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What I Needed to Learn About WordPress

In the last post, I spoke about why I choose WordPress as my site’s CMS program. Along the way, I needed to learn about how WordPress worked as part of the preparation for installing and running WordPress on my main site.

First was the issue of static HTML vs dynamic pages.

Static vs Dynamic Pages

In preparation for installing and setting up WordPress for our website, I had to learn how different functions…well, function. In theory, I had the idea of how template files worked, but theory and reality are totally different things.

The first part of learning about the functions were learning their names.

Templates/Template Files

dynamic php generated page exampleTo me, a web page is made up of HTML pages and style sheets. I was now entering a new world where something called PHP pages become HTML pages and they aren’t “web pages” but template files.

In its most simplest form, a WordPress template file can generate every single web page on your site. The core template is called index.php and within it are the codes and tags that go into the database and collect information and then post it so you can see it on your site. The results are found within a generated HTML page.

Different template files can be used to create different results, and WordPress uses modular template files to break up a single document into different parts, like the header, footer, sidebar, and main content page. For more info on templates, check out the WordPress Codex article on Templates.

Template Tags

Inside of WordPress template files are bits of PHP code that go into your database and collect the information to display on your generated HTML page. These are called template tags. One example is the template tag found in the title of your page’s header. Instead of looking like:

<h1><a href="">My Website Name</a></h1>

It uses the bloginfo() template tag to generate the information as set up in your WordPress Administration Options:

<h1><a href="<?php bloginfo('url'); ?"><?php bloginfo('name'); ?></a></h1>

This is a very simple usage. The WordPress template tags are very powerful and some are flexible, allowing you to use different parameters to change the end result. I’m still learning about these, but you can find more information about them at Codex’s Template Tags.

The WordPress Loop

You will find a lot of references to the WordPress Loop in the documentation and on the WordPress Support Forum. You can probably understand what this is better than I can, but basically it is a loop of PHP code that says, if this, go do that, then if this, go do that, and go back and check again that all the conditions have been met and then spit out the web page so people can see the nice results. It uses conditional tags which set the conditions that are to be met to generate the information.

WordPress Pages

It took me a while to figure out the difference in WordPress between a page and a Page. Basically a page is a normal post created by running through the WordPress Loop, just another web page on your site. An individual Page is not so much static as it is outside of the Loop. It doesn’t grow old and stale and move from the front pages to the archives. A Page is used to create helpful web pages like “About”, “Contact”, “Site Policies”, “Site Map”, and other pages you need to flesh out your website.

So the difference between a static HTML page and a dynamic PHP generated page is that one stays the same no matter what, and the other changes depending upon what information the user inputs by their choices on the page. WOW!

To Infinity and Beyond: WordPress Plugins

WordPress Plugins are bits of PHP code which do things on your site within your WordPress setup. Some plugins help you fight spam, others add features, and others are just plain fun. There are even tutorials on how to write your own WordPress plugins, if you feel inclined. I’m still playing with these, but you can find WordPress plugins by searching the Internet or on the following sites:

For the most part, these plugins require you to do little but activate the plugin code and then sit back and watch it work. For others, you will have to venture into your index.php or other template or configuration files to make a few changes. In general, the documentation that comes with most plugins is fairly specific and easy to help you make the adjustments. And who knows, you might have so much fun messing around under the hood, you might just create some fun plugins of your own.

WordPress Themes – Quick Change the Website’s Face

A WordPress Theme is a collection of template files and a style sheet which create the “look” or presentation of your WordPress website. Last I heard, there were over 400 themes to choose from. The cool thing about Themes is that you can instantly change the look of your site with a couple clicks, or, if you are into dazzling your visitors, use a Theme Switcher that will allow the users to pick what Theme they want to see on your site when they visit.

To use a WordPress Theme, find the Theme you want and upload it to its own subfolder under wordpress/wp-content/themes/. In the Administration pages, click on Presentation. Select and activate the Theme you want to use, and then look at your site. Bingo, instant makeover. Many people are starting to get into making their own WordPress Themes and I spent a lot of time reading about how they did it so I could customize my own

Here are some sites that helped me learn more about WordPress Themes:

Now The Process Begins

With this information and the documentation found in the WordPress Codex – the online manual by my side, I began the process of transferring my site to WordPress with a new understanding of how it works under the hood. In a future post, I’ll get into the details on how I changed WordPress to make it, literally, my own. Stay tuned!

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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, member of the 9Rules Network

Member of the 9Rules Blogging Network


  1. Posted June 23, 2007 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

    How did you get the translate buttons in the sidebar to translate the blog in other languages? What plugin is it?

  2. Posted June 23, 2007 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

    That is not a Plugin, as Plugins are not allowed on blogs. It is a simple technique I explained in Instantly Translate Your Blog. Unfortunately, on blogs, it only translates the front page of my blog, not individual posts or posts that have moved off the front page. It’s very limited.

    You can find a variety of Plugins that will help you on full version WordPress blogs on Translation and Multilingual WordPress Plugins.

  3. Posted September 13, 2007 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

    Boy have i ever got a lot to learn*

    it almost seems overwhelming*

    Thx fer compiling this extensive list of Tips Lorelle*


  4. Posted January 21, 2008 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    Does a friend of mine has to log in in wp to visit me?

  5. Posted January 21, 2008 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    Hi Lorelle, thanks for all your tips and hints!

    Wondering if you can point me in the right direction? I have been searching for a plugin or method of having a “members page.” What I’d like is to have a page that registered members could access to list all the sites members, and be able to go to individual profile pages from there, similar to how its done on many forums. Any ideas?

  6. Posted January 21, 2008 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    @ KAPS:

    I will if you remove the word that starts with a C from your name when you comment. 😀 It attracts no end of related comment spam each time you comment and I’m working overtime to clean the ones that slip through out. It’s a keyword trigger for comment spammers and splogs. I’m now finding your comments and my posts on related topic splogs and scrapers. I wish I was kidding. It’s not fun.

    Okay. see WordPress Plugins for Multiple Blogger Blogs and then you will have to search for “wordpress plugin member” to find specific ones in the various WordPress Plugin directories. There are a bunch but they all do different things and I’ve never worked with any of them.

    Good luck and you are welcome.

  7. Posted January 21, 2008 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    @ Vitória:

    I don’t understand your question. If someone is visiting you on your blogspot blog, and you have it set up to require registered users access only, then everyone must log in. To comment, Blogspot requires registration, which sucks, so everyone must register on most of those blogs. WordPress and have nothing to do with blogspot.

  8. Posted January 21, 2008 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    @Lorelle I wasnt aware that the C was causing so many problems…(was it the 5 letter C or the 3 letter C?)

    I will change it over to just KAPS here and elsewhere.. who’da thunk it? Go figure.

    Anyway, I’ll give that a try and report back- thanks again, you rock!

  9. Posted January 21, 2008 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    @ KAPS:

    The 5 letter version. 😀 Thanks. And good luck with your search.

  10. michael wagman
    Posted September 13, 2008 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    Rossini, not Tchaikoivsky, wrote the William Tell Overture (Lone Range theme) re your article circa May 2007 on being aware of writing with American “idioms” and readers in other cultures…

  11. Posted September 13, 2008 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    @ michael wagman:

    Thanks for the correction. Odd that you are commenting here and not on the specific post mentioned, but thanks.

  12. shakir2
    Posted September 25, 2008 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

    hey! i am just starting and posted my first comment. ineed to learn a lot about bloging and would like to know what is url and how and where to find it. second how can i post my image from my document filte saved on my computer? Guidance shall be appreciated
    Shakir. if possible send it to my eamil address, which is much easier for me to find please.
    Thanks again,

  13. Posted November 13, 2008 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    Lorelle, this is a fantastic breakdown of WordPress and how it works. I learnt so much. Thank you so much for this post!

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