The Building Blocks of WordPress

Of the three recent additions to this site, the WordPress 101 for Nonprofits page is probably the most exciting.

Why? It’s a great overview of the entire site for new users, but it also has the first Nonprofit WP infographic to help readers really grasp the component parts of WordPress.

The Building Blocks of WordPress: Five interlocking blocks from the top show the theme for design, plugins for features, media files stored on the server, the database with text content and settings, and WordPress "core" files powering the whole site.

Let’s quickly go through each piece of the WordPress tower from bottom-to-top to really understand it.

Know that like most things on this site, this graphic focuses on “self-hosted” WordPress and not For those unfamiliar with the difference, here’s our explainer.

WordPress Core

The “core” files of WordPress are what make everything else work. You can download them for free on and install on your website host.

WordPress is often described as a solid foundation for a website, and this graphic takes that description literally! It’s a foundation because nothing works without it and also because it allows you build a million variations of different designs and website features based on your needs.


The second part of a standard WordPress site installation is the database. While everyone who installs WordPress has the same “core” files, the information stored in the database is what makes the site yours. The database contains all the settings and information on your site. That means things like:

  • Your website’s timezone
  • Your username, email, password (securely encrypted!), and preferred administrative color scheme
  • The title, body field, excerpt, and publication date of your very first blog post
  • The title, caption, and alternative text for your images (Speaking of which…)


Just like each person’s database contains information that’s unique to their site, WordPress supports uploading many common types of image, video, audio, and document files for use on your website. Every file you upload, ends up in the “Media Library where it’s stored for future use.

  • Need a logo on your website? Upload it to the Media Library.
  • Putting your Annual Report PDF on the website? It goes to the Media Library!
  • Love the awesome infographic in the post? It’s in the Media Library of!

WordPress makes it easy to upload files, but make sure you keep them organized to get the most from them.


The plugins “block” actually represents a layer of lots of little blocks. Plugins are what add features to your site any time you need it to do anything that WordPress “core” can’t do on its own.

  • What to add a donation form to your website? You might use the Give plugin.
  • Are your website’s search results not good enough? SearchWP is great for that.
  • Want to add custom documentation right in the WordPress admin? WP Help works great.

There are thousands of free WordPress plugins as well as lots of good paid ones. Just make sure you carefully vet each plugin before installing it and see if there’s a recommended plugin for your need before searching yourself.


The theme of your website is the very top block since it determines how the website looks. The words you enter into the database are just little bits of data, but the theme tells them where to go (along with images), the font and font size, and how they change when viewed on a phone as compared to a desktop computer.

Unlike plugins, a site only has one theme since a website only has one design. In many ways, the theme you choose is one of the most important decisions you make, so don’t miss the guide on how to choose a theme and the list of recommended themes.

When it comes to building a website with WordPress, you need to build the most solid tower for your nonprofit so it supports your mission and activities as you try to improve the world! WordPress is a great choice for many organizations because how you put the pieces together is up to you.

New Nonprofit WP Pages Focus on Beginners

Over the past few weeks, Nonprofit WP has gained a few brand new pages filled with more WordPressy goodness.

Images, Media, & Embed

First to launch was “Images, Media, & Embeds.” This page accompanies the “Enter Your Content” section to make sure your pages aren’t just informative but are also beautiful and engaging:

Images and video are the quickest path to a beautiful and engaging website for your constituents, and WordPress gives nonprofits amazing tools to manage media. Knowing how to use the Media Library and is key to getting the most out of your site and keeping it easy to manage.

Like many pages on this site, the goal for Images, Media, & Embeds is to help new users start using WordPress with good habits. Like so many things, the technical skill can be learned, but media in WordPress requires careful application and forward thinking to be most effective.

The third section on Embeds includes one of the very best magical awesome amazing features in WordPress. (Hint: It’s the one used to make a social timeline without a plugin!)

Two New Beginner-Focused Pages

While all of Nonprofit WP targets new-to-WordPress users and less-experienced DIYers, the next two new pages focus on beginners still figuring out exactly what WordPress is at all.

WordPress 101 for Nonprofits

First, “WordPress 101 for Nonprofitstries to answers the question asked by WP Tavern, “How Do You Educate People New to WordPress?” While the website planning phase can’t be skipped, some people will want to start with a broad technical overview of WordPress. This is that overview.

The Nonprofit WP WordPress 101 page gives visitors an high-level look at the component parts of WordPress. Since this site walks users from start-to-finish of a WordPress website project for their organization, most sections of the page correspond to other whole pages of this site with deeper information. WordPress 101 for Nonprofits is so great, it’s now the first item in the menu!

WordPress & Website Glossary

Second, the “WordPress & Website Glossary” aims to help anyone who encounters a term they may not know or fully comprehend. Other visitors may choose to scan the entire page as a way to get a different type of high-level overview than the one provided by WordPress 101. This glossary came directly by request from someone who wished there was a single page just listing common terminology that may be unfamiliar to people new to WordPress or web design.

To promote easy browsing, the Glossary is divided into three sections, “WordPress Terms,” “Web Hosting & Software”, and “Websites and Web Design.” While the WordPress-specific terms are most relevant for this site, anyone building a website will want to know most of the other words and phrases as they build out their site (especially website hosting).

Finally, the new glossary helps readers distinguish terms with different meanings when used in the context of WordPress.

Pop Quiz!

If you think this sounds boring, see if you know the answers to these three questions:

  1. Do you know the difference between a “sticky” header in website design and a “sticky” post in WordPress?
  2. What’s the difference between an “archived” website and “Archive” in WordPress?
  3. Are “header” and “heading” interchangeable?

Not so sure? Better go review your WordPress, CMS, and website lingo!

What’s Next?

There are a few other pages coming down the pipeline, but a good suggestion from a Nonprofit WP user will always take precedence. If there’s a WordPress topic or skill you wish this website covered, please make your request through the contact form!

Nonprofit WP aims to be comprehensive without becoming overwhelming. Hopefully these new pages do just that.