In 2005, WordPress became modular separating the design and architecture from the core programming code.
Today, a WordPress Theme contains files called template files that hold the architecture of the site and template tags, code that initiates actions within the site and data from the database. The design is applied through a stylesheet, holding the instructions for the colors, images, and look and feel of the entire site.
This tutorial covers the basics of the structure of a WordPress Theme and standard customization options.
The Structure of a WordPress Site
Like all websites today, a WordPress site contains a background area, header, sidebar(s), content area, and footer.
The background area is considered the canvas that the site’s structural and design elements rest. It is usually a solid color, pattern, texture, or a design that does not overwhelm the rest of the content and design elements.
The header area content is set from within the WordPress Administration Panels through the Settings > General for the site title and site tagline.
The header art image is set from within the Appearance > Custom Header Image. WordPress now permits a wide range of images and image sizes to be used as the custom header image, and permits some level of cropping and positioning.
The sidebar(s) contain navigation, information, and design elements that complement the site’s purpose and content. In WordPress, this information is held in WordPress Widgets, modular content elements that can be moved around in the various sidebars, footers, and occasionally the header area. These are accessed and modified in Appearance > Widgets.
The footer is located at the bottom of the site. It usually features the name of the WordPress Theme and its author to give them credit, and the words “Powered By WordPress” with a link to WordPress or WordPress.com. It may also feature footer Widgets accessed through Appearance > Widgets > Footer.
The content area holds the content of the page depending upon the request of the user to view the front page, a Page, a single post, a search, categories, tags, author posts, archives, and other multiple post pageviews.
The Pageviews of WordPress
Pageviews are the different views of a web page based upon the content requested by the user.
Here is a list of the basic pageviews found on WordPress.
Front Page: This is the front page of the site. Posts on the front page of the site are displayed in reverse chronology. It may be styled the same or differently from the rest of the site based upon the WordPress Theme’s specifications.
Single Post Pageview: This is the view of a single post on the site. It may look the same or different from the rest of the pageviews.
Single Page Pageview: This is the view of a single Page, the pseudo-static content of WordPress. It may look the same or different from the rest of the pageviews.
Multi-post Pageviews: The following are known as multi-post pageviews or multiple post pageviews. The pageviews feature links to multiple posts displayed in reverse chronological order. Some WordPress Themes feature the option to add descriptive text to various multi-post pageviews. The posts may be featured by post title only, post title and excerpt of the post, or the whole post dependent upon the WordPress Theme and administrator specifications.
Category Pageview: This is the view of the posts within a specific category. It generally features more than one page with older and newer entries navigation at the bottom of the page. If the Theme permits it, the category pageview will display the description of the category set in the Category Panel.
Tag Pageview: This is the view of the posts within a specific tag, a descriptive keyword representing the index words of the site. It generally features more than one page with older and newer entries navigation at the bottom of the page.
Author Pageview: This is the view of the posts by a specific author. It generally features more than one page with older and newer entries navigation at the bottom of the page. If there is only one author on a site, there may not be a visible link to the author within the WordPress Theme. Some Themes are designed to show an author byline with a link to the author pageviews when a second author is added to the site. If the Theme permits it, the author pageview will display the description of the author set in the Profile Panel for that author.
Search Pageview: This is the view of posts generated by a search on the site. Most WordPress sites use the default search built into WordPress. Some sites integrate Google or another search engine into their site to generate search results.
Archive Pageview: This is the view of the posts by a specific date, typically by month though it can be displayed by day, week, month, or year.