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Your Ultimate Guide to WordPress Page Templates

Business

WordPress is the world’s most popular content management system. It powers something like 75 million websites. Since it’s popular, there are also plenty of plugins and themes to choose from as well.

As you set up your WordPress site, you may be wondering if there’s an easy way to apply a custom design to different pages. That’s where you need a WordPress page template.

Not sure what a template is or how to set one up? This helpful how-to guide was designed with you in mind. Once you’re finished reading, you’ll know everything you need to use WordPress templates effectively.

What is a WordPress Page Template?

WordPress designs function on page templates. In essence, these are files that tell WordPress how to style any given page on your website. When a user visits a page, WordPress looks for the most appropriate template to style the page.

WordPress requires you to use a theme. Themes include the page templates WordPress uses to style your content. Some of these themes are free, while others may be themes you’ve purchased and installed from elsewhere.

You can customize almost any theme by editing the template files. Doing so will change the look and layout of your content.

Creating a Child Theme

Before you begin editing any template files in your WordPress theme, it’s a good idea to create a child theme. This can save you a couple of headaches.

First, it protects the active theme you’re using. If your customizations don’t work the way you want, you can always switch back to the parent theme.

Next, if the parent theme is updated, your changes could be overwritten. Using a child theme protects your customizations from these updates.

Creating a Custom Page Template

One of the reasons WordPress is so popular is that its architecture is flexible. You can customize pretty much anything on your site. To customize a page template, locate the default template.

In most themes, the template for pages is pages.php. This file tells WordPress how to style pages on your website. A file called archives.php tells it how to style archive pages.

It’s often best to start by copying the existing template. This allows you to restore the original if something goes wrong. It also means you don’t need to start coding from scratch.

Once you’ve copied the template you wish to change, you can begin editing it. Make sure to modify the template header, so WordPress knows this a custom template file.

When you’re finished editing the code itself, you can upload the file to WordPress again.

Applying the Template

The point of a template is that it saves you from coding the same design over every time you want to create a new page. To that end, once you’ve customized the template, you just have to apply it to the pages you want it to appear on.

Applying templates in WordPress is fairly easy. You can edit or add a new page from your WordPress dashboard.

Once you’re on the page you wish to apply the template to, find the Page Attributes section. You should find a drop-down menu of available page templates.

Select your custom page template and save the page. When WordPress is asked to retrieve this page for a user, it will look for your custom page template to tell it how to style it.

Preview the Page

It’s a good idea to preview any page before you publish it. This is especially true if you’ve been creating custom templates for use. Preview the page you’ve edited or created to see how it looks.

Uses for Templates

Templates are an integral part of any WordPress site, but custom templates have a few important uses.

The most obvious use is displaying custom content. If you have posts with lots of graphics, you may want a customized design that will make sure your images display well.

You may also want to consider creating a customized archive page for your website.

Finally, a customized WordPress page template is key for creating unique 404 error pages. All websites need to have a 404 page, and most WordPress themes include a template for this.

The problem is cookie-cutter 404 errors are likely to lose visitors. Adding a custom page can help you keep visitors since you can provide them with ways to find what they’re looking for. You may also be able to offer them other content.

A customized 404 page also allows you to showcase your brand. Many brands have used this to great effect.

Tools Can Help

Customizing templates can result in a lot of switching back and forth between the dashboard and the front end of your site. Luckily, there are tools that can help you.

The new Block Editor and other updates to WordPress have helped make designing pages somewhat more “what you see is what you get.”

Managing your WordPress site is also easier with the use of plugins. Some newer plugins even let you manage parts of the site from the front end. That means less flip-flopping between views.

You may also be able to find plugins that help you build code or provide customizable widgets. That way, you don’t need to code everything on your site from scratch.

You can then build these elements into customized templates. Those templates can then be applied whenever you need them, streamlining the process of getting new content onto your site.

Make Your Website Your Own

Understanding what a WordPress page template is and how it works is key to working with this CMS. With a good grasp on how WordPress templates govern your site, you’ll be ready to create even more beautiful custom websites. In a world full of copycat sites, that’s nothing but good news.

Looking for more tips and tricks to help you manage your website with ease? We have plenty of how-to guides and more in the archives. Keeping up with your website has never been so simple!