You are creating your blog and you sit looking at the cPanel dashboard on your host’s site and somewhere (normally towards the bottom) is the script for installing various software, including WordPress, something you can do while while looking good and relaxing on the beach, it is all about appearance.
This is the start to your WordPress world. Before you get going you should be aware that this software is used by corporations and professional bloggers the world over and you should move forward with the assurance that you are selecting one of the world’s most powerful and flexible content management packages. The scripts to install this software rarely go wrong and if they do, it is most likely that a link to one of the many services needed has temporarily failed. Don’t worry about this, simply come back at a later time to try again or contact technical support to get specific assistance.
A Question of Style?
It is always possible to update the style and appearance of your blog, but when your blog is first installed you have most opportunity to ensure it is set-up correctly. With almost every installation there are choices to be made, these include:
- The appearance or theme to be used
- What plugins are needed
Most people find out about these things after they have been working on their blog for quite some time, but the sooner you know your options the more professional your site will become. This article will not look at the plugins, but will focus on appearance and style instead.
Appearance and Themes
What kind of theme is best for you? There is nothing as bad as the default theme, but there are thousands of people that limit themselves to the default theme. Few successful bloggers limit themselves this way and the earlier in the life of your blog that select a suitable theme the better. Personally I would not start a new blog without selecting a well laid out theme before publishing my first post, indeed it could be argued that you should have five posts ready and have a theme that makes a good appearance before declaring your site as live and available to all.
Selecting a Theme
Every WordPress installation will include some preselected themes, which may or may not prove useful when making your choice, via the “Add New Theme” option. My guidelines are to search for any of the following terms:
Selecting a suitable theme is a matter of style and needs to be right for what you are doing. If you are creating a business focused blog you may wish to select a crisp business type theme. With any theme it is best you take a look at the “Live Preview” before choosing to install it. This will allow you to see how your blog could appear before you select and install any theme.
The example shown here is one example of how the theme can be made to look, one appearance option, possible if you provide the relevant information etc. This one includes options for contact details at the rop of the screen, should your wish to use those.
Customising the Appearance of your Chosen Theme
Once you have selected a theme you will need to customise it to make it work how you wish it to. Theme options are shown for one theme here, other themes may provide other options, but the ones shown in the picture are used in many themes of this kind.
Home Page Features provides options for sliders or featured articles. Site Identity allows you to set the site title, tag line, logo, and icon that is used as a browser and app icon and should be square shaped. The site icon will appear on the left hand size of your browser tab, it should be a square image which shows the theme of the tab (as shown in the house image linked to this paragraph).
Social Media icons will allow you to show your readers your social media locations. Colors allows you to set the background, text and theme colours.
Header and Background Image options allow the setting of relevant images used on the theme. The header image can be a picture that acts as a focus for your site, something more than a logo and in my view should include a relevant image, your site name and the tag-line and if you are a business it may include your logo. These should improve the general appearance.
Menus allows you to set the position of the menu on the page and create specific menus, add items to the menu, this also relates to the position of the menu on which widgets will be placed.
Widgets will allow you to determine the position of widgets on the page.
Static Front Page is an option which allows WordPress to be used to support normal web pages. You will normally need this to remain at “your latest posts,” the normal setting for a blog.
When you make any changes to your theme that you wish to keep them then you must use the “Save and Publish” button.
Trial and Error
It would be nice to think that everything will be perfect the first time you set it, but I have spent many hours tweaking and playing with theme settings in order to get them just right. Themes may take a lot of adjustments in order to make them right and there are times when you have to select another similar theme to provide the right appearance. You probably won’t be finished adjusting your theme until you have at least five or ten published posts, in fact it may pay off to continue to experiment with settings and themes till you find the perfect set-up.
For example, I have spent many hours testing the correct slider timing settings, for a client site. Too fast and it was like witnessing the cars in a Formula 1 race, too slow and it is like watching a snail move, neither of those being desirable for the reader, who needs time to read the title and excerpt only.