Contemplating the Structure of Your WordPress Website

By Lisa Sabin-Wilson

A WordPress blog, in its basic form, has four main areas. These areas appear in the default theme that comes in every version of WordPress:

  • Header: This area usually contains the name of the site along with the site tagline or slogan. Sometimes, the header also contains a graphic or image.
  • Body: This area is where the main content of your website appears, such as blog posts displayed in chronological order.
  • Sidebar: This area is where you find lists of blog-related elements, such as the blogroll, the archives, and a list of recent posts.
  • Footer: This area, at the bottom of the page, often contains links to further information about the website, such as who designed it, which company provides hosting for the site, and copyright information.

These four areas are the absolute bare bones of a basic WordPress blog template. You can extend these areas and create new sections that carry more information.

The default WordPress theme is called Twenty Seventeen, and it’s a pretty doggone wonderful starting point for you, especially if you’re just getting your feet wet in web publishing.

Many themes developed for WordPress are free for public use, and it’s strongly recommended that you find one that you like and download it. Use the free themes as places to get started in theme development. Really, why reinvent the wheel? With the free themes available today, most of the work has already been completed for you, and you may find it easier to use one of these themes than to start a theme from scratch.

Each free theme available for download is different, depending on what the developer included (such as CSS styling, display options, format, and layout). Experimenting with a few themes is a fun and useful way to find out more about the development of WordPress themes. A great place to find free WordPress themes is the official WordPress Theme Directory.

To build a WordPress theme that covers the four basic areas of a website, you need these five templates:

  • header.php
  • index.php
  • sidebar.php
  • footer.php
  • style.css

Each WordPress theme comes with a stylesheet (style.css), which drives the formatting and layout of your blog template in terms of where the elements are positioned on the page, what the font looks like, what colors your hyperlinks will be, and so on. As you may have already figured out, you don’t use CSS to put content on your site; rather, you use CSS to style the content that’s already there.