WordPress tips

In the course of putting together this web site I discovered a number of things about WordPress and websites that might be helpful to others, especially those who are, to date, innocent of such mysteries.

To oversimplify, the traditional web site is generally stationery.  To amend or add to the content of a website usually means to download the site (or part of the site) to your own computer, amend it, and then re-upload it to the web host.  In short, the traditional web site is not made to be changed every day.

Blogs are web sites that are constructed with windows in them where content, called “posts,” can be added to, amended, or deleted with great convenience.  No uploading or downloading of the site is necessary; you just enter what you want to say.  Furthermore, others can add their comments (called responses) to the ongoing blog, although the addition of responses from outsiders often required the approval of the blog owner, depending on how the blog is set up.

The frame of the blog page (the “theme”) is fixed, as are the things attached to the frame, like the logo art, calendars, and what have you, but the window for the blog is made to continually receive new material.  In WordPress, this window has limited editing tools that allow you to specify things like bold, italics, alignment, text color, and to insert pictures.  What you can’t specify, easily, is type face, type size, and placement on the page of either text or photos (but see below).

WordPress is a powerful blog software.  It can be easily used to create a web site that is essentially a blog.  Now, here’s the powerful part:  you can create blogs within blogs which are called pages.  Thus, you can have your main page (home page), with its blog on it, and then create additional blogs (pages) which are accessed by navigation buttons lined up across the top or side of the blog frame.  Each time you create a new page, a new navigation button is added to the frame.  When you go to each of your additional pages you will have the same blog frame with the navigation buttons on it (but, of course, the content of the blog window will be different), so you can navigate from page to page by means of those buttons with ease.

Here’s another powerful part, assuming you want something that looks like a web site:  you can turn off the blog so that the blog window is stationary, just like a web page.  What I did, for example, was to keep the blog aspect of the first page, and then create a bunch of other pages and sub pages with the blog turned off so that they became just stationary, informative, web pages.  I could make posts to these pages (so I was in control of the content), but no responses were permitted, so the pages looked like web pages.

One other technical point:  when you set up your WordPress blog you select a “theme,” which is essentially just the frame for the blog.   It will have different pictures, colors, and different utilities like a calendar, sports scores, etc, but still it is just the frame for your blog.  So, you simply download the WordPress software, select the theme you want to use (there are MANY to choose from), and blog on that main page and create additional pages for blogs or stationery material as needed.  It’s amazingly simple.

However, there are some important restrictions of which you should be aware.  The programming that makes the WordPress blogs possible restricts the kind of material it will accept in the blog window.  Everything is translated into XHTML which has some syntactic restrictions.  For example, repeated hard returns won’t take, so that if you are trying to coordinate verbiage with photos, you’ll find that you can have only one hard return between paragraphs.  Also, the placement of photos is restricted to left, center, and right, so that photos and illustrations are tricky to work with.  This is particularly problematic if you have in mind constructing a page where you want have tight control of formatting.

Here are a couple of tips that will give you a certain amount of control.  First of all, about the “hard returns” not taking, just enter a period and a hard return for a line you want to skip.  Then, select the color for the periods to be white.  That way, the periods go away.  Of course, if you don’t have a white background the dots will show up again, so you have to approximate the color of the background in the color specification for the periods.  It’s not a perfect solution.

Another limiting thing is that within the editing tools given for blog entries you can’t change typeface or type size.  To change type size you need to enter the xhtml code yourself.  You enter

<span style=”font-size:  1.4em;”>

where the 1.4 is the font size (around 12 points).  You increase or decrease that number to make your type bigger or smaller.  You turn off the type size specification with


As I get farther into the web site construction I’ll post more tips.  Checking with my web site helper, Mike McFerron, about the material I’ve given so far, he said:  “The problem arises when one wants to start customizing the templates.  That requires a technical proficiency beyond the somewhat GUI WordPress interface.”

Note that links can be tricky.  Best not fool with the coding and use the GUI interface where you just highlight whatever you want linked and enter the URL in the window.  Especially be careful that some coding doesn’t “take” when pasted.  The less-than/greater-than symbols, ><, in particular get changed in some of the cut an paste utilities.