WordPress and CSS for Beginners

css-featuredA lot of people use WordPress these days to build websites. It makes it fairly easy for people to do it themselves, but sometimes when these people are adding content, such as new pages or posts, they have difficulty formatting the look of the page. This is where a little knowledge of CSS can come in handy. CSS is an acronym for Cascading Style Sheets. It controls the presentation of the HTML elements and tags.

What this knowledge does, is it frees you from the confines of the markup, that is already established in the  theme you are using. You may want to change the color of the text, add some highlights, adjust a link, or move images to different locations on the page. You may wish to have a border around the image, more space, or have it aligned differently so the text flows around it a little better.

Dr. Andy Williams book, CSS for Beginners, walks you through learning to use CSS. It's a good starting point. The book is being offered for free today as part of an Amazon promotion. If you don't get it today, you can buy it later. It's only $3.84, so it won't break the bank.

There is something I'd like to discuss, that wasn't referenced in the book and that's inline styles. Dr. Williams talks about editing an external stylesheet. While it's quite possible to do this in WordPress, there may be times you don't need to edit the stylesheet. You can add the CSS to various elements and tags using inline styles. You would want to use this method for a specific page of content that you're trying to format better. If you edit the main theme stylesheet, then there is a good chance that whatever changes you make will have a global effect on the theme and affect other pages and posts too.

Of course, you could always add new classes and selectors to the external sheet, but if you're new to all of this, you might just want to leave it alone. There is the potential to do a lot of damage to your WordPress installation, and if you aren't sure of what you're doing, you may have to hire someone to fix it later on.

Using inline styles takes priority over other styles that have already been set for an element or tag. You add the CSS directly to the tag or element itself. After you have read CSS for Beginners, have a look at this page on W3Schools.com to understand how you can apply what you learned in the book, to the page or post you're trying to format a little better.

Now let's switch gears here. Suppose you wanted all of the pages and posts in WordPress to have a different color for headlines. It is possible to load the external styles sheet into a window to edit by choosing appearance/editor from your dashboard. But, sometimes the permissions don't get set properly when the external stylesheet has been installed. In order to save the changes, the permissions on the file have to be set so that you are allowed to write to it. If these permission haven't been set properly, any changes you make in the editor window won't be saved. Of course you can test whether this is the case or not, by making a minor change to one of the elements, saving it, and then viewing a page or post that would reflect the changes.

Still, even if the file does have the proper permissions set and you can make changes, you would be well advised to FTP into the blog and download a copy of the stylesheet so you have a backup should things go horribly wrong. FTP is an acronym for File Transfer Protocol which is how actual files are uploaded and downloaded from your website.

A good, free FTP client software for Windows, is Core FTP LE  -- and there is a free PDF file you can download from here, that will show you how to install and use it. If you decide to do this, I can't reiterate enough how important it is, to always make sure you have a backup of the file(s) you are going to work with.

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