Dissection of a WordPress theme: Part 2

Step 3 – The header

Our design should now be fully finalised and robust enough to handle any browser thrown at it. It’s time to take a break from all this CSS activity and focus on the header.

The header is one of the few places where you have almost complete creative autonomy – photographs, adverts, Flash animations – pretty much anything you want can be placed here. One thing to remember is that the header is the first thing a visitor will see on your site, and it’s important that it attracts rather than distracts.

Let’s look at the code contained within header.php:

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd">
<html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml">
<head profile="http://gmpg.org/xfn/11">
  <meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="<?php bloginfo('html_type'); ?>; charset=<?php bloginfo('charset'); ?>" />

  <title><?php bloginfo('name'); ?> <?php if ( is_single() ) { ?> <?php } wp_title(); ?></title>

   <meta name="generator" content="WordPress <?php bloginfo('version'); ?>" /> <!-- leave this for stats -->

  <link rel="stylesheet" href="<?php bloginfo('stylesheet_url'); ?>" type="text/css" media="screen" />
  <link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" title="RSS 2.0" href="<?php bloginfo('rss2_url'); ?>" />
  <link rel="alternate" type="text/xml" title="RSS .92" href="<?php bloginfo('rss_url'); ?>" />
  <link rel="alternate" type="application/atom+xml" title="Atom 0.3" href="<?php bloginfo('atom_url'); ?>" />
  <link rel="pingback" href="<?php bloginfo('pingback_url'); ?>" />

  <?php wp_get_archives('type=monthly&format=link'); ?>
  <?php wp_head(); ?>

<div id="page">
<div id="header">
  <div id="headerimg">
    <h1><a href="<?php echo get_settings('home'); ?>"><?php bloginfo('name'); ?></a></h1>

    <div class="description"><?php bloginfo('description'); ?></div>

<hr />

The first two lines are fundamental XHTML information. We can safely leave this alone and wonder at the obscurity of the syntax.

This leaves us with:

  • Head data section (everything inside the <head> element – lines 3 to 18)
  • Opening page div (line 21)
  • Header div (line 22)

We can ignore most of the code within the <head> section. It defines our RSS and Atom feeds, and we don’t need to change it. Note we get a link to our stylesheet here:

<link rel="stylesheet" href="<?php bloginfo('stylesheet_url'); ?>" type="text/css" media="screen"/>

WordPress fills in the exact location via the bloginfo ('stylesheet_url') function so we don’t need to hardcode the path.

The call to wp_head allows plugins to add their own head data. Again we can leave this alone. The only item we might want to change is the title definition:

  <?php bloginfo('name'); ?> 
  <?php if ( is_single() ) { ?> <?php } wp_title(); ?>

The title is what you see in the window bar of the browser window.

Window bar

Here the title is set to the name of our blog – bloginfo (‘name’) – which is defined in the administration section of WordPress.

Following this is some bizarre code which doesn’t appear useful and can be boiled down to:

wp_title ();

This displays the title of the current page. By default WordPress will use the raquo symbol ‘»’ to separate the title from the other details. You can change this as follows:

wp_title ('-');

This will use a dash as a separator. If you wish, you can change the title to your own liking:

<title><?php bloginfo ('name'); ?> is a product of my imagination</title>

The title currently seems fine, so I will leave it alone.

The rest of header.php is more pertinent:

<div id="page">

<div id="header">
  <div id="headerimg">
    <h1><a href="<?php echo get_settings('home'); ?>"><?php bloginfo('name'); ?></a></h1>

    <div class="description"><?php bloginfo('description'); ?></div>
<hr />

Here you can see the opening of the div page, with the closing tag found in the footer. The page element wraps everything up – the header, content, sidebar, and footer.

Immediately in the page element we see another divheader – followed closely by headerimg. We do not have to use this structure at all, but for the purposes of this guide I will keep it. You may want to insert images or other items here.

138 thoughts on “Dissection of a WordPress theme: Part 2”

  1. I’ve gone through your tutorial several times. I get everything to work but the footer. For some reason it doesn’t appear to be applying the css from the stylesheet. Can you take a look and point out my error?

    I totally dig your work, its been a huge help so far. Thanks.

  2. I am putting up a site and have found your tutorial extemely helpful, but on my site I have this line right below my header and I can’t figure out how to get rid of it for the li8fe of me. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  3. Hi.
    You´r first themguide (part 1) is really good and easy to understand but part 2 of it did not make much changes on my blog unfortunately.
    Allthough I followed all the steps you made.
    Can it be different if it is WordPress 2.0.5?

    My headerimg from the kubriktheme didnt disapear and the margin didnt´n change. The footer did not change either.
    In step 3 the apperence of the page did not shrink either.

    I would love to learn why.


  4. […] このガイドは John Godley による「Dissection of a WordPress theme: Part 2」の翻訳で、著作権は John Godley が保持しています。このオリジナルページおよび/またはこの翻訳ページの複製には原著者による許可が必要です。- This guide is the translation of the guide UrbanGiraffe » Dissection of a WordPress theme: Part 2 by John Godley who is the owners of the copyright. Any reproduction of the original page and/or the translated page is allowed only with the permission of the author. […]

  5. Internet Explorer is aggravating me. I’ve tried everyway possible to get the sidebar to position correctly within IE, but to no avail. Of course Firefox and Safari both behave normally. I’m not sure what is wrong. I’ve pasted the style information for the content, sidebar and wrapper. Any help would be appreciated.

    #wrapper {
    border-left:solid 1px;
    border-right:solid 1px;
    margin:0 auto;
    width:expression(document.body.clientWidth #wrapper{

    #sidebar {
    border:solid 1px;

    #content {
    border:solid 1px;

  6. Bryan, all I can suggest is to make the elements smaller and see if it starts working in IE. Sometimes with a percentage width, a fixed padding/margin can confuse IE so it thinks there isnt enough space and pushes elements out of the way.

  7. This guide is what got me on the road to learning CSS. I am no designing websites commercially and fluent in CSS. Thanks for this fantastic resource – it has proved itself to be invaluable to me.

  8. hello!

    Thanks for the nice tutorial!

    Well, my site is not working completely. I think that I missed a part where to configure the approiate spacing or something in the content, because it is placing the posts not aligned with the header and footer

    Also, comment CSS is not working! 🙁

    Sorry my english!

    PD: http://futuroesplendor.mud.cl/capsulecorp

  9. Elear,

    You should give your header element the same width as your page:

    #header { width: 700px}

    It is also likely you will need to remove the left-padding from #headerimg. The same goes for the footer

  10. Thankyou for a great tutorial. Beginning with that and no previous experience of CSS I’ve made the site I wanted. The only problem is when I checked it on IE and find that the sidebar is dropping down below the posts – it displays fine in Firefox.

    Can you tell me where I start looking for the problem?


  11. I’ve managed to improve it a bit by fiddling with the percentages after reading another here comment on one of the other questions. It’s not perfect because the sidebar doesn’t sit flush right.

    Another strange thing is that the colour of the post headings changes half way down the page in IE – not in Firefox. Why would that be given that they’re controlled by the same code? Very odd…

    Thanks again

  12. Hi John,

    Thanks for this great tutorial. I bought the printable version of it and there are several differences with what’s online ("Fluidity without the breakdown, notably"). Which should I rely on?


  13. Hi,

    This is great learning material you have here, I would first like to thank and congratulate you for it.

    I think a found a minor mistake:
    In sentence “(…) pointed out yet, header.php defines the div ‘page’ which contains everything, (…)” on page 4, instead of file “hader.php” it should refer to file “index.php”.

    Thanks again,

    1. Sorry, after reading with more attention I see this is not a mistake.

      Ok, so div ‘page’ is defined in header.php file. But now my doubt is, why does the div ‘page’ contains everything, including the div ‘wrapper’, since this is defined in the index.php file in paralle with call for header.php that defined the div ‘page?

      Is it because the div ‘page’ is always on top of other user defined containers? Maybe I should get into CSS more thoroughly…


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