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InMotion Hosting Lesson 3 – Part 5 – Introduction to your domain’s file structure

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Lesson 3 – Part 5 – Introduction to your domain’s file structure

Welcome back to the final part of Lesson 3 of the Start Building Your Website Here Tutorial Series. In this final part of the lesson we are going to take a look at the WordPress File Structure on our domain.

So we will go back to the control panel and scroll down to the Files section and select File Manager. The file manager shows you folders on the left and  files and folders on the right. You can navigate between folders by clicking on them, either in the left or the right hand side of the window. Sometimes it’s a little awkward and folders don’t automatically open when you click on them. If that happens, just try it again.

So, here on the left hand side you see your Home directory or Root directory. Inside this root directory are a variety of folders. The only one that we are really concerned with is the folder named Public_html. Public_html is a special folder that contains your website’s files. If you select Public html here on the left, you can see all of the folders and files it contains here on the right.

If you have installed WordPress for the first time on the primary domain of your hosting account, the WordPress files are automatically placed in the public_html folder. If you are installing WordPress in an addon domain (which is quite common) the WordPress files will be located in a folder within public_html that has the same name as your addon domain.

You can see an example of this in my hostgator account. The primary domain for this account is The WordPress files for that primary domain are located directly in public_html

I also have an addon domain called It also has WordPress installed, but the files for that WordPress installation are contained in the diywp folder. At it’s root, a WordPress installation contains 3 folders and a bunch of files. The 3 folders are wp-admin, wp-content and wp-includes. Then you have all of these files here. The first of the 3 folders is wp-admin. You won’t ever need to edit or change any of the files in wp-admin. These are the files that make WordPress work properly so you want to leave it alone entirely.

The same thing is true for wp-includes, again there is no reason for you to ever change any of these files. They are necessary for the operation of WordPress itself and any changes you make will more than likely break the installation. So we’ll leave both of these folders alone. However, wp-content is a folder that you will work in fairly regularly. It contains all of the files that are created when you customize your site. The two most important folders inside of wp-content are “plugins” and “themes”. If you select Plugins folder for a moment, you can see that there are two plugins; “hello” and “Akismet”. Any time you install a plugin it gets stored in this folder.

If you go in to Themes, you can see that this installation of WordPress has 2 themes in it. The default theme – 2011, and the former default theme 2010 – are placed in this folder. When the time comes you install a different theme, which we will be doing shortly, you will install that new theme in this themes directory. The same thing is true for plugins, when you install new plugins you will install them in the plugins directory.

Now the reason for this file structure is that WordPress is upgraded or updated fairly regularly. and so when you want to update WordPress, you want to leave the customization that you’ve done alone so that it carries through to the next version of WordPress. You only want to upgrade those files that are necessary to upgrade. So, WordPress sets aside all the customization files into this one folder and when you upgrade in the future, this folder doesn’t get changed, only the other folders get changed.

The take away for this lesson is that wp-content, plugins and themes are the folders you’ll be working within as we customize your site. We will talk about this and demonstrate it extensively in Lesson 4 of this series.

That pretty much concludes Lesson 3, in the next lesson we will learn how to use the FTP – File Transfer Protocol to install themes and plugins.

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8 Comments… add one
8 comments… add one
  • Becky July 18, 2010, 10:39 am

    I am loving the videos. They are very helpful. I am stuck though and I need help please. I am on lesson 3 and have followed you all the way so far but the problem is that I do not have a choice of index.htm on mine. I have public.html but that is as close of a match as I can get. The website I am working one had previously been worked on by someone else who had placed a banner page up stating that our site was coming soon. How can I change that so that I can get to wordpress on my site?

    • Rick Anderson July 18, 2010, 11:42 am

      Becky – index.htm is inside the directory called public.html. Use your CPanel file manager to open directory public.html. In that you’ll probably find an index.htm and an index.php. Rename the index.htm file to index.old.

      It should work fine for you then

  • Carol M April 17, 2011, 9:57 pm

    I am having the same problem as Becky. Cannot find the index.htm. I am using the newest version of Wordpress – 3.1. When i installed this, it would not let me use the root directory. I had to give it a new folder name which I called Blog. I can see this blog folder under the public.html. but there is no index.htm. I also cannot find my blog on the web. it should be

    • Rick Anderson April 18, 2011, 6:23 am

      Carol – WordPress does not create a file named index.htm The main start up file for WordPress is index.php which you also don’t appear to have. When you look in your file manager, inside the public_html folder is there a blog folder?

      Properly installed WordPress would have placed 3 folders inside of public_html/blog/


      Do you see those in your file manager?

      Feel free to call or Skype me if you need help with this.

  • David May 12, 2011, 11:36 am

    Hi. I am just looking at changing my site to a wordpress site. However, what I read of SEO tells me that it is best not to change the page names OR extensions. SO, is it possible to make a wordpress site that keeps the current page names, including the .htm extensions?

    • Rick Anderson May 12, 2011, 1:07 pm

      David – that depends on the URL structure you already have. It is possible to add the .htm to the URL (it’s called a permalink in WordPress) although I’m dubious that the file extension actually matters. In my experience it is generally difficult (even undesirable) to retain the exact URL structure when switching to WordPress.

      The solution to that is to use 301 redirects to automatically redirect from the old URL to the new one. That way you still hang on to the links and to whatever page rank you have but you get to use a new system.

  • Jonny March 21, 2012, 5:48 pm

    Hi Rick,

    Thanks for this post!
    I have followed all of your instructions but I can’t get it installed. My domain is still parked, and I don’t know how to get it unparked and direct to wordpress. Any ideas? I just changed nameservers to inmotionhosting yesterday, and it appears to have worked, but the page is still parked.


    • Rick Anderson March 22, 2012, 8:39 am

      Probably the easiest thing to do here is call Inmotion Hosting tech support. My guess is that you need to “Add” the domain to your Inmotion Hosting account. You would do that under “Addon Domains”. Once this is done you should be able to connect the domain to a specific subdirectory in public_html

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