101 Guide: How to Customise WordPress

If you are looking for different ways to customize your WordPress website so that it stands out from the crowd, I have got you covered. From themes to “sticky” menus; there’s so much you can do with your WordPress site. 

written by

James Examply

last updated

June 19, 2020

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Read on to discover some suggestions that will help you to put your own stamp on your WordPress site.

Pick a theme

There is only one place to begin when it comes to making your WordPress site different from the rest, and this is with choosing a theme. Of course, with more than 10,000 WordPress themes on offer, this can be easier said than done.

To help you out, here are some of the things I always look for when choosing a theme…

    • Something that is easy and quick to customize. Why spend weeks and weeks customizing your theme when you could choose a design that doesn’t require this level of effort
    • Something that is mobile-friendly. Most of the theme demos will have a button on the top of the page that enables you to toggle between different phone, tablet, and desktop screen sizes.
    • Quick load times. You really cannot afford to compromise when it comes to website performance. Visit the live demo and test the load speed that way. If the demo is slow to load, why is your site going to be any faster.
    • Goal-oriented design. Finally, never forget to consider the purpose of your site. Why are you creating a website in the first place? You always need to have this in mind when you are selecting a theme.
WordPress Themes
Create your own WordPress theme or upload a template.

Make your menu ‘sticky’

When someone scrolls down your website, you will want your main menu to be visible at all times. Keeping your menu fixed to the top of the screen is going to make it a lot easier for people to use your site.

You can do this without having to upgrade to one of the paid plug-ins. Sticky Menu on Scroll is a plug-in, but do bear in mind that you will need to know about finding a CSS selector to use. Depending on whether you want the entire header to be sticky or just the primary menu, you can use either #site-header or #menu-primary-items.

Add category descriptions

Categories on WordPress sites tend to be displayed as one or two words, for example, ‘WordPress tips’ and ‘WordPress themes.’

However, you can add a unique description for each category, and this is something that I am a fan of for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it makes your site a bit different from most of the others out there! Not only this but you can improve your SEO efforts, as well as helping visitors to understand what your categories are about.

It is really easy to make this change. All you need to do is click on Posts, and then Categories. From here, choose any category, and then you can edit it. On the following page, type the description you wish to add.

WordPress category
Add a unique description for each category.

Create a branded log-in page

Creating a branded log-in page is something I highly recommend for anyone creating a membership section of their website. 

Again, you will need to turn to one of those trusty WordPress plug-ins in order to do this. Custom Login Page Customizer is the obvious choice here, and it is really easy to use.

Add social icons and sharing buttons

This is a super easy customisation, and one that I would definitely recommend doing. A lot of the different themes on WordPress will have social icons built into them. Don’t only consider icons in your footer and/or header, though; think about adding social sharing buttons as well.

Website social sharing buttons
Direct viewers to your social media accounts.

Write a custom excerpt for every blog post

Yes, this is going to require a small amount of effort on your behalf, yet it is definitely worth it. In my experience, it is also something that people do not do enough. 

Why should you write a custom excerpt? Well, the chances are that you are going to be able to make the excerpt fit the design of your blog much better if you have control over it.

Not only this but your theme will probably automatically use the first 25 words of your post as a default. Writing your own excerpt will be much more compelling, and it will be better for SEO too.

Customise your 404 pages

I also highly recommend customising your 404 pages. People will see a 404 screen when someone visits an old URL associated with your website. This can happen if you change a URL or you unpublish a page.

I must stress that the main aim should always be to fix any 404 errors on your website. Nevertheless, even with the best practices, they can still occur. 

Because of this, I would highly recommend that you create a custom branded 404 page. There is a 404page plug-in for this.

This plug-in gives you the ability to create a 404 page that is fully customised to suit your business.

404page – your smart custom 404 error page
Use the 404page plug-in.

Change the number of posts displayed per page

This is a really easy way to change your WordPress website and make it different from the norm. This is because WordPress will automatically display ten posts on the main page of your blog and archives. 

Of course, there is nothing wrong with having ten posts on your main page. However, if you have a multi-column layout, you are probably going to want to increase the number of posts shown on your page. 

All you need to do is click on Settings, and then Reading. After this, you will be able to change the number of posts displayed on the page with ease.

Add an author box

Another way to customise your WordPress website is by adding an author box. There are two reasons why I like author boxes. 

Firstly, author boxes help you to show off your personality and add some more character to your website, and you can also add links to your author box too. Plus, you get your face and name in front of site visitors, and so it is great for branding yourself.

A lot of themes already come with an author box included.

If the theme you like does not have an author box included, do not worry. There are a lot of different author box plug-ins for you to choose from. Simple Author Box is one of the best that I have used.

Simple author box plug-in
Use this plug-in if your theme doesn't have an author box.

Change your font

The font that you select is going to have a massive impact on the personality and feel of your site. 

Most themes don’t have custom font options, but there is an easy solution to this. All you need to do is install the Google Fonts Typography plug-in.

Once you have installed this plug-in, you will have full access to the library of Google Fonts, which is actually the de facto font source for the web.

Create a custom homepage

One of the most effective ways for you to give your site a custom feel is to create a custom homepage. You can do this using the Elementor plug-in.

This is a page builder plug-in, and it is great for creating any sort of custom page.

Once you have installed the plug-in, whenever you visit a Page, you can launch the editor by clicking on the ‘Edit with Elementor’ button, which will be at the top of the page.

Once you click on this, you are going to be taken to the Elementor screen, whereby you have a number of different widgets on the left-hand side that can be dragged and dropped onto the page content area. This enables you to have complete control when it comes to creating a fully customized homepage for your WordPress site.

edit with Elementor
This will appear once you have installed the Elementor plug-in

Add your logo to the browser tab

This is definitely one of my favorite customisation options! I am sure you already have your logo at the top of your website. This is pretty much the norm for most themes and site designs today. However, I would not stop there! 

You can include your logo in the browser tab. Just like the example below.

On WordPress, this is known as a “site icon” yet in popular marketing material you will probably see it called a favicon. 

No matter what you decide to call it, it’s a pretty easy change to implement. Simply head to Appearance, and then Customize. Once you are here, open the section Site Identity. Once you do this, at the bottom, you will be able to locate the Site Icon option.

Simply upload the image of your logo from your computer, and then select the Publish button.

If your logo does not include an icon, you may simply want to use the initials for your business name. Remember, this is going to be a very tiny image, so there is no room for you to include anything complicated.

Browser logo WordPress
You can see our favicon in the browser tab.

Customise the colours on your WordPress site

This may be an obvious solution when it comes to branding your site and making it individual, yet it is still an important one. 

One thing I like to do is change the accent colour throughout the entire website, as this helps to create a visual effect that is consistent. 

Hopefully, your theme will include custom colours, making this easy to do.

If it doesn’t, you always have the option of using code to customise your site colours.

“I don’t know about coding!” – Don’t worry, I’ve got you. You can download the WordPress plug-in known as CSS Hero

In fact, for anyone who doesn’t know about coding and wants to have full customisation options available to them, I would recommend this plug-in. You can change your theme without needing any coding experience. 

Display a custom avatar

When you are writing a post on your WordPress blog, you don’t want there to be a default avatar displayed next to your Display Name.

The majority of the themes on WordPress offer integration with Gravatar, meaning once you add an image on Gravatar, it is going to show up on your website instantly.

If you are not familiar with Gravatar or you have not used this yet, don’t worry; it is really easy and straight forward.  

All you need to do is add your email address, and then upload an image that you want to be associated with it. Easy, right?

Gravatar is integrated with the vast majority of web services and sites today, and so you will see your Gravatar image pop-up here, there, and everywhere.

Gravatar
Add your own Gravatar.

Customise the emails that WordPress sends on your behalf

This is a change that I certainly recommend making if there are members that are going to be joining your website.

There are a lot of pre-written messages that WordPress will send out. This includes when someone becomes a member of your site or when they change their password, for example.

These are all standard messages, which means they have not been branded to suit you and your needs. 

To have complete control over your email copy, you should install the Notification plug-in.

It is definitely one of my favorite WordPress plug-ins. You are going to be able to change the copy of existing emails, as well as adding new events for when emails should be sent out.

When it comes to customizing your site, it is important to consider all facets of your website; do not only consider what you can see on your website.

Change to a static homepage

This is something that I always recommend WordPress users to do, especially if you are a blogger. If you do more than list your newest posts, you are going to be able to get more subscribers and make more profit from your website. 

Luckily, this is a really easy change to implement. All you need to do is flip to the setting that is displayed in the image below.

Add a contact form to your website

Adding a form so that clients can get in touch with you is important. This is especially the case if you sell products or services via your website. 

A lot of bloggers neglect to include a contact form, but I would personally recommend that everyone does this. After all, you just don’t know what sort of opportunities may end up coming your way!

There are a lot of good contact form plug-ins out there at the moment. I’d recommend WPForms. Why? It is very easy to use and there are many different customization options.

If contact forms are important to your website, I would advise looking into the premium upgrades, as they are pretty impressive!

Contact form
Make sure you add a contact form to your website.

Summary

So there you have it: all of the different ways that you can customise your WordPress website so that you can really make it your own. I hope you have found this information helpful!

Frequently Asked...

Most people would agree that WordPress is indeed better than HTML. This is because WordPress sites can be improved on, meaning you can continually grow them. HTML is only preferred for sites that require no additional content or updates, which isn’t the case for the vast majority of websites today.

Yes; you can download and use the software without needing to spend a penny. However, you are probably going to have expenses in the form of plug-ins, hosting, domain names, and so on.

As the functionality of WordPress is so vast, it is fair to say that the learning curve simply never ends. However, you can pretty much get up and running right away. In order to be considered an expert, though, you will probably need around 12 months of active, steady learning.

Yes; WordPress is good for all skill levels. Not only is it easy for beginners but it can be powerful for developers too. This is why it is the most popular content management system on the web today. 

Yes, a huge number of web designers use WordPress because it is a flexible and easy-to-use content management system. It is also open-source, meaning it is free for all web developers to access.

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