Understanding WP Building Blocks
If you are new to WordPress, you've possibly been a bit confused -- and possibly overwhelmed a little -- with some of the terms thrown around inside WordPress...
This is a source of confusion for beginners, so this article will clear things up for you!
There are five (5) different components -- or what I like to call "Building Blocks" that we'll be discussing here. They are integral to why WordPress is so flexible and extensible, and the full range of these is what makes it possible to create virtually any website functions you can imagine!
In this article, I'll define each of these components, describe how they are different and show you how to use them.
By the end of this article, you'll understand the differences and...no more confusion or overwhelm!
Posts & Pages
Your basic unit of "content" in WordPress will either be a 'post' or a PAGE...
That seems simple enough, but there is a specific difference and if you're new to WordPress, you are likely wondering when to use which of these.
These are what you see everytime you visit the "Blog" on a website... It has a date, an author, and usually a "category" applied to it.
These are usually time-important -- think of news items -- and likely need to be updated over time.
Product reviews are necessarily date specific. You want to make sure the review you're reading is current and covering the most reason version of the product. At the very least, you want to know specifically if there is a newer version on the market.
New stories & current events are similarly date-specific, for the same reasons.
Online news "magazines" often feature a lot of different reporters. Most people have their favorites, and having the ability to know "who wrote what" is a way to find the latest article from your favorite writers.
In WordPress, the difference here is that there is no author, date or categorical filter. That's because WP 'pages' are typically reserved for "evergreen" or relatively static content. That's content that is not 'time-sensitive' and seldom requires updating.
The most common examples are what I call "requisite pages" on your website. These are the pages that most readers will expect to see there, or that are required to comply with various regulatory agencies.
- HOME page
- About page
- Contact page
Pages are also used for sales or 'landing pages' and various marketing-related purposes.
These are "add-ins" specific to WordPress that can be thought of as "applets" designed for a specific purpose. These are one of those components that make your website customizable!
There are a vast and bewildering number of plugins currently available...numbering in the hundreds of thousands! But that's why WordPress can meet nearly any need you can imagine!
Some of the most common plugins are:
- Social buttons
- Shopping carts
- PayPal button
- Live social feeds (think Twitter & Facebook)
These are only the front-facing ones -- the ones your website visitors see. But there are others that are helpful to you as website owner:
- Security & login protection
- Internal notes
- Editorial calendar
- Collaboration tools for teams
These are just a tiny fraction of all of the plugins that are available. Some are free, others are commercially available from a wide range of companies.
WordPress themes have a singular purpose: they control the aesthetics of your website. This includes the fonts, colors, and layout. If it has to do with "appearance" the theme controls all of it.
If you thought the number of plugins was mind-boggling in number, consider that there are tens of thousands of WordPress themes available! WordPress is exceedingly popular, and many companies are riding on the coattails of WordPress to cash in!
This isn't necessarily a bad thing, since the consumer stands to benefit from competiton in the marketplace. But it does create the dilemma for the beginner or even seasoned website owner of decision-making. How to you even know if a particular theme or theme company will be supported in the long term, and if the theme is well-coded?
The answer is... you really don't! Like anything else you have to be a savvy shopper and due your research. Read legit reviews and find companies that will stand behind their products.
One caveat regarding themes: I do NOT recommend getting a free theme, as your are running your business on this and there simply will be ZERO support should you need help! Go with a paid theme, you are paying for support!
BTW...WordPress ships with several FREE themes written by the same developers that make WordPress. They are a great solution for novice WordPress users while learning how to use WordPress, but they should not be used as a long-term solution, for the same reasons I mentioned above...and that is paid support!
WordPress widgets are another type of little "add-on: but in this case they are usually included with your theme. Some plugins also include a "widget-ized" version of the plugin.
Widgets only "work" in certain places on your website... These are referred to as "widgetized areas" basically the places for widgets! This sounds confusing but you have seen widgets on virtually every website you visit!
Think of sidebars: these are typically filled with widgets that came with the theme. They don't usually bring "new" content into the website (unlike plugins). but they serve to add existing content in a different area, like a sidebar.
Think of categories on websites... The categories already exist, as defined internally by the website owner. A typical sidebar widget adds the categories where it's more prominent for the website visistor to see. They can click on a given category and instantly be taking only to those posts.
Widgets can also be seen in footers, and sometimes in headers, depending on the current theme and what all it offers.
This is why prudent theme research pays off: check to see just how many widgets & widgetized areas are offered befor you purchase a theme!
WordPress templates are also theme-specific, and theme reliant. Templates are specialized and specific page or post formats.
Common templates may include:
- Home page versions, sometimes 3 or 4 different layouts
- Sales or landing pages
- About Us pages, usually for teams
- Video posts
- Audio posts
- Porfolios (think art and photography)
- Product galleries (think e-commerce)
- Custom "404" pages
Again, these are totally theme-dependent so you can't buy theme templates as you can with plugins and themes.
And again these optional offerings give you an idea of what to look for when reseraching a theme... Now that you know what is potentially available, you will be a better theme shopper!
Some final thoughts...
Now you know about the different components that make up WordPress!
I hope this brief discussion helps to dissolve any confusion as to what these parts do and how they integrate to make WordPress truly versatile. You're limited only be your imagination as to what you can do with WordPress!
You're also better equipped to conduct more thoughtful reserach for both plugins & themes, and to make intelligently-informed decisions about what to look for, especially when selecting a theme for your business website!
What questions do you have about these Building Blocks? Are there any tutorials you'd like to see about them? Let me know in the Comments below!