Justin Tadlock

If you were a WordPress theme developer: Page templates

I wanted to start a series here on my blog to help both myself and other theme designers. This is the “If you were a WordPress theme developer” series, which means that I will be asking various questions to get into the mindset of users.

Typically, I know what I want to add to themes, what makes theme valuable. But, I sometimes wonder what exactly users are looking for, what would add value for them.

So, you, the users, will get to be theme developers for a bit.

What this series is about

In the upcoming posts, I want for us all to pretend a few things. The imaginary theme we will be creating is a very basic template — no bells and whistles here. You’ll eventually want to modify it to suit your blog’s needs, but we’ll get to that later.

The idea behind this is that we want to make the very best theme possible without sacrificing coding standards and making a complete mess. This theme will be the base of your new WordPress-powered blog. What you want is a solid theme to build from.

I want you to think about the functionality of your theme and the content of your blog. It doesn’t matter if you want to run a family blog or a fully-featured site with 20+ authors. It’s the foundation that matters.

Page templates

In this first post, I want to cover a topic that’s been on my mind lately: what page templates should be added to a theme?

For those of you unaware of what page templates are, the WordPress Codex explains how they work.

Basically, page templates let you change the design and/or functionality of particular pages by using a special template. If your theme comes with extra templates, you can simply scroll down in your Write Page admin panel and select the template you want for that page. Everything defaults to the default template, which is page.php in your theme.

What page templates should be included in themes?

Some page templates that are really easy to make and add a little extra are:

  • Archives (listing your archives and support for plugins)
  • Authors (showing a list of all authors and biographical info)
  • Blog (for a separate blog page)
  • Bookmarks/Links (lists your bookmarks/links to other sites)
  • No Sidebar (for pages that need a little extra room)

Those are just a few ideas. What I don’t like to do is make pages that list posts from particular categories — that’s what your category archives are for! For some reason, this is one the most-requested page templates, which is usually just from a lack knowledge about how WordPress works.

Some page templates could incorporate popular plugins. Others, well…I’ll let you decide.

Think about what your basic needs are for running a site, what would really benefit your content.