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I've had a few non-technical clients have a tough time with WordPress' admin UI. One of them asked me today if there were any books that could help someone like him - someone who is only concerned with writing content.

All of the WordPress books I've seen are either targeted toward developers, or have a lot of technical content. What may work best for him is a book that explains terms such as "categories", "pages vs posts", "widgets", etc.

On a side note, it would seem to me that as tools like WordPress get adopted by a larger audience - including non-web-savvy people - there's a great opportunity for a set of guides aimed specifically at content creators and not developers.

Do you know of any books that can help a non-technical, non-web-savvy person write, edit & manage the content of their WordPress-powered site?

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3 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

It's not a book but I wrote a "25 Steps to Understand WordPress and it's Terms" about a month ago in response to a question on the LinkedIn WordPress group and maybe copying it here will help? (Maybe I could every take these and turn them into a book for managers complete with screenshots; what do you think?)


25 Steps to Understanding WordPress and it's Terms

Here's a very high-level overview of terms (Note: I'm stating things that are not 100% true early in the list and leaving out some details in earlier points. Rest assured I know that some of these earlier points are not 100% correct but clarification too soon will just overwhelm the reader):

1: A "CMS"

WordPress is a "Content Management System" aka a "CMS." In other words it is a system to manage (and present) content.

2: "posts"

WordPress stores each of it's major content items in what they call "posts" (lowercase "posts" that is.) There is subsidary content not stored in a "post" but major content is stored in a "post." How do you tell if it's major or not? The person who configures the site makes that decision.

3: "Posts" & "Pages"

Out of the box WordPress has two types of "posts": "Posts" and "Pages" (Note they are Proper case. Yes this can be confusing. Just pay attention to the capitalization and realize that a "post" is like a generic "car" and a "Post" is like a "Ford Mustang.")

4: "Posts"

A "Post" is a content type that is used to store "blog-like" content. Blog-like content typically has the following unique attributes:

  1. an Author,
  2. a Date/time published,
  3. Optional Commenting.

5: "Pages"

A "Page" on the other hand is a content type used to store what appear to be "static" web pages on your site like your "About" page, your "Services" page, maybe your "Products" page, your "Contact Page" and so on.

6: "web pages"

Don't get a WordPress "Page" confused with a "web page"; practically every URL that you visit on a WordPress website generates a web page; a "Page" in WordPress on the other hand is a type of content as defined by WordPress.

7: "main menu items"

Many (most?) of the main menu items in a WordPress website typically link to a "Page" and rarely to a "Post." To access Posts via a main menu item would typically link to list of posts.

8: Lists of Posts

Your main list of Posts is typically either your home web page or your "Blog" web page.

9: "Categories" & "Tags"

You can also find website that will display a web page containing a list of Posts based on those assigned to a given "Category" or a given "Tag" (more on Categories and Tags later.)

10: "Pages", redux

A "Page" typically has the following unique attributes:

  1. An optional "Parent" Page which enables streamlined URLs like:
    http://example.com/parent-page/child-page/
  2. An optional "Page Template" (more on those in a bit.)
  3. And an optional "order" which in older versions before WordPress 3.0 was used to determine the order in menu this page's menu.

11: Shared Attributes of Posts & Pages

Both Posts and Pages share the following attributes:

  1. A Title
  2. A Content Body
  3. A Status (Published, Pending Review, Draft, etc.)
  4. A Visibility (Public, Private, Password Protected, etc.)
  5. Custom Fields (ability to associate any set of name-value pairs of information that you want to any Post or Page)
  6. A Featured Image (aka a Thumbnail)
  7. Probably more...

12: Differences between Posts and Pages Revisited

Actually, the "unique" things I mentioned for Posts and for Pages are actually shared meaning you can get (practically) everything with either post type but most of the time people use Posts as described and Pages as described and there is not a whole lot of reason not to.

13: Components of a WordPress site

Every WordPress site is comprised of (two or) three components:

  1. WordPress *"Core" -- That's what everyone who uses WordPress has.
  2. One (1) "Theme" at a time -- This is what provides a sites look and might include functionality (like a home page image rotator or a sidebar video player.)
  3. Zero (0) or more "Plugins" -- These can do almost anything but typically they add some kind of functionality somewhere such as your latest Tweets from Twitter in a sidebar or even the ability to edit specialty types.

14: "Themes"

A "Theme" in WordPress is a collection of programming scripts in the PHP language that generate HTML web pages when used, CSS files for "styling" the layout, colors, and fonts, Images used to create the site design, and probably some other files.

15: "Theme template files"

A Theme has "template files" in PHP that are used to generate the HTML web pages for the site. They are named using a naming convention and most of them are optional.

16: "single.php"

The "single.php" file it used by WordPress to generate the HTML required to display a single Post content item.

17: "page.php"

The "page.php" file is the default "Page Template" (more on them in a bit) used by WordPress to display a single Page content item.

18: "index.php"

The "index.php" is the default file WordPress uses to generate HTML if no other more specialize template file is not available. This file can generate both lists of Posts and/or it can display specific Posts Pages or Pages based on the URL that a browser uses to request a web page from the site.

19: "header.php" and "footer.php"

The files "header.php" and "footer.php" respectively generate the beginning and ending HTML for (practically) every page on a WordPress site. The HTML they generate "wraps" around the HTML generated by the other PHP files.

20: "Page Templates" (finally)

A "Page Template" is a file that is part of a Theme and it is also a special type of "template file." A Page Template allows WordPress to display different Pages with different web page layouts. For example a Theme could have two (2) different Page Templates:

  1. The Default Two-Column Page Template and
  2. A One-Column Page Template.

21: Classifying Posts & Pages: Taxonomy

WordPress provides a flexible system called the "Taxonomy" system to enable site owners and authors to classify their Posts and/or Pages (aka "posts.") You can classify posts using "Categories" or "Tags"; collectively they comprise the Taxonomy system.

22: "Categories"

A "Category" is a name that can be applied to a post to classify it. The list of Categories on a web site is typically a short list of pre-defined terms that collectively help define the focus of the site. Examples might be:

  1. "Automobiles",
  2. "Social Media",
  3. "Politics",
  4. etc.

23: "Tags"

A "Tag" is also a term that can be applied to a page to classify but Tags are typically free-form entry and are typically used to match up with the details of the post. it. Given the list of Categories from above Tags might be:

  1. "Ford Mustang", "BMW 5 Series" or "Shelby Cobra"
  2. "Twitter", "Facebook" or "FourSquare"; and
  3. "Obama", "Congress", "Tea Party."

24: List of "posts"

Using Categories and Tags you can generate HTML web pages which are list of posts using URLs like these:

For Categories:

For Tags:

25: "Parent Themes" & "Child Themes"

While WordPress can have a standalone Theme a relatively new development is what they call a "Child Theme." It sits in a side-by-side directory and references the "Parent Theme." Anything the Child Theme doesn't do explicitly WordPress delegates to the Parent Theme. This way you can "modify" a Theme provided by someone else without completely modifying it (i.e. you can often seemlessly upgrade to a newer version of the Parent Theme.

Note that anytime a Child Theme is created the Theme it references becomes a "Parent Theme" by default.) Parent/Child Themes also make it much easier to create reusable Themes and also much easier for someone new to get started; they just need to create a Child Theme of an existing Theme.

Epilogue: Whew!

Whew! I think that's about it for the basics. There is a ton more to learn about WordPress, of course, but I think this might help you better understand the terminology of the WordPress world.

Once you've digested all that, let me and the others know how else we can help you.

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That is fantastic! I think you could easily write a book with all of your well-thought-out answers here. A book for managers would definitely be something I'd recommend to all of my clients - which would mean lots of instant readers & customers right there! ;-) –  Mike Lee Sep 18 '10 at 7:34
    
+1 great list –  metal-gear-solid Nov 11 '10 at 20:38
    
@Mike Lee - Okay, once I finish my current client project I may well write that book.. –  MikeSchinkel Nov 11 '10 at 23:45
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Another "not a book, but..." answer: check out http://www.wp101.com/. Tutorial videos that cover a wide range of skill levels, from creating a post to managing comments to building custom menus. Very practical topics for someone running a WordPress site.

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+1 on the wp101 videos recommendation. Shawn is a friend of mine and the videos are very well done. –  Chris_O Sep 9 '10 at 3:54
    
@tnorthcutt: Nice suggestion! –  MikeSchinkel Sep 9 '10 at 6:05
    
Great site! Bookedmarked. I'll be sure to share that with my clients. Thanks. –  Mike Lee Sep 18 '10 at 7:34
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