The Ins and Outs of WordPress Semantics

Most software that is released has its own language made of words specific to the program. The same is true for WordPress. For people that are new to a program like WordPress, it may feel a bit confusing at first, trying to understand the meaning of so many new words. This article will introduce you to jargon that is specific to WordPress.

Initially, WordPress was simply a blogging platform. A blog is an online diary or journal created and managed by a person or a small group of people. The word itself was derived from the term ‘web log’. What makes blogs different from other websites is their personal nature. They express the opinions and feelings of the blog owner.

The name WordPress was the brainchild of Christine Selleck Tremoulet when one the WordPress developers, Matthew Mullenweg, expressed his wish to associate his new software with printing press. And this is what blogging is nowadays: it is online journalism. There are also corporate blogs that are publishing news and other information regarding their business. The tone in these blogs is usually more formal, but the idea stays the same: blogs are made to share content in a form of short entries.
WordPress is an open source software (OSS), which means that anyone can create new software that would improve the functionality of WordPress. Thanks to numerous independent developers, WordPress is now a complex content management system (CMS). Many developers’ contributions made it possible for WordPress to have the ability to create very different types of websites, not only blogs alone.

Semantics Related To Content

For a blog to exist there must be content. The basic building bricks in the architecture of a blog are called posts. Posts are writings and sometimes pictures and other media files the blog authors upload to the site. In short, the main blog content is composed of these posts. A post can be made of very different types of content. There are stories, news, reviews and many other different types of posts. Virtually anything that is published on a website can be considered a post. Usually posts are displayed in chronological order based on the date published. Photos, art, video, and audio content that are very common in posts are called media. Media can be used to liven up your basic post content. WordPress allows different forms of media to be inserted directly into posts.

The data within posts contain much more information than simply their core content. You can categorize and tag your posts and if you wish visitors can also leave comments to your posts. Every post in WordPress is filed under one or sometimes several categories. Categories can be independent or organized into hierarchies. There can be main categories that serve as a parent to child or even grandchild categories. Categorization is useful in navigating a site that has a huge amount of posts because it groups similar posts. Tags were created for a similar purpose. Tags are keywords within a post that make it easier for visitors to find a specific post. Unlike categories, tags are never organized into hierarchies. Both tags and categories provide a way of grouping things together and are known as taxonomies.

Such taxonomies are a part of a bigger group of data which is known as Post Meta-Data. Post Meta-Data is data that is related to each post. Besides taxonomies other examples of Post Meta-Data include the name of the author or date when a post was published. The word ‘meta’ in WordPress refers to administrative type of information providing a HTML tag that describes the post and serves as a keyword for search engines.

Sometimes you may have created a post but don’t want to publish it as of yet either because you’d like to do more research or because you lack time to finish it. You can still save your post without publishing, saving the posts as drafts. Drafts are sketches of posts that are saved but not yet published.

After the author publishes a post, readers can respond to it by using comment section. Author can in turn respond to comments and create a discussion on the topic. Comments liven up most blogs because they create a two-way communication between the author and readers.

Sometimes a blog has important information that should be much easier to find than specific posts. In order to store and display this information pages are created. Examples of a page would be the class “About Us”, “Contact Us” and similar pages that most of websites have. These types of pages inform visitors about the website and serve a different purpose than typical posts. For example, if you own a small business and have a website, you might want to create a page for your clients to leave feedback. The main content of pages is rarely updated and is always more important than a simple post. In a way, pages are evergreen, whereas posts are often related to a certain time. Pages can’t be categorized, but they can be commented on, as in the feedback page example.

Another handy content management tool is custom post type, something different from pages and posts. Custom post types can be created to add and manage extra website content such as chats, podcasts, images or video galleries and many more.

As you explore the possibilities of WordPress and read blogs created by others, it is very likely you will find some new friend blogs or inspirational blogs. You can add the links to their blogs by creating a blogroll. A blogroll is a list of links to other blogs that a blogger wants to suggest to other readers. Most blogrolls are placed either on the sidebar or footer. A sidebar is a vertical column on either the left or right side of the webpage with information related to the website. A footer is simply a section of text appearing at the bottom of a webpage.

Semantics Related To Design

In order to customize the looks of your website you need to change or create a new theme. A theme is kind of a skin for your website. WordPress themes not only change the look of the website but also give different options as to how the information on your website is presented. It is responsible for the way colors, images and text are displayed. In essence, a theme is a collection of files that are co-operating with each other to create the graphical interface for your website. All these files united are responsible for how the appearance of your website. Such files are called template files. Template files modify the way the site appears on the screen but they do not touch or change the underlying software. Themes can consist of various template files, code files, image files, style sheets and custom pages. A style sheet is a type of template file that defines the appearance of a sheet, including font, layout, spacing, etc.

The most important parts of a theme are templates and template tags which form the base of template files. Template tags are programming elements that control the architecture of a WordPress site. In other words, they are PHP-coded functions that gather the information from your MySQL database and create a HTML code which is then sent to your browser. In order to determine which template files WordPress will use when displaying a specific page, a template file hierarchy takes place. Each link on a website has a query string that decides which template will be used when displaying a page. A query string is a sequence of codes that are used to choose which dynamic data will be displayed. They contain information on the hierarchy of template files that will take action. When WordPress decides what type of page is requested in the query, it chooses templates accordingly. The process of template hierarchy in action is called The Loop.

The Loop is the very core of the WordPress software. It is the PHP code that is used for displaying posts. In order to customize and improve WordPress one should understand how The Loop works. When WordPress displays a properly formatted post on a certain page it is using The Loop. At first WordPress recognizes the files that need to be displayed and then it gather the default settings from the database. The information WordPress collects include whether the comment option is enabled, how many posts will be shown per page and many more. When the default settings are collected, WordPress checks the data the user has asked for. If the user hasn’t specified a page, post, date or category, WordPress uses the previously gathered default values to determine what each page is displaying. When that is done, WordPress uses the information from the database and displays the results in a variable. The value of the variable is used to display your templates. The whole process is called The Loop.

Over time programmers have developed numerous tools that allow changes to the way websites look and function. There are widgets, menus, background tools, header tools, post formats, plugins and other tools.

WordPress widgets are used to add content and features to the sidebars. There is a huge variety in terms of what a widget can do. Some are created to allow searching within or outside the site, others make navigation easier, others are both informative and functional such as tag clouds. Widgets are usually easy to understand and use. They can be both design elements and part of a website structure. Most of the time, they can be styled according to the preferences of the website owner.

Menus are great for navigation. They provide navigation buttons usually at the top of a website. This theme feature can be customized and is generally easy to use.

The WordPress background tools come in handy when you wish to change the background color and image. Header tools function in a similar way but instead of allowing customization of background features, it allows the customization of the header part of a website. You can use header tools to change the appearance of the top part of the website.

Post formats are another theme feature that enables modifications to websites. A post format can be used in themes to alter the way a certain post is displayed. There is a standardized list of post formats available to all themes that support this tool. The standardization of post formats makes it compatible with a huge amount of themes and allows external tools to access this feature.

One of the most complex and most interesting categories of WordPress tools are plugins which essentially extend the functionality of WordPress. The very core of WordPress is made to be stable and leans towards maximizing the flexibility of the software. Plugins are little add-ons to the core that offer customized functions and features created by users according to their needs and imaginations. Since WordPress is an open source software and anyone can create a plugin, there are thousands of plugins created by the WordPress community. There are plugins for almost any function you can imagine. There are plugins that help with SEO (search engine optimization), plugins that manage image galleries, show weather forecasts, allow you to add sliders to your websites, add feeds and many more. There are even plugins that help you to make new plugins.

Semantics Related To Administration

Next to content and design, another important part of a website are its administration tools which allow one to administer and monitor interactions with the website. For this purpose WordPress offers a set of administration panels. An administrator of a WordPress site has multiple powers such as deciding who can add new posts, if comments are enabled and if files can be uploaded to the website. An administrator is also in charge of internal and external links. They can be imported, exported, edited, added and deleted.

Administration panels are also known as administration screens which are used to access the control of website management. Every administration panel consists of sections, toolbar, header, main navigation and footer. Toolbars used to be known as admin bars. They are shown on the top of each administration panel and provide links to different administration options such as creating new posts, pages or links, adding new users, themes or plugins and more. The main navigation menu shows details about each of the administration operations that can be used. Collapse menu allows one to expand and minimize the list of these options.

A big part of a website administration is managing users. The two main categories of users are registered users and visitors. Registered users unlike visitors have filled out a registering form. They have usernames and passwords and can log into the website to get additional privileges and permissions. WordPress uses the terms ‘roles’ and ‘capabilities’ when talking about user permissions. Based on the role, each user has their own capabilities. Capabilities are permissions to do different types of tasks such as publishing and editing posts, creating pages, moderating comments and many more.

There are five default roles registered users can have: administrator, editor, author, contributor and subscriber. Each role has their own functions; none are more important than another. Sometimes there is a super admin role that grants access to all administration functions on a network scale. Administrators have all administration capabilities on a local scale. Editors are allowed to publish, arrange and edit posts, and edit pages created by them and by others. Authors can publish and edit their own posts. Contributors can create posts but cannot manage them. Subscribers are registered users that can manage only their profile.

One of the main concerns in website administration is monitoring and moderating comment sections. Comments are responses to posts that can be posted by both website visitors and website creators. They are an essential part of interaction between website creators and their readers because this interaction unrestricted. Comments often need to be monitored to avoid spam and other bad content such as links to pages that contain viruses or other illegal or unwanted content. The term ‘spam’ has many meanings but the general description is that spam is made up of bulk messages that are distributed to one or more often multiple sites. The main content of spam is usually advertising. WordPress administration comment panel makes comment moderation easier. There are several settings that can be enabled in order to prevent spam content or filter foul language. WordPress can perform various tests on comments before posting it. If a comment is identified as having spam characteristics or found to contain cursing it will not be displayed; rather, these comments will be put in a queue waiting for manual approval or deletion by moderators. It is also possible to hold every comment for moderation. If this option is selected, a comment will appear on your website only after it has been approved by a moderator. WordPress doesn’t offer a blacklisting feature because of their ‘do no harm’ policy that encourages open communication.


In the end, language is about communication. There is a saying that languages build barriers and create experts. We hope that this article has broken down some barriers and given you some insight into the WordPress language and will help you to understand and fit in the growing WordPress community. Thank you for reading and good luck with creating your own WordPress website!


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  1. Great stuff, excellent write up. I am so wonder after reading your post. Please keep it up……..

  2. Thanks for the informative post William.
    I do agree with Dennis that it would be interesting to see this broke down by segments.
    If you do a search for “real estate” are those 90% local without a location given? How
    about “chicken soup” I am guessing that 75% of those people are looking for recipes.
    Lots to think about.

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