Understanding the WordPress theme template hierarchy

Implement diverse website structures very easily with WordPress on-board tools

Many users do not even know that they can structure a WordPress website very individually without any plugins or programming knowledge. They consider the fact that there is much more to this than just running a blog to be too complicated to implement on their own. It is very simple, as Annette Schwindt shows in this article. It just depends on the right starting concept.

Basic terms

Before I show the various structuring options that everyone can implement themselves, I would like to clarify a few basic terms that are always confused. (If you are already familiar with it, you can jump straight ahead.)

Website and homepage

Germans like to use the word homepage as a synonym for an entire website. As the word home-page (sic!) Suggests, it is actually a single page that is used as the start page (home) of a website (that is, all pages and articles together).

For the sake of clarity, I therefore always use the term “start page” in the following.

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Website and webpage

Unfortunately, the English terms website and web page not translated consistently into German, which leads to some confusion if you don't look carefully. The term website (only with i), retained from English, denotes the sum of all websites (with ei), i.e. the web pages. While one term has been left in English, the other term is used in the translation with the same sound. Hence the attempt to hypercorrect the whole thing via the homepage instead of the website.

In this article I will speak of “website” for the whole and “pages” for the web pages.

Blog and blog post

Recently it has become more and more common to mistakenly use the word blog for a single post. But this is properly referred to as a blog post, or just a (blog) post or (blog) article and that's how I will handle it here.

Blog - Blog main page - Post page

A blog is the entirety of all the blog posts it contains, which are usually listed in reverse chronological order on the main blog page (called posts page in WordPress). As a rule, however, you do not see the complete blog post, but only an excerpt or the first few lines of it and only a certain number of the latest posts.

So the main blog page does not correspond to the entire blog. I use the term "main blog page" to clearly distinguish it from post pages filtered (e.g. by category).

Menu navigation

The links used to move from page to page on a website are called navigation or in WordPress menu. The main menu is usually located in the header or in the sidebar of a website, while submenus (such as for contact, imprint and data protection or social links) are often placed in the footer.


A feed is a stream of posts from a specific source (here: a blog or a category, a keyword or a combination of keywords from a blog). WordPress produces these feeds automatically.


In relation to blogging, the term summarizes the structural features of category and keyword.


With a theme you define the layout of your website in WordPress. It is therefore a layout template that you can assign to your website and then adjust if necessary. There are free themes and paid premium themes with advanced features.


Widgets are packages of content that can be placed in different places on a website. Traditionally, they are placed in sidebars or in the footer area, but they can also appear in the content or header area.

From simple to complex

You can bring all of these elements to use in a WordPress website in a number of ways. In the following I will go into these six variants:

  1. Purely static website
  2. Classic blog
  3. Website with news area
  4. Structure based on taxonomies
  5. Use of invisible taxonomies for external purposes
  6. Advanced via pagebuilder

In order to be able to implement these different structures, you need the following prior knowledge:

  • You should start creating custom menus (Design> Menus> create a new menu - or: Customizer> Menus> Create New Menu) be familiar.
  • In addition, you should already know how taxonomies can be implemented in the backend of WordPress (Posts> Categories or.Posts> Keywords) and how to add them to individual blog posts.
  • Last but not least, it is important to know how your own link structure is about Settings> Permalinks and that you should not change this at will, but only include it once in the concept when creating a blog.

We now come to the various use cases:

1. Purely static website with no blog

How now, purely static? WordPress is blogging software, isn't it? Yes, that was it, but it has long since developed into its own content management system (CMS), as this article will show. And just because WordPress includes the option to use a blog doesn't mean that you absolutely have to use it.

Beginners in particular often have concerns about blogging and want to start small first. The same applies to website operators who initially only want to put the bare essentials online. So that it is easier for you later, if you want to add a blog after all, it is advisable to create the website in WordPress right away, but initially only use the option for pages.

You are not dependent on the menu created automatically by WordPress, but can determine the order and hierarchy of your already created pages yourself using the above path in an individually created menu. When defining the hierarchy, it is also advisable to use when creating the individual pages Page attributes to define which pages are superordinate (Parents Pages) should be and which are subordinate to these.

To skip the blog option, delete any existing test articles or at least set them to draft. Under Settings> Reading> Your homepage shows you can also define the static page you intend to use as the start page and omit Post page simply the option - Choose - stand. This leaves the main blog page undefined.

In this way you can create a website that only consists of static pages, but for which it is very easy to retrofit a blog if necessary (e.g. http://sabria-david.de).

2. Classic blog

The case for which WordPress is probably used most often is the classic blog with the main blog page on the start page with some additional static pages for the about me page, contact page, legal notice and privacy policy. So a website that focuses on blogging. For this purpose, mainly posts (blog posts) and only a few pages are used.

The posts will be published on a main blog page. This main blog page does not have to be placed on the homepage by clicking it underSettings> Reading define as such:

The main blog page can also be placed on any other page on your website. To do this, create a blank page, name it Blog, and select it below Settings> Reading as static side out.

In order not to condemn the reader to have to scroll through complete posts on the blog's main page, you can, depending on the theme, only show post excerpts or you can show them by inserting the more tags limit in the contributions themselves. The main blog page can also be designed as a list of excerpts, depending on the theme (e.g. http://www.bettinabelitz.de),

or "magazine-like" with excerpts standing side by side and one below the other (e.g. https://mondspiegel.de/blog).

When creating the blog it is important to get started about Settings> Permalinks to choose a suitable link structure. If you blog a lot, even daily, then it is advisable to include the date (Day and name). If you blog rarely, then maybe enough Month and name or even just Post name. You should not change this structure in a blog that is already running, otherwise external links in search engines etc. will not work.

Blog posts must be given at least one category by WordPress. Keywords are optional. If you don't assign your posts to a category yourself, the posts will automatically end up in the predefined categoryGenerallywhich doesn't look very nice. Before blogging, it is better to think about a rough thematic structure of your blog as a whole, for which you assign a clear number of categories (usually not more than ten). Sub-topics can then be sorted into sub-categories and / or keywords.

Each of these taxonomies (in the case of keywords, combinations of the same) automatically produce its own feed in WortPress, so that they can be wonderfully used to filter the entirety of the posts according to certain topics. Many bloggers only use this option by showing a list of their categories and / or a "keyword cloud" in the sidebar or in the footer of the website.

3. Website with news area

Similar to 2. only with a more complex hierarchy for the part of the static pages, some company websites are created. There the blog is often called “news” or “current news” and is used to disseminate current news, while the static pages, beyond the absolutely necessary pages mentioned in 2., are devoted to generally applicable topics such as product or service overview. The division into parent pages and subordinate pages has proven its worth. As in 1 and 2, only existing pages or the main blog page are used in the main menu, while blog categories and keywords are only made visible in other menus (e.g. https://www.raumausstatter-mueller.de).

4. Structure based on categories and / or keywords

If you want to draw the reader's attention to certain topics, you don't just use categories and keywords hidden somewhere, but directly in the navigation. You can also use the main blog page as shown in 2. and 3. (e.g. https://www.annetteschwindt.de),

or leave them out as shown in 1., but still write articles that the reader then does not reach via a blog main page, but via the website menu (e.g. https://leidmedien.de).

Some themes also offer their own start page with post widgets that can be assigned depending on the taxonomies (e.g. https://melaniekirkmechtel.de).

In addition, WordPress not only provides menu creation pages to choose from, but also the option Categories. Here categories that have already been used in posts or that have been created in advance can be selected and added as menu items (WordPress uses the link structure for this http (s): //www.meinedomain.de/category/ategorame). The hierarchy in superordinate and subordinate categories can also be mapped here.

The same also works with keywords, for which there is no pre-defined selection when creating the menu, but which you can manually via Individual links need to insert. You will receive the appropriate links for this if you click on the desired keyword under an article. The default link structure used by WordPress for this is http (s): //www.meinedomain.de/tag/schlagwortname.

Whom category and Day Didn't like it in the link structure, it can be found under Settings> Permalinks> Optional customize as desired by, for example theme instead of category insert and catchphrase instead of Day.

The hierarchy of categories and keywords can also be used in the menu, for example by assigning a menu item to a category and a menu sub-item to an associated subordinate category or a keyword. In this way, structures that have evolved can also be displayed in a menu at a later date.

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5. Use of invisible taxonomies for external purposes

The structural variants shown in 1 and 4 without the main blog page can also be used in an extended form for purposes that go beyond use on your own website: As already mentioned, WordPress automatically produces a separate feed for each taxonomy. The link to this feed can not only be used in the navigation, but can also be used to write posts that are invisible to normal website visitors, but that you share externally - for example as a newsletter via plug-in, or simply individually in social media (e.g. http://www.mediation-foerdern.de/category/neues/).

To do this, simply do not use the corresponding taxonomy in the navigation and not visible anywhere else in the frontend of the website and hide the scrolling function from one post to the next under the blog posts via your own CSS (display: none;). Some themes have their own option for this.

6. Advanced via pagebuilder

If in the end you are not satisfied with the functions that WordPress alone provides, you can consult a pagebuilder like Elementor. But beware! With the changes to WordPress in the Gutenberg project, it is highly advisable to only use a page builder that works with WordPress in this regard. The same applies to themes that are not created by WordPress (Automattic) itself. Here you have to make sure that these are compatible with the Gutenberg block editor. Maybe WordPress will make some functions of page builders obsolete in the future because it offers them itself in phase 2 of the Gutenberg project (additional functions for the customizer)? Unfortunately, one can only speculate about this at this point in time.

A function that WordPress does not yet offer as standard is, for example, the placing of an introductory text in front of category pages, as is mainly used in 4. In such cases I use Elementor Pro on a specially created page, in which I first insert a text field, then a field for posts, which I filter according to the appropriate category, and in the same field activate the Pagination option in order to only be able to scroll within of the category at the end of the page (e.g. https://www.annetteschwindt.de/portraitfotos).

The category page automatically provided by WordPress, which can still be accessed via the category information under the respective assigned post, I then forward to this self-created page with a 301 redirect plugin. This also works for users who have no programming knowledge.

Further possibilities arise depending on the theme or the plugins used, which offer everything your heart desires, from the author's box to the shop. However, here too, make sure that everything works with Gutenberg. In this respect, you shouldn't make too complicated jumps at the moment and, to be on the safe side, only use themes and plugins that come from WordPress itself or from trustworthy developers who regularly provide updates.

Scheme drawings: Annette Schwindt

This article belongs to: UPLOAD Magazin 66

With WordPress you can do a lot more than some might believe - even without any plugins or programming knowledge. With the right extensions, however, things can get really colorful. We'll show you everything that can be implemented with WordPress. We also go into the "Project Gutenberg", whose brand-new block editor caused some heated discussions among users. Bonus article aside from the main focus: influencer relations in the B2B area explained using a practical example.

Tags UPLOAD Magazin 66, WordPress