WordPress Glossary

When you first get started with WordPress, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the volume and variety of terms the WordPress community uses. To help, we created this WordPress glossary of the most important terms and distinctions so that you can quickly get up to speed.

By the end of this post, you’ll know the difference between front-end and back-end, how widgets and widget areas connect, what a theme framework is, and a whole lot more!

WordPress glossary: 10 common terms and distinctions

1. WordPress.com and WordPress.org

The distinction between WordPress.com and WordPress.org is one that’s confused many a newbie.

In one short sentence – WordPress.org is an open-source software offering and WordPress.com is a service built on the open-source WordPress.org software.

With WordPress.org, you need to find suitable hosting, download the WordPress software, and install it on your server. It gives you full flexibility to manage your site, choose themes, plugins, and extensions, and you totally own your data. WordPress.org also puts you in total control over your website and allows you to monetize it freely.

In contrast, with WordPress.com you simply sign up for a hosted WordPress service that takes care of site management completely. It restricts your choice of themes and plugins (unless you pay for the most expensive plan) and you do not have full control over your data, but it is a bit more beginner friendly.

ServiceOpen-source software
Hosted and managedSelf hosted
Limited choice of themes and pluginsFull freedom to choose themes and plugins
Limited control over your dataFull control over your data

If you ever want to switch, it’s not too difficult to move your website from WordPress.com to WordPress.org.

2. Blog and website

The difference between a website and a blog lies mainly in the way data is presented.

A website is a collection of pages where the content rarely changes. On the other hand, a blog is a collection of posts updated regularly with fresh content. While a website is hierarchical in nature, blog posts appear in reverse chronological order.

Usually, a blog is conversational and it encourages two-way communication with your readers. Not so with a website, which is often transactional enabling selling, form submissions and the like.

Collection of postsCollection of pages
Timely contentTimeless content

It’s easy to create a blog with WordPress. In fact, you can also add a blog feature to any WordPress website.

*Blogs are technically still websites – we’re just trying to draw a distinction between how most people use the two terms.

3. Categories and tags

Categories and tags help you add additional organization and classification to your WordPress content and are thus a very important part of this WordPress glossary:

  • Tags describe a post in a specific manner and can often be keywords relating to the post content in some way.
  • Categories are broader in nature than tags and help to group similar posts and topics together.

Usually, you want to use a single category for each post, but you can use multiple tags.

For example, if you write a sports blog:

  • “Basketball” would make a good category for all basketball-related posts.
  • “Michael Jordan” and “Chicago Bulls” would be two good tags for a post specifically about Michael Jordan.
Broad basedMore specific

If you do not categorize a post it will show up as uncategorized on your blog (though you can change it in options). However, it’s not mandatory to tag all posts. In fact, we don’t use tags here at Themeisle – only categories.

4. Front-end and back-end

In a nutshell, the front-end is that part of the website that’s visible to the public when they visit your site. The back-end is where you add new content, configure options, and decide how your front-end will look and feel.

All the pages that control your site’s options and settings are collectively called Administration Screens and make up the back-end. Only authorized users can access the back-end. They can create, delete or modify content and alter layout and design. On the other hand, any casual site visitor can view the front-end.

Mostly passive viewingActive management
Anyone can accessOnly authorized users have access
Controlled by back-endControls the front-end
What a visitor seesWhat site admins see

5. Plugins and extensions

There’s really no clear line separating plugins and extensions. You could say a plugin is a piece of software that extends functionality or adds specific features to WordPress. Extensions, on the other hand, add features or functions to specific plugins or themes.

For example, a plugin or theme author might allow other developers to add extensions to the base plugin or theme, or that developer might offer their own extensions.

Generally extends WordPress functionsUsually extends theme and plugin functions
Enables WordPress core to remain lightEnables themes and plugins to remain light
Offers additional features to WordPress usersOffers additional features to specific theme and plugin users

When developers make a plugin extensible, it allows them to keep essential functions and additional functions separate. It also enhances the scope for future development. Customers too have an option to purchase just the features they need in a plugin, with extra features bundled into extensions.

Plugins enable the WordPress core to remain lean and light. Extensions do the same for plugins (and themes).

6. Pages and posts

Pages and posts are next on our WordPress glossary. Although they’re content types that appear similar, they’re used for different purposes.

Posts make up the core of your blog and are used for updates or trending information. Each post has a publish date. On your blog, they appear in a reverse chronological order, with your latest post at the top. Posts encourage conversation with built-in comment options and you can tag, categorize, and archive posts on your WordPress blog.

Timely contentTimeless content
Arranged in reverse chronological orderHierarchical
Can be included in feedsNot included in feeds
Mostly used by writers and editorsMostly used by admins
Usually categorized and taggedGenerally not categorized or tagged

On the other hand, pages are what make up a website and contain information that’s constant over a period of time – for instance, a contact page or products page. They don’t have a public publish date and don’t appear in a “timeline” like blog posts. They are hierarchical and you can organize them in any order you want, though you cannot categorize or tag them.

7. Text editor and visual editor

WordPress offers you two different ways to create and edit posts and pages – visual and text. In the text editor, you can write and modify HTML. Using quicktag buttons, you can also wrap a piece of selected text in commonly used tags.

WordPress glossary: Pages and Posts, Text and Visual Editor

On the other hand, you cannot add or modify HTML in the visual editor. However, it has a good set of formatting options that help you get a fair idea of how your post will appear in the browser (kind of like Microsoft Word). It’s easy to switch between the two editors.

Text EditorVisual Editor
Can add or modify HTML
Cannot work with HTML
View content in text and HTML format
Removes all formatting from pasted contentDoes not remove formatting
Need to get familiar
More user-friendly

8. Widget and widget areas

Widgets are small, self-contained pieces of information that add content and features to a website. These widgets can only appear in specific predefined widget areas on the website, such as sidebar or footer. You can’t use a widget outside of a widget area.

WidgetsWidget Areas
Self contained piece of info that displays on websiteA pre-defined area in website layout to contain widget
Can exist only within widget areaProvides space for display of widget

By default, WordPress comes with some widgets (search, categories) as well as a widget area for your theme’s sidebar. Plugins and themes can provide additional widgets or create widget areas on a website.

9. Theme frameworks and builders

Both theme frameworks and builders help you build a custom website. What makes them different is the user groups they target.

A framework is intended for use by developers. It saves them the trouble of writing themes from scratch by offering some ready-made code as a start point. You’ll need coding skills to work with frameworks

FrameworkPage Builder
Intended for developersIntended for regular WordPress users
Requires coding skillsWorks by mere drag and drop and selecting options

In contrast, a builder is for use by regular WordPress users like you and me. It helps you create, edit, and customize your site layout working off a user friendly interface, using drag and drop. No coding skills are necessary, and you can pick and choose elements and control the way each element appears and functions.

10. Themes and templates

This WordPress glossary would not be complete without reference to themes and templates. A WordPress theme is a complete design for a website. A template is a single layout that’s available within a theme. A theme may contain a number of templates for you to choose from, and can also allow you to build your own custom template.

Some themes have special templates such as full-width templates for special design features.

Provides design for the entire websiteProvides design for a single page
Theme can contain many templatesReverse is not true

While a template controls the appearance of a single page, a theme applies to all the pages on a website. However, if you have the coding skills, you can create your own custom templates.

Confused by any other WordPress terms?

That rounds up our WordPress glossary. But that doesn’t mean you’re done learning!

Have another WordPress term that confuses you? Leave a comment and we’ll try to help illuminate things! We might even add it to the WordPress glossary.
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