP stands for “file transfer protocol” and refers to a method for transferring files between computers on a network.
MySQL is a database management system. Within WordPress, it’s used to store the content of your website, including your individual posts, pages, media files and comments.
Search engine optimization (SEO)
SEO is a set of best practices intended to make websites as appealing as possible to search engines in the hopes of scoring high rankings within the organic search results.
A backlink is a connection between two pages. Backlinks can be internal (between two pages on a single site) or external (between an internal page and an external website), and the number and quality of backlinks a site receives plays a role in its SEO performance.
Have more WordPress terms you’d like us to define? Leave a note below in the comments section and we’ll help you out.