Redesigning the WordPress Template Hierarchy

UPDATE:

Due to popular request, I’ve created some (retina-ready) desktop background versions of this template hierarchy in light, dark, and blue. Enjoy!

 

template-hierarchy-retina-light template-hierarchy-retina-dark template-hierarchy-retina-blue

 

You can also download a PDF of our WordCamp Chicago Template Hierarchy Poster here.

 

And of course, hop on over to Rami Abraham’s wphierarchy.com to see this graphic in action!

As a person with a passion for infographics and simplifying the display of data, I am always looking for ways to make information more clear. The world is filled with an ever-increasing amount of data, but this data is only useful to us if it is usable. A well designed infographic makes even the most complex ideas understandable, but a poorly designed infographic can make simple ideas needlessly confusing. It is this exact usability issue that plagues most infographics today, even within a place I seem to be spending an ever-increasing amount of my time: the WordPress Codex.

One of the most crucial pieces in understanding how to develop WordPress themes is the WordPress Template Hierarchy, the way that WordPress decides how to lay out the content based on what sort of content is being served. The Template Hierarchy, in combination with other cool functionality like Custom Post Types and Custom Taxonomies, is what really enables WordPress to have great granular content management, and create custom visual solutions for increasingly specific types of content. (for the non-geeks reading this: just trust me, it’s neat!) However, while the information compiled on the Template Hierarchy is great, the visualization of it can hinder its use due to its inability to be quickly scanned and understood. So, I decided to take it on as a personal project!

This isn’t the first time the Template Hierarchy has been revisited. The great folks at WordCamp Minneapolis put together a whimsical Template Hierarchy poster for their attendees (I have one!) that makes a great addition to any WordPress professional’s bulletin board, but the design focuses more on fun than functionality, targeting an audience that already has a deeper understanding of how it works.

My priorities in redesigning the WordPress Template Hierarchy to make it more useful as a quick visual reference were:

  • Better quick scan left-to-right readability
  • Ease distinguishing primary templates, secondary templates, and templates with a variable from the content types
  • Cohesion with the WordPress brand, including colors and aesthetics

Let me know what you think! Feel free to use it, pass it on, and leave some feedback!

29 Responses to “Redesigning the WordPress Template Hierarchy”

  1. Dusty

    Awesome work Michelle! Love how you made it easier to understand. It’s always been a great tool in the WordPress codex, but obviously could use the work to make it more usable.

    Reply
  2. Dan

    Great post! Very useful. Is there a way to add a link to download a higher resolution version for reference? The type is really small.

    Reply
  3. Aaron Holbrook

    So awesome to see someone taking a fresh, aesthetic approach to something that’s so very important (and still very confusing to many people)!

    Great job Michelle! Hope to see this on the codex soon! :)

    Reply
  4. Jean-Francois Arseneault

    Wow, finally something I can print and give to my team that actually looks GREAT! Nice job!

    Reply
  5. Serverpress

    Awesome stuff Michelle! But then, what else would we expect?

    Reply
  6. wycks

    Just a heads up , the infographic is not as accurate as the codex one because yours does not show the actual load order.

    The 404 page is first, then search, then tax, …etc, etc.

    You can see the load order here: http://core.trac.wordpress.org/browser/tags/3.5.1/wp-includes/template-loader.php#L0

    Reply
  7. David

    Thank you for doing this! Hopefully once all the bugs has been worked out it will replace the one in the Codex :)

    Reply
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    [...] Redesigning the Template Hierarchy: Thanks to my friend Michelle Schulp at Marktime Media for creating this infographic to better understand the WordPress template hierarchy. Well done, Michelle! [...]

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  11. Rami Abraham

    Hi Michelle, I like this a lot, and made an html/css version of it here (with some light embellishments): http://wphierarchy.com

    Reply
    • Marktime Media

      Wow, how cool is that?? Don’t suppose you’re coming out to WordCamp Chicago are you? :)

      Reply
      • Rami

        I wish! It was too close to other WordCamps; boss won’t pay for it. Such a great lineup!

        Reply
  12. Faison Zutavern

    I figured this would be in the WordPress codex by now, but I was surprised to still see the old clunky one. Thanks for the great redesign though!

    Reply
  13. Gloria Antonelli

    You rock! I am using your infographic in my slide show Creating Great User Documentation for WordCamp Chicago. It is an excellent example of making info more clear.

    Reply
  14. draco678

    Hi Michelle,
    This is a great diagram! Love it because it takes less time to understand the concept with this diagram as compared to the codex version. But, the title “Redesigning the template hierarchy” is misleading as the template hierarchy remains unchanged. (Refer: http://stackoverflow.com/questions/12196986/changing-wordpress-template-hierarchy). Something similar to “WP Template hierarchy illustrated in a readable format” would have been more precise!

    Reply
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    […] Marktime Media’s Graphical Version: These are a bit large and unwieldy for many contexts, but they’re really thorough and rather nice-looking to boot. If you’re a real WordPress nerd you could even use them as your desktop background. […]

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  18. RedEly

    Really cool tool. Thanks Michelle!

    Reply
  19. Owen

    OMG, thanks a lot for this. I was creating pretty good static html sites but was having the roughest time trying to translate it over to wordpress. This post definitely saved me a lot of headaches. Almost 1 week of searching, thanks a lot for this post.

    Reply
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