Are you a new blogger, or just trying to figure out how to set up a new blog, and feeling overwhelmed by the terms and acronyms being tossed your way? What’s a widget? What’s a theme? I wrote this post for you!
Some of these definitions are original, and some are copied in whole or in part from wikipedia.
back end / front end — The “back end” is the software that provides structure and function to the site. It’s not visible to the person reading your blog. On a WordPress site, the back end is where you create pages and posts. The front end is all the pages that the blog reader sees.
captcha or CAPTCHA — This is an acronym for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart.” It’s a test to ensure that the responder is a human and not a computer. The most familiar type of CAPTCHA is one which displays distorted letters or digits on the screen, and requires the user to type those same characters into an input box.
category — Categories in WordPress are used to identify and sort blog posts according to topics. They’re useful for people searching your site, and they can also be used as a way to generate pages in WordPress. For this reason, it’s a good idea to give your categories some careful thought as you’re setting up your blog, rather than creating them randomly as you go.
For example, I used the “desserts and treats” category on my food blog to create an index of all the recipes in that category:
content — This refers to the stuff that fills up your website. While technically it may refer collectively to words, pictures, documents, video, and so forth, it’s also sometimes used to refer just to the blog posts. “Compelling content” means having information people want or essays they appreciate, written in a way that’s attractive and useful to them.
DNS — “Domain Name System.” Think of it as the behind-the-scenes phone book for the internet: it connects human-friendly domains into computer-friendly addresses that networking equipment needs to find your website. (For more detail, see this post.)
domain — As commonly used, the human-readable “address” for a given website or webpage, the part that follows “www.”: for example, “pagenamehere.com”. (For more detail, see this post. For a simpler explanation, see this one.)
domain registration — The internet equivalent of copyrighting a company name. When you register a domain, you purchase the legal right to use that particular domain name, and prevent anyone else from using it. The company you pay for this service is your “Domain registrar.” (For more detail, see this post.)
framework — A master or “parent” theme which allows you to create “child” themes: where all the functionality lives in the parent theme, and all the design code lives in the child theme — theoretically making it easier to change designs in the future. These can be timesavers for web developers who create lots of themes for their clients, but for the average blogger who’ll only ever create or update their own site, the additional time needed to learn the lingo and workings of the framework is likely to take up more time than it saves. (In my opinion.)
front end — See “back end / front end.”
IP address — Short for “internet protocol.” This is your website’s location on the internet, which is a string of numbers. eg: 123.456.89.010. When you change hosts, your IP address changes, even though your URL/domain does not. (For more detail, see this post.)
lead magnet — Not technically part of a website, but frequently recommended as a way to build your list of email subscribers. It’s something free you offer readers in exchange for their email address and possibly other information. It could be a one page list of your five best tips or your five things never to do, related to your blog topic. It could be a small e-book, a printable worksheet or set of labels, a video or music file you’ve created. (It must be your own work — no stealing!)
plug-ins — Plug-ins are bits of code that can be added to self-hosted (WordPress.org) sites, which add capabilities that aren’t already built into WP. You don’t have to actually use code, though; adding a plug-in is as simple as clicking a few links.
(Plug-ins cannot be used in WordPress.com sites.)
WordPress.org has a searchable index containing all the available plug-ins. Looking for a way to add a call-to-action to all of your posts? Go to the index and search “call to action.”
When you’re shopping for a plug-in, be sure to pay attention to how highly the plug-in is rated, how many times it’s been downloaded, and how recently it was last updated. (All this information is readily available there in the plug-in’s details page.) A plug-in that hasn’t been updated for a couple of years, for example, may not work with up-to-date versions of WordPress.
Plug-ins can sometimes cause other code in the site to break, though, so it’s a good idea to use them only as necessary, and be sure to vet them first, as described above.
SEO / search engine optimization — This refers to a variety of practices that are designed to help your website rank high in search engine results. In other words, show up on the first page of Google results. It’s a complex science, made so by the fact that Google is constantly changing the factors they consider for ranking results. This may seem unfair, but they do it to keep people from gaming the system.
Once new bloggers learn what SEO is and start reading about it, panic sets in. Never have three little letters caused so much anxiety! Let me offer you this reassurance, and a gentle warning. For the first year of your blog’s life, don’t worry about SEO. Just focus on writing for your reader, and a lot of other things will fall into place. Also, be very wary of people calling themselves SEO experts, consultants, etc. There are some legitimate ones, but they tend to be very expensive. The cheap ones usually do things that are not all that helpful, or that you could do yourself — once you’ve gotten more experienced at the other aspects of maintaining a blog.
(For a more detailed discussion, see this post: How to I get my site to show up on the first page of Google?)
tags — In WordPress, tags are used for human search and to a lesser extent, search engine purposes. One aspect that makes them useful is if you want to include words that people might use as search terms that aren’t explicitly stated in your post. For example, I post a lot of sugar-free recipes on my food blog without talking about diabetes, but I put “diabetic” and “diabetes” in the tags, in case someone is searching for “desserts for diabetics.”
theme — A theme is a pre-made set of software that changes the look and design of your blog. There are thousands of themes available for self-hosted WordPress.org sites; fewer for WordPress.com sites, but still plenty of variety. (To understand the difference between the .org and .com WordPress, see this post.) Changing from one theme to another changes how your site looks without changing any of the content. You may, however, need to adjust image sizes and other details when changing themes.
You can also make a lot of design changes without changing themes. Most themes allow you to choose multiple fonts, color schemes, background images, and more. For example, these two earlier iterations of this website both used the same theme, but swapped out the header image, the background, and the headline font and color:
As a general rule, you usually get better support with paid themes than with free ones. (Though there are exceptions, in both directions.) Always pay attention to user reviews when shopping for a theme.
Two of my favorite sources for paid themes are ThemeForest and CreativeMarket. (I get credits if you purchase via my links, without adding one cent to your cost! Thanks for helping to support this website.)
URL — “Uniform Resource Locator” or “Universal Resource Locator.” The human-readable “address” for a given website or webpage: “www.pagenamehere.com”.
widget — This is the term WordPress uses to describe little self-contained areas on your website that can appear in the sidebar, footer, and sometimes in other locations.
For example, everything in my sidebar to the right is a widget: Recent Posts, Services I Recommend, and the Hope*Writer badge are all individual widgets. The Search box below in the footer is also a widget.
WordPress has an easy drag-and-drop way to add widgets to your website. Sometimes, you may need a little code, but you can always find someone to help you with that, either in a support forum, or on YouTube.
For example, here’s a short video I found on YouTube that shows you how to add an image to a widget:
WordPress — A software system that many websites are based on, providing an excellent structure for creating everything from simple blogs to large e-commerce websites. Learn about WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org here.
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