Session 3: The Many Parts of WordPress


Site Building

Online Courses

Web Fundamentals

  • A passing acquaintance with CSS [forthcoming]
  • Playing with the Firefox/Chrome web inspectors [forthcoming]

Making your site your own

So now you know how to add content to your site but how do you control the way that material is organized and styled on your site? There are a number of different settings and and options you could tinker with, and we will look at where those are in a minute, but the easiest thing to do is to select a theme.

WordPress themes are basically wardrobe changes for your site. The theme itself is a collection of preferences and templates for how to display your site all bundled together so all you have to do is click to switch from one to another. There are thousands of freely available themes for WordPress that you can choose from. Simply log in to your site and to go the "Appearance" menu on the left hand side of your Dashboard. Click on the "Themes" entry there. You can also simply go to YOURDOMAIN.something/wp-admin/themes.php directly.

Try out a new wardrobe for your site

Take a few minutes to try on the different themes that are already installed on your site. From your Themes area simply click on one of the themes then press the "Live Preview" button.

Once you have tried a few of the themes you already have, click ""Add New" button at the top of the page to browse the themes available from the official WordPress theme site. Each theme should have a "Preview" button, which will let you explore what that theme looks like on an actual site with some example content. Browse through and find 3 or so that seem like they might work for you and click the blue "Install" button for each. If in doubt, just go ahead and add whatever ones look interesting to your site, you can always remove them later. When you find the theme you want to use, head back to your main "Themes" page (under the "Appearance" menu on the lefthand side of your administration dashboard) and press the "Activate" button on the theme you wish to use.

Is this your look?

This is a great time to take another look at your personal web usage survey to see what kinda of things you want online. If you are looking for a professional portfolio or résumé site, try searching for those terms in the theme browser. The results are probably going to be clean modern themes with only a handful of visual elements. If you want to run a site for a class or a special project, try looking for themes that have more elements and activity on the front page. Those will give you more options to play with later on. Most themes used for bogging should work fine for a class or project site as well.

All of the themes listed in the official WordPress theme list are free to use but many of them will hide some of their features behind paid upgrades so you may run into themes that looked better in their demo than they do on your site. Some of that can be changed with settings but, if you find out that the feature you really wanted is only available in the paid version, you should probably head back to the theme list and look for another one. There are so many great themes out there for free that there is no reason for you to pay for one unless you have a very specific need. If you find a theme that you really like and want to support that theme's development, many themes have donate buttons and they all appreciate good reviews on the WordPress theme site.

Customizing your theme

Selecting your theme sets the general organization and visual settings for your site but many of these settings can also be changed and customize you site to your tastes. WordPress has a standard "Customize" tool that you can get to through the "Appearance" menu on the left of your admin dashboard window or by directly visiting YOURDOMAIN.something/wp-admin/customize.php.

The particular options available to you in the Customize window will depend on what theme you have installed so go ahead and play around a bit to see what kinds of things you can change. Any time you make a change you will get a live preview on the right of the screen to show you what your site will look like if you keep the changed setting. You can undo these changes at any time by simply closing the Customize window or hitting "Back" in your web browser. When you find some settings that you want to keep, hit the "Save and Publish" button at the top of the window.


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