In the previous article, we explained what some of the most common WordPress terms mean and how you can build a website without the need to delve into programming and coding. We clarified what CMS, WordPress, Themes, Posts, Categories, Tags, and Pages are and how they are incorporated within a website.
Related: WordPress Basics – Part 1
Although knowing a lot about these can help you build a working website, there’s still more to the WordPress fundamentals – along with creating a site’s structure, you should also know how to enhance its functionality and visual representation. This is why in this article you will find out what Homepage, Header, Menu, Footer, Sidebar, Widget, and Plugins are and how they can help you distribute the website’s content and design a versatile navigation system.
In most cases, all these features are altogether incorporated in the site-building process and contribute not only to a more beautiful visual representation but also to a sense of orientation and control when browsing the website.
Headers, sidebars, widgets, menus, and footers appear on almost all pages on a given website and distribute its content, whereas the plugins are tools that you install to add more functionality and versatility to the admin panel. However, the browsing journey of each site starts with the homepage – the welcome place of each site. In the next section, we will find out what a homepage is, and then we will proceed with the definition of all other mentioned terms.
What is a WordPress Homepage?
The homepage (also called a front page or the main page and sometimes a welcome page) is a particular page of a given website that appears first when visitors enter the site.
Usually, the homepage provides essential information about the site’s purpose, owners, their business, and/or the products and services that can be acquired there. Along with this summary, the homepages also contain a full list of hyperlinks to the rest of the site’s pages.
A welcome page most commonly includes:
- The brand’s logo
- Navigation menu with hyperlinks
- Text content
- Media content
- Call to Action (CTA) buttons
Commonly, designers focus on creating elegant and informative homepages, as they can make a good first impression about the entire website and sometimes about the owner’s entire business too. You can achieve this by incorporating an eye-catching color scheme, beautiful images, and highly readable typography. In most cases, the goal is to find the right balance between text, media, and CTA buttons. Cramming way too much information can be overwhelming for your visitors and way too scarce details can make them revert to other websites, as well.
A general rule of thumb is to distribute the website’s content evenly among all the pages, instead of putting the majority in a single one, for example on the main page.
Adding the right information to the homepage also serves another function. Usually, website visitors get back to the welcome page once they wish to start a new task, or are lost within the site and wish to restart their session. In either case, it is important that site visitors find quickly directions for what to do and where to go, as this saves them time and contributes to a more rewarding user experience.
You should aim at the proper distribution of the page’s content. Along with the appropriate placement of text and media within a given page, this also means using two dedicated components – the website’s headers and footers. Both add one more level of versatility for you as a website creator and more convenience to your visitors. In the following paragraphs, we will find out what the website headers and footers are and how they can enhance the overall user experience.
What is a WordPress Header?
The header is a section with different components placed at the top of a webpage. Usually, in contemporary sites, the header resembles a stripe design, and with only a few exceptions, appears on all the pages and always contains the same set of information.
Headers are prevalent in modern websites, because of how efficiently they fill several fundamental roles. Since they are always placed at the top of a page, they are oftentimes the first segment your visitors see. Because of this reason, a header should provide quick access to the website’s most fundamental sections and also grant visitors essential information such as headings, guidelines, and a search box.
Indeed, the header’s most important role is to include the main menu of the website. In short, the main menu contains links to all the site’s main pages and sections and is a fundamental component of modern sites. You will discover more about the WordPress menu in the next section. As for now, we will find out two more popular uses of the header.
Along with containing the menu, the header is also a fundamental part of the overall website design. It wraps up the structure of the page and contributes to the sense of completion. You should aim to make it aesthetically pleasing and fitting to the site’s overall visual representation. Similar to the homepage, a well-designed header contributes to a good first impression and pleasurable user experience.
Along with adding information and visual effects, a header can fill in one more role – it can act as a branding tool. Businesses achieve this by including their brand logo and marketing details there and thus setting the tone to the entire website and browsing experience.
As mentioned, the main reason for including a header on your website is to incorporate the main menu within it. Menus are a fundamental part of a website because they give a sense of orientation and greatly improve the user experience of your visitors.
In the following paragraphs you will find out more about what a menu is, what it does and why is it important for your site.
What’s a WordPress Menu?
The WordPress menu (also called a navigation menu) is a dedicated set of hyperlinks that can redirect users to a certain area or page of the website. Most commonly, these links bear the names of the web pages they point to (for example, the Homepage, Blog section, About Us, Contacts), and are placed conveniently within the header. Also, it is not uncommon for designers to include menus in the sidebars and widgets.
Menus are quite an important component for your site because they give a great sense of orientation to your visitors and show them exactly where they are at any given moment and where they can go from there. This is important because contemporary websites should quickly and conveniently lead to the information a given site visitor looks for.
Also, similar to other WordPress segments, a well-designed and informative menu can contribute to an enhanced user experience and give a lasting positive opinion for the website as a whole.
Most commonly, a WordPress menu includes:
- A logo
- CTA buttons
- A list of links to the website’s main pages
- Login/Sign section
- A shopping cart
Usually, the site’s header (and the menu it contains) is designed in conjunction with the site’s footer – the bottom section of a given page which serves similar purposes. Most commonly, footers complete the design of the web pages and also contain some vital information that helps visitors quickly access a particular section. However, there are some differences between the two – in the next paragraphs, we will read more about what the footer is, what it does, and also what the similarities and differences between a header and footer are.
What is a WordPress Footer?
As mentioned, the footer is placed in the bottom section of a given web page. Just like the header, most commonly, the footer is present on almost all of the pages. And also just like the header, the footer contains a menu section that points to important information, all related to the rest of the website’s pages. The aim is to present a list of all this content in a tidy and well-organized manner.
However, unlike the front page and the header, the footer aims at different goals. First, this isn’t a component that visitors instantly notice, as it stays always at the bottom of a page. In fact, this is the last section a visitor sees when scrolling down. Second, it contains links towards more detailed and technical information about the website and its features, compared to the footer and homepage.
Usually, such content might include:
- A sitemap
- Copyright notices
- Privacy Policies
- Links to useful resources
- Links to Social Media pages
One of the most important features of the footer is that it adds consistency to both the design and the information flow on the site. This means that whenever your site visitors decide to do something but aren’t sure how to do so, they can scroll down to the footer section and search for additional information there.
Also, when experiencing difficulties finding a particular page, your visitors can quickly browse the footer and have an insight into where it is located.
However, one of the most used functions of the footer remains the inclusion of links that point towards technical information – as mentioned, the website owners place their Copyright Notices, Privacy Policies, and sitemap links there, all along with different disclaimers and other important information. Such an approach could be quite convenient for you because footers offer a clean and tidy way of storing such a large number of links and oftentimes are the most convenient section when it comes to presenting such lists in a tidy and simple manner.
In terms of design and visual expression, sometimes WordPress users overlook the importance of footers and focus their attention on designing the front page and header, along with adding proper content to the site. However, it is highly advisable that you spend time and effort to design an aesthetically pleasing footer with well-distributed menu sections –this can greatly improve the user experience and leave a lasting positive impression on your site visitors.
Alongside headers and footers, the content distribution in any site can be handled by two more WordPress components – the sidebars and widgets. Both can help you enhance the functionality of your site, and also both contribute to a better user experience. The following sections explain what sidebars and widgets are, how they are incorporated in the site-building process and what makes them preferred on-site components by WordPress users.
What is a WordPress Sidebar?
The sidebar, as the name suggests, is an area that is on the side of the main content of the page. Some WordPress themes can also display sidebars at the bottom of the page, around the footer area. Also, you can include more than one sidebar in a single webpage. The place and number of the sidebars fully depend on the design of the site, its content, and your personal preferences.
Just like the headers and footers, sidebars are prevalent among modern sites, because of their versatile character.
However, unlike headers and footers, the sidebars do not showcase fundamental information about the website. In fact, their main purpose is to display details that are not necessarily relevant to the page’s main content. Sidebars are commonly used to showcase supplementary text, buttons, images, links, menus, icons, and any combination of those to your visitors.
With a few exceptions, sidebars are always visible and oftentimes contain specific information and features that are instantly available to the visitors. The most common uses of sidebars are to navigate, highlight particular information, and further engage anyone browsing your site. Other popular uses include:
- Show information that doesn’t fit with the rest of the content on the pages
- Fill-in forms
- Call-to-Action (CTA) buttons
- Running ads
- Include links to social media and sharing buttons
- Display links to related content/articles/pages
- Add a search section
Usually, the sidebar is a complementary on-page component that is useful in specific situations. Such might include:
- Sidebars are useful within content-rich pages. These include a detailed blog section, or, for example, a gallery with numerous media items. In this case, a sidebar can stand out from the rest of the content and, for example, provide visitors with a quick and easy navigation box.
- Sidebars are particularly handy when incorporated into e-commerce websites. The online stores oftentimes feature numerous products and offers, and a well-designed sidebar can provide visitors with quick navigation through the numerous items, information about deals, dealers, cart items, current discounts, and similar info.
Usually, modern site designs include a hide/show function for the sidebars – this allows visitors to manually (and easily) open a collapsible sidebar section of a given site when they feel the need to acquire more information. This approach is particularly handy with small devices such as smartphones and tablets -due to their limited screen size, a static sidebar can take up too much of the screen and stunt the overall design and information flow within the website.
Along with the sidebars, the WordPress widgets add some more functionality to the web pages and are commonly used in conjunction with one another. The next section explains what a widget is, and how you can use these tools to enhance the user experience and engage the visitors.
What is a WordPress Widget?
In WordPress, widgets are small visible pre-built elements that provide new ways to add content to the web pages, and new ways for you to control the design and content on the pages. Usually, widgets are placed in the sidebars, however, this is not always the case – depending on the applied theme, widgets can be seen in other specific places, known as “widget areas”– headers, footers, below the blog posts and elsewhere.
Usually, each WordPress Theme comes with a pre-installed set of widgets that can be customized in a certain way. Although this number of default widgets is oftentimes sufficient for most users, WordPress has also included the possibility to expand this collection.
The main function of the WordPress widgets is to show on-page information or enhance the page’s capabilities and usually function beyond the page’s main content. The widgets can contain different navigation tools, menus, calendars, a box with the latest blog articles, an expandable list of recent comments, a shopping cart, login boxes, and additional media items. Furthermore, visitors can quickly see a photo, fill in a signup form, or, for example, see the weather report, all with the help of the WordPress widgets. The possibilities are quite abundant.
As with numerous other WordPress, widgets are highly versatile, as their layout and functionality can be greatly customized, so they can fully resemble the design approach and goals of any web page.
Also, installing, tweaking, and incorporating widgets don’t require programming skills – the great idea behind WordPress is to make it easier for non-technical people to create and maintain fully functional websites.
Beginner WordPress users oftentimes confuse the widgets with plugins. This is due to their great similarity and related functions. However, there are some vast differences between the two. Generally, the WordPress widgets are modular elements that add some precise and focused functionality in a certain area of the webpage, whereas the plugins add wider functionality to the WordPress admin panel and to the website that is not available by default. Such functionality might well include blocking malware, scanning for broken links, helping you improve SEO, and similar.
To get a deeper insight into the differences between the two, in the next section we will tell you what a WordPress plugin is and how it functions within the entire WordPress platform.
What is a WordPress Plugin?
The WordPress plugins are tiny pieces of software that can be installed on the WordPress site. They can either expand the functionalities of different default tools or add completely new features. All WordPress plugins are written in PHP and are specially designed to integrate seamlessly with WordPress.
Just like many other WordPress components, plugins are created to make the platform versatile and flexible. Because of this reason, you can add as many or as few plugins as you need and thus amend the features and functionality of your site as much or as little as needed.
As mentioned, the plugins share a lot in common with the WordPress widgets, but the two terms shouldn’t be confused with each other. Along with other differences, there’s a single big one between the two – the WordPress widgets appear and add functionality to a specific area on a given web page, whereas the plugins can add functionality to the admin panel. Usually, widgets contain additional content and are placed on certain places on a web page, whereas the plugins are most commonly used to make changes to the mechanics of the website in regards to its main purpose – whether it is a blog, e-commerce site, portfolio, a business website or anything else.
There are all kinds of WordPress plugins – some help users with managing their on-site media, others with SEO; others still enhance the online security of the entire website. Also, some plugins analyze visitors’ on-site behavior, improve loading speeds, add payment gateways, and make grammar checks. There are plugins for design customization and such for many different purposes.
At the moment, there are about 59,000 available plugins, both free and premium, so the saying “there’s a plugin for that” is quite relevant.
WordPress is a convenient site-building platform for both beginners and professionals, as it is simple to use and doesn’t require some comprehensive technical knowledge. Furthermore, by mastering even the, you can create a website from scratch, and as we already said – without the need to learn programming and computer coding.
If you are not sure where to begin, have a look at our free web hosting services and start your site-building journey today!