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Style Different Categories in Your WordPress Site Differently Using CSS

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What You'll Be Creating

In the previous tutorial I showed you how to style the posts on your main blog page according to their category, creating color coding by category.

A lot of sites that use this technique also take it further by adding distinct styling to each section of their site, in a way that co-ordinates with the styling on the main blog page or home page. You can just use a simple color scheme or add completely different styling to each section, maybe with a different logo or branding for different parts of your organisation, or even a different layout.

An example is the London Times website, which uses a different color for each section of its site. The front page uses these colors in a banner above each post, as shown in the screenshot:

Times website screenshotTimes website screenshotTimes website screenshot

And as you navigate further into the site, each section has its own color:

Times Arts sectionTimes Arts sectionTimes Arts section

In this tutorial we'll work with the styling added to the home page in the previous tutorial and add similar styling to each category archive. We'll amend the color of post titles and the archive title itself.

What You'll Need

To follow this tutorial, you'll need:

  • a development installation of WordPress
  • a code editor

If you already have a theme you want to use this technique on, you'll be working on your theme's stylesheet. I'm going to create a child theme of the Twenty Fifteen theme and edit the stylesheet in my child theme.

Your site will probably already be populated with posts; so that my site has some posts I'm going to download the WordPress theme test data.

If you've already been following the earlier tutorial and are adding category-based styling to your main blog page as well, you can use the theme from that tutorial as a starting point—this is what I'll be doing. Alternatively you can work with your existing theme or create a fresh child theme of Twenty Fifteen.

Creating the Theme

If you're working with your own theme or the one from the previous tutorial you can skip this section, but here's what you need to do to create a child theme of Twenty Fifteen.

In your site's wp-content/themes folder, create a new folder and give it a name. I'm calling mine tutsplus-style-posts-by-category.

Inside that folder, create an empty CSS file called style.css and add the following to it:

This tells WordPress everything it needs to know to create a child theme and imports the stylesheet from Twenty Fifteen. You'll probably want to add your own name and details instead of mine, but this gives you an idea.

Now activate your theme.

Importing the Data

If your site already has posts you can skip this section, but here's how to import the theme unit test data into your site.

  1. Go to the Theme Unit Test page and download the xml file which is linked to.
  2. In your site, go to Tools > Import. Click on the WordPress link.
  3. Click on the Choose File button and select the file you've just downloaded. Click the Upload File and Import button.
  4. Follow the prompts and wait for WordPress to import the data.

Identifying Styles to Target

WordPress has a couple of template tags which output classes for your pages and posts when they're viewed in the browser. These are:

  • body_class(), which you add to the body tag in a theme's header.php file: it adds classes to the body element according to the type of page being viewed.
  • post_class(), which works in a similar way but is used with posts in the loop.

If you're working with your own theme and haven't added these template tags yet, you'll need to do so. This tutorial on working with classes and IDs generated by WordPress shows you how.

If you're working with a child of the Twenty Fifteen theme, these tags will already have been added to the Twenty Fifteen theme itself, so you don't need to do anything.

If you open one of your site's category pages in a browser and use developer tools to inspect the output HTML, you'll see that the body_class() template tag has added a bunch of classes to your page.

Category page in the browserCategory page in the browserCategory page in the browser

Here the body tag has classes which tell us what kind of page this is:

These classes tell us that we're on a category archive page for the markup category, amongst other things. The class we're going to target is the category-markup class.

Styling Post Titles in the Archive Listing

We'll start by adding a color to the post titles according to their category. In your theme's stylesheet, add this:

You might want to change the colors so they work with your design.

Now save your stylesheet and open a category page in your browser. My Markup category page now has colored post titles:

Markup category page with blue colored post titlesMarkup category page with blue colored post titlesMarkup category page with blue colored post titles

And my Media archive has post titles of a different color:

Media archive with purple post titlesMedia archive with purple post titlesMedia archive with purple post titles

Note that in the screenshots, there's one post that appears in both archives, because it's in lots of categories. This is why it's important to target the class for the category in the body tag of your archive page, and not just target category classes for posts in the loop.

Now let's add a border as well. Add this to your stylesheet:

This adds some padding above the post titles as well as a border in the same color as the text. Here's how it looks on my Template archive page:

Template archive page with orange post titles and borderTemplate archive page with orange post titles and borderTemplate archive page with orange post titles and border

Styling the Archive Title

As well as styling the individual post listings, I want to add my color to the title of the archive itself.

First I'll identify the elements and classes to target, using developer tools:

Page with developer tools openPage with developer tools openPage with developer tools open

The archive title is output as follows:

So we'll need to target the page-header and page-title classes, as well as the classes on the body tag for the archive.

In your stylesheet, add the following:

This adds the color to the archive title:

Media archive title in purpleMedia archive title in purpleMedia archive title in purple

Now let's change the color of the border to match. Add this to your stylesheet:

This changes the color of the border to match:

Media archive title and border in purpleMedia archive title and border in purpleMedia archive title and border in purple


Using the classes generated by WordPress to target category archive pages and style them involves identifying the output classes and then writing CSS to target them.

In this tutorial you've learned how to do this to create color-coded sections of your site by category.

You could take this further, for example by:

  • using your section colors for other elements on the page such as the site title and the navigation menu
  • adding backgrounds in section colors, for example on the footer
  • using different background images for each section in key places
  • changing the layout for different sections of the site

There are plenty of possibilities, and if you take this technique to its furthest limit you can create different sections of your site which look completely different from each other, giving the impression of having completely separate sites.

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