A Primer on Publishing With WordPress, Part Three: How to Customize WordPress

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It’s time for your second lesson in A Primer on Publishing with WordPress! In the previous lesson we talked about the easiest way to install WordPress and how to access your WP-admin area so that you can begin customizing you new website!

A Primer on Publishing With WordPress, Part Three: How to customize WordPress by selecting a pre-made theme.

Today we are going to talk about how to customize WordPress by adding themes and Plugins, so that your new website can look good and work great! As we have discussed in your previous lesson, one of the things that makes WordPress such a versatile content management system is the fact that it is incredibly easy to change the look, feel and functionality of your website.

The first thing we are going to discuss is how to add a new theme and then activate it from within your WordPress dashboard. There are two ways to accomplish this.

  1. You can either upload a theme that you have on your computer.
  2. Or install a theme directly from inside your WordPress admin.

Once you are logged into your dashboard, under “Appearance” on your sidebar, click on “Themes”. This will open up a new page. There you will see two tabs “Manage Themes” and ‘Install Themes”. Under the install themes tab you can either upload a theme from your computer or use the theme search function. Of course using the search function is a much easier option, especially if you are just getting the hang of using WordPress, but if you have a special or premium theme that you are dying to use,  installing it is as simple as uploading a zip file.

Once you have chosen a theme and installed it, click on the Manage Themes tab. There you will see a list of all the available themes that you have installed. You can either choose to preview the theme or activate it. Once the theme has been installed you can begin working with it.

At the top of the Install Themes page you will often see a list of options.

Example: Widgets | Menus | Background | Header | Theme Options

These links will make it easier for you to begin customizing your new theme.

When it comes to customizing your new theme your options will be different depending on the theme that you chose. Some of the common things that you will be able to customize are:

  • The header image or logo.
  • The menu tabs.
  • The color scheme of the theme.
  • The text or font color.
  • The footer
  • the sidebars and widgets.

There are a few more things to keep in mind when changing to a new theme, especially if you already have a lot of content added to your website.

  • When choosing a new theme look for one that has good ratings and reviews. If it doesn’t have any reviews or ratings steer clear.
  • It is a good idea to back up your files before installing a new theme, so you don’t lose everything just in case something goes wrong.
  • Not all Plugins will work with every theme.
  • You should test your new theme in more than one browser to make sure that it looks good and functions properly.

When it comes to installing Plugins and widgets the process is basically the same. You will find the widgets on your sidebar under Appearance. As for Plugins, they are so awesome that they have their own menu tab. Under this tab you will see these links:

  • Installed plugins
  • Add new
  • Editor.

As with the themes tab you can manage your existing plugins and install new ones from here, by simply searching for them in the plugins directory or uploading them from your computer.

That’s it for today’s lesson. Hopefully you now feel confident in how to customize WordPress, because in your next lesson we will be going even deeper. We’ll be talking more about using Plugins to make your website more functional, along with some of the best free ones that you can use.

Need to go back and review lessons one & two? No problem!