When creating web pages, web developers often need to reference various files, such as images, stylesheets, scripts, or other resources. Absolute and relative paths are two methods used to specify the location of these files in a web page’s code. So, what is absolute path and relative path specifically?

Understanding these paths empowers developers to ensure that their websites function correctly and display content seamlessly across different devices and platforms. These terms may sound technical and intimidating at first, but fear not, as we demystify the concept to make it accessible for everyone. Let’s take a closer look at what is absolute path and relative path and how they play a vital role in building websites.

What is an absolute path vs a relative path?

An absolute path provides the full address of a file or resource on a website, starting from the website’s root directory. It includes the entire path hierarchy, from the domain name to the file’s location. For example, an absolute path could look like:


Meanwhile, a relative path identifies a file’s position in relation to the current page or directory. It is more concise and works based on the file’s position relative to the page. For instance, if the web page is in the pages directory and the image is in the images directory that’s alongside pages, the relative path would be:


Why and when to use absolute paths and relative paths

After answering what is absolute path and relative path, let’s discuss when to use each. The choice depends on the specific needs of a website and the organization of its files.

Absolute paths are ideal when linking to resources hosted on external websites. It ensures the resources are accessed correctly, regardless of the current page’s location. Websites with complex structures, numerous subdomains, or multiple domain names may benefit from using absolute paths to avoid confusion and ensure accurate file referencing.

Relative paths are valuable when linking to resources within the same website. They offer more flexibility and portability, as files can be moved to different servers or domains without breaking the links. Relative paths can simplify code maintenance and make it more manageable on larger websites.

Conclusion: What is absolute path and relative path?

Understanding absolute paths and relative paths is essential for any web developer. These paths are vital tools in linking resources and ensuring a seamless user experience on websites. By knowing when to use each type of path, developers can optimize their workflow and make their sites more robust and adaptable.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Or start the conversation in our Facebook group for WordPress professionals. Find answers, share tips, and get help from other WordPress experts. Join now (it’s free)!