We recently released a new WordPress plugin that vastly simplifies the WordPress text editor. But this plugin isn’t just about reducing overwhelm — it’s about removing options that could hurt your site! Read on for a simple guide to getting the most out of the remaining buttons – or avoiding the problem ones, if you aren’t using our plugin.
Why does formatting matter?
When people first get their hands on that shiny WordPress text editor, they often get swept up in the excitement of styling their text. “This is important, so I’ll make it red! And this part will be centered, and this part will use giant letters…”
But as fun as this is, there’s a way to use the WordPress text composer like a pro, and the benefits of doing it in that way are big:
- Better potential rankings on search engines (Search Engine Optimization)
- A consistent look across your whole website and other materials (research shows that visual consistency leads to trust)
- Better flexibility across different devices, from desktops to mobile phones
- Better accessibility for readers with a wide range of disabilities.
- Better maintainability when it comes to future site updates — that means savings!
What’s the secret sauce that provides all these benefits?
Mark your text with what it is, not what it should look like.
What does that mean?
It means that your website already has a style guide built into it, so that it knows that a subtitle looks a certain way — perhaps it is larger, bold, or a different color than the main text. So when you type in a subtitle, you only need to let WordPress know that it’s a subtitle, and the rest will be taken care of. Do not give in to the temptation to mark the subtitle text as bold, larger, centered or a different color from the WordPress editor.
Understanding the underlying structure of your webpage
Every page on the internet begins with a main title. Beneath that might be several subtitles, and beneath that, there might even be several sub-sub-titles.
- Main titles are referred to as a Heading #1.
- The subtitles beneath that are referred to as a Heading #2
- And the sub-sub-titles underneath those? Heading #3.
Here’s an example:
Notice that a Heading #3 always follows a Heading #2 — you don’t ever go directly from a Heading #1 to a Heading #3.
Your website’s template comes with built in styles for each of these headings — you do not ever need to “style” a heading with different size, boldness, color or anything else to make it stand out as a title. Your website will take care of that for you, if you simply tell it which is which.
Structuring text using WordPress
Here’s a look at the WordPress text editor.
If you aren’t seeing all the options pictured here, press this button to open the rest of the panel:
The trick now is to format your text as what it is, not some arbitrary idea of what it should look like. For that, use this dropdown, which will let you define all your section headings:
Since the title of a post or page in WordPress is always the Heading #1, you never need to use one in the content of your page.
These other buttons will help you define text as what it is, not what it should look like:
Avoid these buttons, which define how text looks, not what type of text it is — remember, your website should already provide a consistent stylesheet for how different types of text are rendered.
The only exception to the “don’t dictate how text should look” rule is bold and italic — it’s okay to use these very sparingly, so long as you are not using them on section headings.
If you’re working with us, we may have directly modified the WordPress text editor to remove the above-mentioned problematic options, so you can be sure you won’t accidentally use them. In either case, it’s still important to understand the underlying reasons for proper text formatting!
We’ve also created a free plugin that you can add to any WordPress install, to have all those extra-problematic but oh so tempting buttons removed!