Custom WordPress Website Design

WordPress File Structure Guide

Last updated January 2023

WordPress is a content management system that allows you to add, create, modify and remove website content through an admin interface. This makes operating a website easier than it was in the late 90s, early 2000s but what if you need to log into the server or move a file to the website via FTP? If you don’t upload the file to the correct folder then it may not be seen online. If you accidentally move or delete a core file then you may take down your website.

Instead of guessing, searching Google for “WordPress for Dummies” or being overwhelmed by a list of files when you log in, let’s learn how the WordPress folders are setup and what you can and cannot touch in this WordPress file structure and directory guide.


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At First Glance

When you log into your server you should see the WordPress core files similar to what the image below shows. If you do not see these files you may need to open the public_html folder depending on how your server is set up.

WordPress File & Directory Structure Guide

We won’t cover every file but will address key files, like the .htacess and wp-config.php files in the root or the top level directory of your website.

  • The .htacess file is used for your links and redirects. Codes can also be added here to help increase your pagespeed scores.
  • Wp-config.php connects your website to the database.
  • Favicon.ico, if applicable, is the tiny image in the browser tab, next to your title tab. This is not needed to make your WordPress website operational but is good to have for branding. If a visitors bookmarks your website then the favicon will appear in their bookmark list.
  • The wp-admin folder should not be touched. This folder contains all the files and code needed to display a functional dashboard for your website. Any modification to this folder could result in a broken admin area.
  • The wp-includes folder should also not be touched. This folder is similar to wp-admin and stores the rest of the files needed to run a functional WordPress website.
  • Note, you shouldn’t touch any of the files or folders listed above unless you know what you are doing.

Your Website’s Content Folder

The wp-content folder is where most of your content lives. After opening the wp-content folder you’ll see additional folders for plugins, themes and uploads. You could see more folders depending on what plugins you have installed but we’ll focus on the main three.

  • The plugins folder stores all the individual plugin files and code for each plugin installed. For example, if you install the shopping cart plugin, WooCommerce, all the files needed to make that plugin work on your website will be stored in here.
  • The themes folder stores all the individual theme files to make the layout and aesthetics of your website.
  • The uploads folder contains all the images and files you’ve uploaded to the media library in your admin dashboard.

Hopefully your website is set up well and you rarely, if ever have to log into the server to add files. On the off chance that you have to login this overview of the WordPress file structure was intended as a starting point to get you more familiar with the WordPress core files.

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