WordPress Terminology for Newbies

A Far Side panel from many years ago features a man with a bucket of paint and a brush that he has used to label various objects on (presumably) his property, such as “The House,” “The Tree,” “The Dog,” and so on. “Now!” he says. “That should clear up a few things around here!”

Jargon. Shoptalk. Lingo. Patois. Argot. Whatever you call it, the use of terminology and acronyms that are peculiar to a given group is quite common. Whether it is intended merely as shortcut vocabulary, or to keep outsiders in the dark, jargon can cause a good deal of frustration and confusion to people who are new to a given field, making them wish everything were labeled (although perhaps less dramatically than that Far Side panel).

The world of WordPress has its share of peculiar terminology. Fortunately, the WordPress community welcomes newcomers and doesn’t mind sharing its collective wisdom. It can still be a bit overwhelming, though, especially for those who don’t care to dive too deeply into the programming side of it.

Here is a short list of WordPress terms you should know if you are considering building a WordPress-based website.

  • Back end: This is the administrative view of the website, where site owners can manage content and perform other administrative tasks. Only authorized users (with a username and password) can access the back end.
  • Content: Content is the stuff you put on your site, such as text, images, and video. Content should not be confused with structural components of the site, such as pages.
  • Dashboard: The dashboard is a part of the back end that summarizes information about a site by incorporating widgets (see below).
  • Front end: This is the view of the site that visitors see. It does not contain any administrative functions.
  • Multisite: The multisite feature of WordPress enables site owners to publish multiple websites from the same WordPress installation.
  • Plugin: A plugin is add-on code that integrates with WordPress for some specific task or feature. Plugins are typically developed by third parties; some developers charge for plugins and others do not.
  • Post: A blog entry; also known as an “article.”
  • Sidebar: An area on a page, typically a column on one side or the other, that enables the site owner to provide additional information or other content that is set off from the main content on the page.
  • Site: A site is the website published by WordPress or one of the several sites in a multisite setup.
  • Syndication: Syndication is a method of making new posts known to users who subscribe to a “feed,” using a protocol called Really Simple Syndication (RSS).
  • Template: A template is a file that defines the layout of a particular area on a page. A template is a component of a theme.
  • Theme: A WordPress theme is a package of files that define the overall look and feel of a site—the graphic design, color scheme, text fonts, and more. Themes include templates and may incorporate custom code for interactive features.
  • Toolbar (formerly known as the Admin bar): The Toolbar is an area of the back end interface that contains tools for common site management tasks.
  • Widget: A widget is an object, usually including code and some visual elements, that performs a specific task when incorporated into a page.
  • WYSIWYG: What You See Is What You Get. This term describes the “rich text” editor feature that enables you to compose and format text in a single interface; what you see in the editor is (approximately) what a site visitor would see.

This is just a sampling of the terminology familiar to the WordPress community; the community maintains a complete WordPress glossary that includes many other terms. If you are building a WordPress site, being familiar with these terms will enable you to have an intelligent conversation with your web designer and developer about the best way to implement your ideas. But don’t worry—they will be happy to help you with anything you don’t know…without using a paint brush.