Understanding Featured Image in WP

A question came up from a recent post on making your blog page (as opposed to your blog posts) look good. Summarized, the question was, “What is this Featured Image of which you speak?”

The Featured Image for this post is the nasturtium you see at right. If you look at the blog archive for March 2013 you’ll see it in a grid of images and excerpts. In WordPress, Featured Image is a way to send pictures to special places. Some themes use Featured Images and some do not — and those that do use them in many different ways.

The Featured Image can certainly be confusing. You’ll see the place to set your Featured Image in the lower right of some but not all WordPress themes:

featured image

Click on “Set featured image,” choose an image to feature, and you have a featured image.  Where will the featured image show up?  Who knows? If you didn’t build the theme, you won’t know until you try it.

Here are some things that featured images might do:

  • The featured image can show up in a specific place in your blog posts — or, if you use posts for other purposes, on the pages or parts of pages for which you use posts. In these cases, the Featured Image is simply making the correct sizing and placement of your images automatic. Sometimes there will be some design feature, such as rounded corners or a border, when Featured Image is used in this way. Typically, you won’t be able to place your images very well manually in themes like this. If you try to place your image in your post and also set it as Featured Image, you’ll get duplicate pictures.

featured image

  • The Featured Image can show up on your home page or on your main blog page, and not in your post at all. The Featured Image is then intended to show on that other page with a bit of your post, and to lure readers to click through to the main past. In this case, you’ll need to set your Featured Image and also put it into your post. If you want to use different images in the two places, you can. In the shot below, you can see a bunch of thumbnails down the left side; these are the Featured images.

website ads

  • Sometimes the Featured Image will show up in the callouts but not in your post — and if you put the image into your post with the “Add Media” button, you’ll get duplicate images. This may be irritating, but it can’t be fixed unless you have the option of removing “Show thumbnails” in your theme, or you have your designer fix the problem for you.

There may be any number of additional things Featured Images does in your particular theme. Your best bet is to experiment with the feature, if you haven’t used it before, and figure out exactly what it does. Then go along with that.

The reason Featured Image is so unpredictable is part of the nature of WordPress.

Pages at a WordPress site don’t necessarily exist as a page in the same way that an HTML page exists (though you can have static HTML pages on your website if you choose to do so). Your blog page can pull in all the posts that you have categorized as “blog.” Your homepage might pull in those called “featured post” or “homepage,” or you might be able to change what shows up. The browser just follows the instructions given by your WordPress site for pulling information into the page at the time.

If your theme uses Featured Image, then there are some instructions in the theme telling browsers what to do with it. Unless you built the site, you may not know what it does. Once you find out, you may not be able to change it.

If you’re having a site built and you have a preference for what your Featured Image should do, share this with your designer. If you’re buying a theme, figure it out from the demo or the documentation before you choose.



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5 responses to “Understanding Featured Image in WP”

  1. Phil Avatar

    Thank you for this article. Until you pointed out that Featured Image’s behavior is theme-dependent, I thought I must be a moron because I couldn’t figure out it. Now I realize that’s just a coincidence.

  2. Phil Avatar

    Thank you for this article. Until you pointed out that Featured Image’s behavior is theme-dependent, I thought I must be a moron because I couldn’t figure it out. Now I realize that’s just a coincidence.

    1. Rebecca Haden Avatar

      I obviously can’t agree with your self-assessment, but I think a lot of people are confused by Featured Image. Maybe also frustrated. I didn’t exactly help, but at least now you don’t have to think you’re doing it wrong.

  3. Phil Avatar

    It’s no coincidence that I’m a moron and posted two comments to correct a grammar mistake.

  4. Chompho Avatar

    Funny, Phil!

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