Knowing how to design a website is an extremely valuable skill that can help you in today’s technological age. With the help of content management systems (CMS) that provide tools to build your site without having to code, it has also become easier to learn. Though there are several website platforms available to use today, WordPress continues to be the dominant choice as it is versatile, quick, and easy to optimize. It is so popular that nearly 20 million websites on the Internet use WordPress.
Using WordPress for the first time can feel overwhelming as you go through different tools and functions. At first glance, it may seem like a simple tool, but as you learn about the platform, you start to see more complexities. However, once you familiarize yourself with the interface of WordPress, it will become less daunting.
Step 1: Set Goals
Before you get carried away thinking of different designs and elements, start by setting some goals. What exactly do you want to achieve with your website? Are you trying to improve brand awareness, sell more of your product, or give more information about your company? What you want to achieve will affect how you should design your website, so you have to be clear about it from the start. Otherwise, your website may turn out looking really good, but still not generate the results you want.
Step 2: Select a Theme
WordPress themes are pre-coded and pre-designed templates that you can use to add visuals to your website, saving you the resources needed to design from scratch. Before you proceed to the more specific elements of your site, make sure you find the right theme. To do this, you can go to your Dashboard, click on Appearances, then on Themes. WordPress will automatically use its latest theme for your site, but you can freely browse through several choices to find one that suits your business or purpose.
If you feel like you cannot find the perfect theme from the free choices, you can consider paying for a premium theme. However, do not feel compelled to get a premium theme as there are so many free themes that are just as functional and aesthetic. Overall, the goal is to find a theme that supports most plugins, has good readability and navigation, and as well as reliable site speed.
Step 3: Configure Your Theme
Regardless of what theme you select, it is likely that you will need to configure it in some way to match your needs. Under the Appearance tab on your Dashboard, click “Customize” and you will find the parts that need to be filled:
- Site Identity
Site Identity includes the essential elements of your website, including your logo, title, tagline, site icon, and the like. The logo and site icon can both be uploaded from your local files or Media Library. Additionally, the site icon has to be a square image with at least 512 pixels.
The colors menu allows you to customize the color of your site, background, and text to match your brand image or desired appearance. The base color scheme serves as the general color preset for the theme, which you can select from a dropdown box. Once you choose a base, you can then select a background color, header and sidebar text color, and header and sidebar background color.
Do note that the customization options may vary based on the WordPress theme you are using. As you play around with different colors, you will see a preview of your site on the right side to see if the colors mesh well together or not.
- Background Image
Alternatively, you can put an image in place of a solid color for your background. You can upload an image from your local files or Media Library. Once you add a background image, you will also get the option to remove or change it. Additionally, there will also be options like Background Repeat, Background Position, and Background Attachment to format the image.
- Menus or Navigation
The menus or navigation panel allows you to create menus and determine where to place them. For each menu you create, you can add custom links, pages, posts, and tags as items, then select where the menu will appear. If you want to rearrange the order of the items, you can click the Reorder link to do so.
WordPress themes usually come with sidebars, which then contain widgets that you can add, remove, or move around. Common examples of widgets include calendar, categories, meta, recent comments, and others. Once you click the Widgets menu in your Theme Customizer, you will see a list of widgets that are currently in your sidebar. On the bottom, you will find an “Add a Widget” button that will show the available widgets you can add.
You can then move the widgets around by dragging and dropping in the order that you want in the sidebar. As you configure your widgets, you can also preview them on the right side to see the content from each.
- Homepage Settings
The homepage settings panel allows you to customize your homepage. By default, WordPage will display the latest post for your homepage, but you can opt to use a static page instead. This option allows you to link viewers to a landing page that shows your products and services or something similar about your company. Once you select the “A static page” button, you will see two dropdown menus to choose a custom homepage and another page to display your posts.
- Additional CSS
The Theme Customizer also allows you to input additional custom CSS to style your website. Doing this is recommended for beginners as you can see the live changes on your site as you input your code. WordPress will also guide you as it will display error messages if there is something wrong with the code, as well as suggestions based on the code you type.
Aside from the multiple panels, you will also find three icons that look like gadgets on the bottom part of the Theme Customizer. These icons allow you to test your website on desktop, mobile, and tablet devices, which is a crucial consideration when designing your site. Additionally, the “Hide Controls” button will help you view your website in desktop mode properly.
Other Customization Options
Some themes are more flexible, allowing you to customize elements like the font style, colors, images, and others. If you prefer to have more freedom in the design of your website without having to do CSS codes, you can try looking for such a theme. Alternatively, you can also look for plugins to give you more styling options for your website. For example, you can install the Easy Google Fonts plugin to get more font options. Some plugins will also allow you to customize your site without having to write any code.
A quick search on the Internet and you will find so many popular WordPress plugins that are free to install! Nowadays, some plugins help you implement search engine optimization (SEO) by streamlining your tags and placing the right keywords. Others can be integrated into your Google Analytics to help you monitor site performance and essential metrics like your click rate and the number of visitors.
To install a plugin, you can click on “Plugins” in your Dashboard and search for the plugin you need. Beside each option, you will find an “Install Now” button that becomes “Activate” once the download is complete. Using this method, however, limits you to plugins that are part of the WordPress Directory. An alternative option would be to install the plugin zip file from the source and upload it to your WordPress account. Under Plugins, click on “Add New” then the “Upload Plugin” button to upload your file. Finally, click “Activate Plugin,” and you are ready to go!
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