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How To Customize WordPress Theme: A Quick & Easy Tutorial For Beginners

You can pick the best possible theme out there, and you’ll still find something you’d like to change. It can be a simple color scheme or something that requires a bit more advanced approach, but the truth is:

There’s always something.

And because we know that little something will keep bugging you until you either get rid of it entirely or make it “yours,” we figured it would be a good idea to teach you how to customize WordPress theme!

So, let’s get started!

How To Customize A WordPress Theme: A Step-By-Step Tutorial

Before we go any further into explaining how to customize WordPress theme, let’s take a moment to discuss the three most common ways to do it:

  • WordPress Customizer – The beauty of using the built-in Customizer lays in the fact that the theme’s developers made it possible for you to modify your time in real time!  
  • Custom CSS – If you’re entirely new to WordPress, writing customized style sheets might seem a bit “too advanced” for you, but we promise that it’s not as complicated as it sounds.
  • Head over to the Appearance menu, select the “Edit CSS” option, and get yourself familiar with it – you’ll find it useful in the future.
  • Plugins – When you need to make complex style and functionality changes to your website, but you don’t have the knowledge to do so, these add-ons can be a life-saver!

Now, to keep things beginner-friendly and straightforward, we’ll focus on teaching you how to use the WordPress Customizer to make some much-needed changes to your website – and the first step is coming right up!

Step #1: Welcome To The WordPress Customization Page

Okay, here’s how to access the built-in WordPress Customizer page:

  • From your WordPress dashboard, navigate to the Appearance menu, and go to „Themes.“
  • Locate the theme you’re using – the one labeled as „Active“ – and click the „Customize“ button next to it.

You’ll find a preview of your website on the right – you’ll be able to see the changes in real-time there. The Customizer’s sidebar will be on the left.  

Browse through the options, and see what they’re all about:

There’s no faster way to get up close and personal with the WordPress Customizer, after all!

Step #2: Create Your WordPress Child Theme

If your goal is to enhance not only the aesthetics, but the functionality and structural elements of your website, as well, you’ll want to avoid making changes to the theme’s original files, and create a child theme, instead.

Now, since this guide focuses on teaching you how to customize WordPress theme using the built-in Customizer alone, there’s no need for creating child themes just yet.

All you have to know – for now – is that a child theme is nothing more than a separate folder containing an adequately formatted style.css file, with the so-called parent theme’s stylesheet imported into it.

That way, when you activate your child theme (to do so, go to Appearance/Themes/Install Themes/Upload) and make your alterations there, you won’t compromise the structure of the parent theme!

Step #3: Cover The Basics (Headers, Colors & Backgrounds)

Let’s kick things off on a lighter note and start with the easy stuff, shall we?

Header Image – The Most Identifiable Part

  • Go to the “Header” (or “Header Image”) section of the Customizer.
  • Click on the “Add New Image” button and pick one from your hard drive.
  • WordPress will suggest specific image dimensions, but instead of focusing on the exact numbers, merely pick a high-resolution image – you can scale it down later, using the “Select and Crop” option.

Voila – your website now has a custom header image!

Get Creative With Color Schemes

It’s one of the fastest ways to change the overall design of your website in a way that’ll fit your brand’s identity the best.

Head over to the “Colors” section in the Customizer’s sidebar:

You’ll find options for changing the background color, link color, as well as the colors of primary and secondary texts there.

Choose Your Background

Click on the “Background Image” section and upload an image from your hard drive. You’ll be faced with a set of various display options:

  • Background Repeat, which defines what happens when the page “runs out” of your background image.
  • Background Position, which determines where the image will “sit” – Left, Right or Center.  
  • Background Attachment, which determines whether the background stays in one place (Fixed) or scrolls with the rest of the content (Scroll).

Step #4: Find Your Site’s Identity (Titles & Taglines)

You want your website to represent you and your business, now, don’t you?

Well, giving your website a brand new identity is an essential part of that:

  • To make these changes, head over to the “Site Identity” section – you’ll find a group of options and settings there, including two empty fields, labeled as “Site Title” and “Tagline.”
  • Fill out the two empty fields on the left, and you’ll be able to see the changes right away in the website preview on the right.

Don’t Forget About The Logo

And since you’re already in the “Site Identity” section, there’s one more thing we’d like you to try – changing your website’s logo:

  • Click on the “Select Logo” button and upload a photo of your choice.
  • Be sure to upload a background-free PNG file, though.
  • Use the built-in tools to make any final adjustments, such as cropping, and you’re done.

If you don’t have a logo ready yet, it’s not a big deal. You know where the settings are located now, so you can always come back and deal with it later. There’s no need to rush things!

Step #5: Set Up Your Front Page

Seeing as how WordPress is a blogging platform, it pretty much neglected the whole homepage thing for quite some time.

Luckily for you, though, those days are now behind us, and you can make some changes to your front page – if you want to, that is.

Static Vs. Dynamic: The Choice Is Yours

Head over to the dashboard’s “Settings” section, and click on the “Reading” tab there. You’ll be given several options for setting up your homepage in the “Front Page Display” section:

  • Your Latest Posts, the pretty self-explanatory default setting.
  • A Static Page, which requires you to set up your Front Page (your homepage, that is) and your Posts Page (which will serve as your blog, of course).

Step #6: See What Else Is Out There

Now, you’re probably sitting there, thinking:

Wait, that’s it? But I have lots of Customizer sections you didn’t even mention!

And the truth is, we’re not going to – with literal thousands of themes available to users, some of them being extremely feature-rich, it’s impossible to cover every single scenario.

Instead, we’d like you to do some digging on your own and see what comes up!

Don’t be afraid to click on different buttons and play around with settings – unless you click “Save & Publish,” you’re not making any real, permanent changes.

3 Most Common Rookie Mistakes – And How To Avoid Them

How can we be so sure you’re going to make these mistakes, you ask?

Okay, you’ve got us – we made some of these mistakes, too:

1. Not Creating A Child Theme

Yes, we’re going to talk about child themes again, and we’re not sorry about it:

They’re the essential step to doing this whole customization thing right.

So, before you start hacking core theme files up left and right, please, create a child theme.

Even if you don’t mind messing around with someone else’s hard work – you should, though – do it for your own sake. Otherwise, you’ll lose your customizations when it’s time to update the theme!

2. Doing Things In The Wrong Order

You’d be shocked at how often people jump straight for the hard stuff, without even stopping to think that there might be a more simple way to do it – and the thing is, more often than not, there is.

The best advice we can give you is never to skip your steps:

Look through theme options, and see if there’s something that would do the trick before you dive head first into template files.

Chances are you’ll find what you need – and you’ll save yourself some time, too!

3. Reinventing The Wheel

Okay, repeat after us:

WordPress has its way of doing things, and I should never question them.

There’s no need to reinvent the wheel here.

We’ve noticed two rookie mistakes that seem to pop up quite frequently – and it’s about time to put an end to them:

  • Picking the wrong theme altogether and then struggling to make it work in your particular case.
  • Not giving built-in theme functionality a try and writing custom code instead. Why do that to yourself, anyway?

Save & Publish: Wrapping It Up

Okay, we think we’ve managed to cover every important aspect of how to customize WordPress theme, without making it overly complicated. Right about now, you should be looking at a website – your website – that represents you and your brand perfectly.

All that’s left to do now is click that “Save & Publish” button.

Welcome to the evergrowing WordPress community!

Love it? Hate it? Come on over to the comments section and let us know what you think!