The Single Folder Django Project Layout

How I start a Django project. Tl;dr: By having just a single project folder, and without a separate app folder.

Use Django’s default project template

I create a lot of Django projects. Projects for reproducing issue reports are the most common. But there are plenty of actual projects too. And for every one of those they’ll be a host of tracer bullet projects where I’m testing out ideas.

I’ve done this a lot over the years, and, as with all these things, I have a way I like to do it. (I’d call this an opinion, except I’m not in the least vested in whether other people do it differently—there’s no, even implicit, claim of correctness.)

First, and foremost, I don’t use a custom project template. It’s Django’s barebones startproject template all the way for me. I know the customisations I want to make. It’s really not a big deal to make them. (If I was running an agency, with a much higher new project rate, and juniors in play, this would change, but I’m not.)

I certainly don’t use the likes of django-cookiecutter, as great as that is (and similar projects are) for many people.

The older I get, the longer I’ve been doing it, the less I want in the way, so no custom template. (I am happy to read custom templates. It’s always good to see what folks like to include. But using them is something else.)

Too Many Folders

The standard flow here, which is straight from the tutorial, I think, is to run startproject, followed almost immediately by a startapp. (django-admin startproject mysite, cd mysite, ./ startapp polls.) That’s all great but it’s too many files, too many folders.

If I’m starting a new project named cakeshop, I then need to come up with a decent app name for my models, but I already used it. I end up with something like core or base. Meh.

For the life of the project, I then spend almost all my time in the core directory, except when I need my settings file, which is somewhere else entirely. Double Meh.

The Single Folder Layout

Better (for me) is to keep everything in the (perfectly named) cakeshop directory.

Step 1 is to add cakeshop as an app to INSTALLED_APPS:

+    "cakeshop",

Then I can just add a (and an if I fancy) and I’m off to the races. 🏇

The whole project looks like this:


To begin I’ll throw my views into I’ll sprout a when that gets out of hand. Maybe we grow a, a and so on, but this is the structure I’ll almost always start with these days. It’s just a little more dense than having the extra (to my eye, idle) app directory.

Growing a Second App

…And Beyond

Let’s not be silly. The Single Folder Layout is about how you start, not how you continue.

At some point you’ll have a neat vertical (related models, views, and so on) of behaviour that you want in a separate app. When this happens, use startapp as normal and put your code there. This is the Django way.


This is how I do it. You might do it differently. 😜