A quick guide to configure your WordPress theme
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Once you’ve got your site set up and have chosen a theme, you can start configuring and customising your site.
For this post, I’m using WP free theme Zillah. In case you are curious, I run my website with the premium theme Mokka.
After uploading, installing and activating the theme, I had to install a plugin recommended to use some of the functionality in Zillah. This brings me to an important point:
What is a WP plugin?
A WP plugin is additional software that you can install within WP to provide additional functionality to WP. For example, there are plugins to create forms (Contact Form 7), for SEO (Yoast SEO), plugins for user authentication, to collect analytics from the website, etc. There are thousands of free plugins and also paid ones. You can search online to find plugins or go to wordpress.org/plugins.
For the moment, you only need to install any plugin that your theme requires. You can have a look at other plugins later.
Configuring your WP theme
You can now start configuring your theme going to Appearance > Customise in the WP dashboard (shown below on the left).
That will take you to the following screen, where there are a number of options. The configuration options that appear in this menu depend on the chosen theme, so you will probably have different choices than the ones shown in the image below.
Go through the list and configure anything that is relevant. If there is something you don’t understand, you can try to look at the documentation for the theme or go to the support forum for the theme (the link usually is on the theme page) or search for a tutorial on how to configure the theme. There are a lot of youtube tutorials for many of the wordpress themes. If you don’t find much information about the theme you have installed, maybe it’s best to install a different one with better support?
Try not to spend a massive amount of time configuring the site initially. Your goal is to get the site live
Main configuration options
As the different configuration options are theme dependent, I’m going to cover some of the main points that are usually configurable in most themes:
1 – Site identity
You need to enter your website title and subtitle. This is a general wordpress setting that you can also access from the “settings” option in the dashboard. Some themes also allow you to set up a logo and a site icon.
2 – Font and colours
Most themes allow you to configure font family and size for both headings and they also allow some colour changes. In Zillah, you can change the font family for both content and headings from a pre-set list, and you can also change the font size (small/medium/large). Settings to change font family and size are under “Theme options.” Make sure that the font/font family of your choice is easy to read on screen.
Colours can also be modified for both header text and background, and you can also change the overall look of the theme between a few pre-set colour schemes. All these options vary depending on the theme. Some themes allow very little flexibility.
3 – Header image
Some themes allow you to set up an image as a header. In my webpage marinagallego.com, the blog title is actually an image.
4 – Sliders
Many themes use sliders on the main page. A slider is a section where you can set up different images that rotate automatically or following a user click. It can be a good option, especially for portfolio websites. You can also use a slider plugin if the theme you choose doesn’t have a slider. Using a slider means that the images in the slider need to load before the full site appears on screen so this could increase load times. This is why it’s essential to optimise your images before you upload them to your site! Be careful also with sliders that don’t display well on different devices. You can see an example of a slider on my home page.
5 – Background image
You can set up a background image for the full page. Again, remember that this is likely to slow downloading your web page.
6 – Menus
You can define different menus and select where to show them on the site.
7 – Widgets
Different themes have different widget areas and associated widgets. Widgets are pre-defined blocks on your wordpress site that perform a specific function. For example, you may have a widget that shows a calendar, a video, a map, your recent posts, etc. A widget can only be used within a widget area. You can install plugins that provide you with additional widgets or widget areas. Some themes have several widget areas on the footer or on the sides, so you can, for example, add your social media icons, a photo, and your recent posts.
8 – Additional CSS
Here you can enter CSS code to customise your site further. For example, you want to change the width of the menu area, the colour of a specific headline or space between two sets of content. Anything you want to change you can do it with CSS. You will need to learn some CSS and understand how to find the element you want to change on your site. I think it’s great fun, but it can also take a lot of time. You may want to skip this initially if you have no knowledge of CSS, and come back to it later if you need it. If you want to learn more, you can check w3schools for a free tutorial.
Those are the main options that you need to configure before you set your site live. While you configure your theme, you may realise that something is not quite as flexible as you had expected or that you would like some further functionality; you can quickly change the theme by going to Appearance > Themes and activating a different theme. The change between themes should be quite seamless, although you will have to re-do all the theme-specific configuration.