Explanations of some of the WordPress terminology you’ll hear developers use.
The process of designing, building and optimising websites seems to have its own special language – hence our WordPress Glossary to help you make sense of it all!
We’ve put together this WordPress glossary to explain as many of the terms that you’ll hear when talking to WordPress agencies. This A-Z contains descriptions of many of the common terms agencies use when developing WordPress sites.
An A record is one of the most basic DNS records. This takes your domain (yoursite.com) or subdomain (www.yoursite.com) and points it at an IP address (usually your servers IP address).
There can be many different A records. For example, foo.yoursite.com could point at one server and bar.yoursite.com could point at a completely different server.
This is the section of your website where you administer your post and page content.
It’s often referred to as ‘wp-admin’ and is basically the control centre for your entire website.
The black bar that sits at the top of your WordPress site when you’re logged in. This bar contains links to various admin sections and plugin functionality.
This function can be switched off in the user’s settings.
This is the highest WordPress user role. Administrators have access to every section of your CMS – from pages and posts to actual theme files.
CMS pages and sections where you administer parts of your website.
WordPress separates out content into Posts, Pages, Menus and widgets (as well as some others).
The path (URL) to a page or file.
is an absolute path whereas
is a relative path.
Advanced Custom Fields
An awesome WordPress plugin that we use on all the sites we design and build.
This is the term used to describe a link to another page. An anchor can link to an internal or external page in the same browser tab or in a new tab.
This is the text that’s hyperlinked. This anchor text is very important for search engine optimisation.
Similar to attachments in email, a WordPress attachment refers to an image or file that is uploaded to a post or page editing screen.
The file you upload when editing the post or page becomes ‘attached’ to that page.
In WordPress, both pages and posts have ‘authors’. These are the people that have access to your site. Not all websites use authors on the front-end, but it can be handy if you’ve several people writing content for your blog.
WordPress automatically saves your posts and pages as you write them, just in case you lose connection as you work.
The admin section of your website (see also front-end)
A link back to your website from another external website. If the site linking to you is a good site, this is a positive thing. If the site linking back to you is a spammy, low-quality site, it can have negative effects.
Backlinking is important in Search Engine Optimisation.
This term is used to refer to other sites that share the same server as you do that use more server resource than they should. This results in the entire server (and every site on it) running slowly or encountering problems.
Bad neighbours are one reason to avoid cheap shared hosting accounts where one server can host 1000s of websites.
Bespoke WordPress theme
This is a WordPress theme that has been created specifically for you and your website. It will have been created from scratch to do exactly what you need it to do. We generally only build bespoke WordPress sites as they are quicker, easier to use and develop for future requirements.
WordPress uses categories to organise and display posts on your site.
Categories are an important part of WordPress search engine optimisation and should be planned out carefully.
It’s best to not have too many categories on your site as each one needs to be considered and should have a focus keyword to match.
These are small files that your site stores on visitors computers to store information.
In light of the GDPR, we do recommend WordPress site owners conduct an audit to see just what cookies your site sets as you’ll need to have a page on your site explaining what you set and why to your visitors.
Comments hail back to WordPress’ roots as a blogging platform. When you create a post on your site, you can allow visitors to comment on what you’ve written.
These comments can be held for moderation before they are published on your site.
Comments do tend to attract a lot of spam bots, so we advise using this functionality carefully.
Content Management System (CMS)
WordPress is a CMS. Content management systems pretty much do as the name suggests, they allow you to manage the content of your site.
WordPress is the most popular CMS on the planet, with over 30% of sites on the internet (at the time of writing) using WordPress as their CMS.
CSS – Cascading Style Sheets
CSS is the ‘code’ that makes your site look how it looks. It is basically the ‘style’ of your site. CSS should be optimised to use as little code as possible to make your site load quickly. Poorly written CSS will inform the search engines that the build quality of your site is sub-par, which can, in turn, affect your rankings.
Custom fields extend the content section of WordPress posts and pages by allowing you to add extra sections to the editing screen of posts and pages.
They do tend to be a little clunky when used on their own, which is why we use the awesome Advanced Custom Fields plugin on all our sites.
This is a user role within WordPress. A contributor is a basic role that allows the user to log into the site and to add content. This role does not allow for publishing or altering anything other than their own content.
If you use an off-the-shelf theme and need to customise it, it’s crucial to create a child theme first. Child themes are clones of the main site theme where you can edit template files (code).
When your main theme is updated, nothing is the child theme is changed, so you don’t overwrite customisations to your site.
While child themes are great for free or paid-for themes, we prefer to create bespoke themes which don’t require a child element. It makes things simpler, quicker and in most cases, more cost-effective.
Many off-the-shelf themes can be hugely complicated, so unless you are experienced in coding, be careful when using child themes.
Your database holds all of the information that you add to your site (except files). When you add new content, pages, posts, plugins and other content, the text content and settings for these elements are stored in the site’s database.
WordPress databases can grow quite large over time, so it’s important to optimise them every-so-often to avoid slowing down your site.
When you install WordPress, it ships with its own theme. This is WordPress’ own theme and they update it each year.
Whilst this theme is great, it’s not often used to customise sites.
Stands for Domain Name System. This is how your domain name is converted into an IP address for your site. When someone enters your domain name into their browser, the DNS converts this into the IP address of the server that your website sits on.
This is a hosting account on a server that hosts your site and no one else’s. Dedicated hosting is more expensive to buy and look after, but it means that your site will not suffer from bad neighbours.
The website address of your website and part of your email addresses. DNS converts your domain name into a range of IP addresses that can point to your web server or mail server for example.
In the WordPress world, there are several editors, but this term most usually refers to the WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor.
WordPress also has other editors built-in for editing theme files and plugin files but these are generally used only by WordPress developers.
The excerpt is an important part of a post that’s often overlooked. When you have a list of posts (an archive), WordPress will generally truncate the first X words in the editor to create the excerpt, however, each post has the option to write your own post excerpt – this allows better content writing and is good for SEO.
In all things web, it’s important to keep file sizes as small as possible. For example, when uploading images to your website, they should first be sized-down to the correct dimensions, optimised and compressed to reduce their file size.
The smaller the size of all the files on your website, the quicker it will load.
You’ll often hear developers tell you ‘that file size is too big’.
This is an important WordPress template file that controls lots of functions on your website. Errors in the functions.php file often result in the WSOD, so this file should only be modified by developers.
File transfer protocol. A method of transferring files directly to the server. WordPress developers will often ask for your FTP details if they need to modify files that can’t be reached by the editor, or if they are planning on moving your site.
Every post (or page if enabled) in WordPress has the option to add a featured image. This image can then be used on the front-end of the site. This is most often used when displaying a list of news or blog posts on an archive page.
The bottom of your website. Basically where you’ll have links and other contact information. Footer is also an HTML5 tag used for semantic markup.
This is what developers call the public-facing site of your website. See also back-end.
The new WordPress editor (currently in beta as we write this) that will be the new standard editing experience in WordPress. There are mixed opinions about this major change to WordPress.
Google Search Console
A tool that is linked to your site and provides information on data about the health of your site, backlinks, search queries and more useful information.
You can also use search console to submit a sitemap to Google for indexing.
The top-most part of your webpage. Information displayed in your header is often consistent across your entire site. It’s also an HTML5 tag for semantic markup.
The main page of your website. Most of the traffic your site gets will land here first. This makes your homepage very important.
Your hosting is where your website lives. There are 1000s of hosting companies offering services from a few pence a week to 100s of pounds a month.
With hosting, you generally get what you pay for.
The cheaper your hosting package, the lower its performance will be.
If you want your website to perform well, we recommend spending at least £30-£50 per month on your hosting.
A small text file that sits in the root of your server and controls certain aspects of your website (such as 301 redirects).
An iFrame is basically a ‘window’ in your website whereby other HTML or files can be loaded in. iFrames are used for things like YouTube embeds and displaying other HTML and code. There are better ways to do this sort of thing than by using iFrames, but they are common.
An IP address is basically the numerical version of your domain name. Using DNS and A records, your domain name is ‘converted’ into an IP which is where your website lives.
A computer networking term. Localhost means this computer. When you connect your WordPress site to a database, the location of this database is often localhost – it means it is on the same computer as the site.
The loop is the core of WordPress. It is what displays the content from your database on the front-end of your site. The WordPress loop is basically a query that can be modified in lots of different ways. For example, (in English) we can ask it to:
- Show me the most five recent blog posts
- Show me 10 blog posts from the category ‘News’
- Display two blog posts with their excerpts and featured images and then show 5 more blog titles underneath
- Show me all the blog posts for the category ‘blog’ and display them as a list
The loop is incredibly powerful and flexible and is used all over your website.
This term usually means anything that you’ve uploaded to your WordPress site. Images, videos and PDFs are all referred to as media and are accessed via the media library in WordPress.
Within WordPress, you can control the settings for many different types of media, but the main one is image sizes. When you upload an image to WordPress, it can be configured to automatically generate various sizes of that image for use on the front end of the site.
You site sits on a server (computer). The more complicated your site is, the more memory it needs to do things and process tasks. WordPress has a built-in function to request a certain amount of memory allocation from your server to operate the site.
One thing that always slows down WordPress sites is when the site needs more memory than it’s been allocated.
This is often a sign that something isn’t right on your install.
Also, remember that the cheaper your hosting package, the less memory usage WordPress is going to have.
WordPress has a built-in system for managing site menus. You are able to create (navigation) menus for your site and have them display on the front-end via hard-coding or widget use. One of the great things about WordPress is the ability for site owners to manage their own menus without the need for developers getting involved.
We could write an entire essay about this one, but multisite is a different way of using WordPress. A multisite allows you to run lots of different WordPress sites from one install.
Your websites database. MySQL is an opensource database that’s nearly always used for WordPress (unless you’re trying to install WP on windows, which we’re not really sure why you would, but people do so for some strange reason).
Nameservers are part of the domain name system. Your nameservers are often controlled by the company that you bought your domain from, but it’s also possible to have them controlled by another third-party. Changing your nameserver should not be done lightly as any changes can take 24 hours or more to resolve and errors can take down your site.
Your nameservers store your DNS settings, controlling where your domain points.
Open source software is source code that anyone can inspect, modify and enhance. For most WordPress users, this also means free.
Like many WordPress companies, we take the WordPress source code and modify it to meet the needs of our client’s websites.
Unlike many WordPress developers, we also maintain the open source ethos in regard to sites we build – once our bills are paid, the site, code and all source are yours.
This is a page on your WordPress site. Pages are usually used for top-level content such as ‘who we are’, ‘what we do’ and ‘contact us’. Pages in WordPress display their content according to the template they use.
See child themes.
We talk about performance, or more accurately site performance a lot. Going to all the hassle and expense of building a new WordPress site and then not making sure it performs well can make the whole project a waste of time.
There are several types of ‘performance’ to consider:
- Is your site fast and does it load quickly – these are performance issues relating to technical factors
- Does your site maintain and improve positions in the search results – these are SEO-related performance issues
- Once you have a visitor, does this result in a sale of enquiry – these are conversion performance concerns
So the answer to how well your site is performing really depends on the type of question you ask.
We run objective site audits (there’s a free option) – if you’d like us to test your site – get a free site audit.
Permalinks are fundamental to WordPress. Your permalink structure is how the URLs of your site are organised. These need to be planned carefully and not changed often as it is the permalink structure that’s indexed by Google.
A permalink is simply a URL:
This is the script language used on your WordPress site. PHP is also open source.
This is a function built into WordPress where your install tries to alert you about links from other WordPress sites back to your site. Since backlinks (good backlinks) are important, this is a pretty handy feature.
Plugins are third-party ‘apps’ that extend the functionality of your WordPress site. They should be used sparingly, as each one increases the load time of your site. There are both free and premium (paid-for) plugins.
Great care should be taken when installing plugins on WordPress. You should always make sure they are compatible with the version of WordPress you are using.
Often, plugin developers get behind in keeping their plugins up-to-date – this is one of the most common reasons WordPress sites get hacked.
The plugin editor is an admin section that allows you to edit the source code of plugins. Its use is not recommended on live sites.
Just like pages have templates, a post can also be set to display certain types of content such as a gallery or list of links. On the sites we build, we favour custom post types over post formats as they are easier to control and manage from an administrators point of view.
These are the different types of content that WordPress can hold. They include post, page, attachment and revision as the main ones.
This is the part of the URL that follows the last slash (/) in your domain name – it forms part of the permalink and is editable inside the CMS:
When you add a post to WordPress, you don’t have to publish it straight away. Its status can be set to a range of options such as draft and pending so you or other people managing the content can organise posts for publishing.
A PHP function that does stuff such as (in English), ‘get me all the posts from December’ or ‘display 10 posts here with their featured images.
Queries make WordPress work, but the more you have on a page, the longer it takes to load and the more server resources it takes up. Queries using anything to be randomly generated should be avoided.
A small text file that sits on your server and controls access to search engine bots.
A 301 redirect tells the search engines that content has been moved permanently. Use with caution and consideration as this can have a huge effect on your placement in the search.
If you are moving your site to WordPress from an old CMS or hand-coded version, 301 redirects will help make sure you maintain rank as your old URL structure may not work in WordPress.
A theme that adapts the look and design of your website to the device on which it is being viewed. Google penalises non-responsive sites.
When you edit a post or page WordPress stores your revision in the database. These revisions can be restored, effectively allowing you to ‘roll’ your page or post content back to previous versions.
This is defined as ‘Really simple syndication’ or ‘Rich Site Summary’ and is built into WordPress. In a nutshell, your site has an RSS feed that allows feedreaders access to your content for syndication.
Your server is the computer where your website is hosted (see Hosting). Depending on what you pay for your server, it can be just your site hosted on it or you can share your server with 1000s of other sites.
Best tip – don’t scrimp on your server & hosting – the less you pay, the harder it will be for your site to perform properly.
Not strictly part of a WordPress glossary, but important just the same.
A subdomain is the first part of your domain name preceding the first dot.
www.yourdomain.com – the www is the subdomain
A domain can have lots of subdomains pointing to other servers.
This is the last part of your URL and is important for Search Engine Optimisation.
Slugs should contain keywords and should be carefully thought out to improve your rankings in the search engines.
SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer and is the standard security for creating an encrypted link between your website and the visitor. When you have an SSL certificate installed, your site will be on HTTPS and the visitor will see a padlock on their browser informing them that you’ve taken out an extra layer of security for them on your site.
Google reportedly prefers sites on HTTPS.
Sliders in WordPress usually refer to banners at the top of the page that contains two or more areas of content that slide into view – either on a timed basis or when the visitor clicks a button.
They are very popular on most websites to show important content to visitors.
Lots of sites have these. The sidebar is an area of content that usually sits to the left or right of your main text content. Sidebars generally display related content, lists of categories or other items such as calls-to-action.
The lowest level of WordPress user. Visitors can join your site as subscribers to receive automatic emails when new content is published.
In WordPress terms, spam is unwanted comments. If you have comments enabled on your site and you are getting lots of spammy ones, you can mark them as such.
You can use screen options when editing WordPress content to change the way the editing screen is laid out.
Search engine optimisation – needs no introduction, simple to say, endless complex in nature.
SEO is the process by which you try to optimise your WordPress content to rank in the search engines when users search for certain keywords or strings.
SEO is a never-ending process on your site and to do it properly, you’ll need to invest in professional tools.
At the very least, you should use the free Google Analytics and Search Console to give you some insight.
If you’re seriously thinking about improving your SEO, call us on 01295 266644 and speak to Dave or Charlotte.
Shortcodes are a built-in WordPress function that allows you to call in certain plugin functions directly into posts and pages.
Tags are part of the way in which WordPress helps you to organise content for visitors. Each post on your site can have a tag, but they should be used sparingly and must make sense to the search engines.
If you add too many tags to your content, you might be penalised in the search results.
Tags with categories. They are often explained as follows:
If your category was baking, your tags might be ‘Muffins’, ‘Bread’ and ‘Cakes.
Think of tags as a way of subdividing your categories.
The WordPress taxonomy consists of categories and tags. The taxonomy is used to organise your content.
A template is a theme file that is used to control the design and layout of your content on the front-end of your website.
We design and build bespoke themes, so our clients get all the templates they need that are designed specifically for their content.
Off-the-shelf themes have templates that are designed to try and do as many different things as possible.
This is the HTML version of the WYSIWYG editor. WordPress allows you to toggle between normal and HTML views.
Time to first byte
This refers to how quickly your server responds to a request. The quicker the TTFB, the better the server. This is one of many tests we use when auditing websites.
WordPress themes can either be really simple and quick or huge collections of files that try and enable you to manage every single aspect of your WordPress site.
There are both free and premium (paid-for) themes.
Care should be taken when choosing an off-the-shelf theme, as what might work for your site today may not in the future.
This is why we’re fans of bespoke WordPress themes.
An admin area within the WordPress CMS where you can directly edit the theme’s files. Great care should be taken in this section as you can cause problems with your site if you’re not experienced in editing HTML and PHP.
Theme frameworks are incredibly complicated themes that enable non-technical users to edit their websites and control the layout and design.
Frameworks are designed to try and cover all the bases. They are great for smaller sites but can be problematic to customise if your site requires bespoke work.
Many off-the-shelf themes come with a huge array of options. This is where you can choose fonts. colours and a range of other settings.
When you upload an image to WordPress, the thumbnail sizes control what WordPress does with the image. In general, it will keep the original size, but also create a range of copies of the uploaded image in different sizes for use on different parts of your site.
Just like your Mac or PC, WordPress has a trash (called Bin) where deleted post and pages sit before you permanently delete them
These are crucial to keeping WordPress safe, secure and running properly. One of the best things about WordPress is the built-in update feature. It will tell you when the core software, themes or plugins need to be updated to the newest versions.
Some people like to update their sites themselves, others have us do it via a support or maintenance contract.
WordPress has a range of user roles built into the CMS that control who can do what on the site.
Administrators have the most rights, followed by Editors, Contributors and Subscribers.
This gives you control over who can manage, edit and publish content.
This is the ‘other’ version of WordPress. It’s basically a stripped-down version of a self-hosted WordPress install and is designed for simple blogs.
There is a section in the admin for Widgets. Widgets are used to give you more control over what content goes on certain sections of your site without the need for coding. This is another important entry in our WordPress glossary.
They are extremely flexible and can hold a wide range of content – from images to menus.
This is a crucial file in the WordPress install. It controls lots of different settings for your WordPress site – most importantly, the details of how your site connects to its database.
White screen of death. A common occurrence in WordPress where PHP syntax errors take the site down, replacing it with a blank white screen.
Don’t panic, it’s often something that is simple to fix!
Last updated: 14th May 2018
We hope you’ve found our WordPress Glossary useful! If you feel anything is missing, just drop us a line here and we’ll add it to the list.