With the configuration complete, it’s time to start planning out your blog’s appearance. While there’s nothing wrong with just keeping it plain and simple, it’s important to offer a bit of flair if you want the blog to be successful.
Luckily, WordPress is very easy to customize for just about any kind of site you want to make. You can switch from one look to another almost instantly to help find that perfect layout.
Here is where the fun begins.
Picking a WordPress Theme
A “theme” is the visual part of your website. It controls how the blog appears in terms of layout, colors, fonts and even some graphics. Many themes will incorporate tools such as the ability to link your social profiles.
WordPress is, in many ways, so much easier to manage than other systems. Theme installation is nothing more than a couple of clicks of the mouse. You won’t need to learn any coding as everything is automatic and seamless.
Once you install the theme, you can customize it directly in WordPress and change its look and feel.
The hardest part is picking a theme that matches what you want to write about.
What Are You Writing About?
Perhaps the best way to start is to decide what your blog is going to be about. Are you writing about your life’s journey, or do you want to focus on caring for animals? In reality, there is no right or wrong answer.
However, having a specific topic you want to write about will make a difference in how popular the site becomes. Blogs that center around specifics attract a more focused group of readers who are often easier to turn into fans.
One reason a lot of people like to focus on a topic they are interested in is because the blog gives them a platform to learn more.
For example, what if you’re interested in health and fitness? By writing about everything you learn, you’re helping yourself as well as others who want to live a healthy lifestyle.
Why is this important when picking a theme? It’s so that you can choose an appearance that matches your content. For instance, a gardening blog would look better if the theme used colors and images matching nature or certain plants.
Two Types of WordPress Themes Available
When looking for a theme, there are two types to choose from: premium and free. Both of these methods have quite a long list to choose from, and it may take a bit of time to find that one perfect layout to go with.
Bear in mind when looking for a theme that it can be changed at any time without losing your text. In fact, you can switch themes as often as you like and keep your content and tools as they are.
The theme only modifies the overall appearance of the site, not your text.
1. Premium Themes
Premium themes are those that are usually full of features. They can vary in price depending on the developer and how elaborate the theme is. Some can go for about $25 while others can exceed $100. In reality, a premium theme is often viewed as an investment into the blog.
Before you decide to buy a theme, it’s better to weigh some of the pros and cons.
- Premium themes often come with an extremely wide range of tools. Some of the more expensive ones will include plugins so you won’t need to install additional parts later.
- Because premium layouts are often more attractive, they add value to the blog. This means there is great potential to boost popularity while making it easier to sell the site should you choose to do so later on. A professional look can go a long way for many different reasons.
- You don’t have to worry about branding with premium themes. In a free theme, the link back to the developer’s website is clearly visible on all your pages. Most premium developers do not add this style of link branding.
- Most developers of premium layouts are regular when it comes to producing updates. When there is an update to WordPress, you can rest easy knowing the developer will address any changes to keep your site working with any changes.
- You have less to worry about when it comes to programming of professional themes. Most developers use the best techniques in coding as well as search engine optimization to help the site be a success. There is less fear of bad coding or if someone inserts an element that may be damaging to your website.
- Not everyone has the cash available to put into the look and feel of a blog. Some of these premium themes are downright expensive for what is offered.
- Elaborate premium themes may take a bit longer to learn how to use. As many will come with an extensive list of tools and functions, it can seem overwhelming to some.
- As there is so much more than you can do to a premium theme in most cases, it may take a bit longer to customize the site. Being unique is an important part of separating yourself from other bloggers. While a premium theme has better potential for this unique look, it just takes time to design the perfect “feel” for the blog.
2. Free Themes
A free theme is often the most installed at first. In fact, WordPress comes with a handful of themes already built into it. While most of these free layouts are quite basic when compared to premium themes, a lot of them are relatively rich with features.
Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of free themes.
- There is an extremely long list of free themes to choose from. Whether it’s through WordPress itself or you find it on a third-party website, free layouts are all over.
- It doesn’t cost you money should you decide to switch from one theme to another. If you find a free theme that is more attractive than the premium one you bought, you will feel as though you wasted the money.
- Many premium themes offer a limited free version. These are some of my favorites as you get to try it out before committing to buy. This way, you can determine if it’s going to work for you or not before making the purchase.
- A lot of free themes are created by expert programmers just trying to make a name for themselves. As a result, you get a powerful and well-coded website without spending a single dime.
- As free themes are so prominent on the Internet, there’s a good chance you’ll find it harder to be unique. In other words, your site may wind up looking like many others out there in the digital world.
- A large portion of free themes lack strong features. For instance, a lot of premium layouts include the most popular plugins to make the site more robust. Most free themes do not.
- It’s often more difficult to receive good customer support from free developers. I’m not saying that none of these creators help users. However, many simply don’t respond or have the time to help you should something break within the theme.
- Not all developers have the same level of programming skill. This can lead to problems such as being hacked or code that can slow the site. In rare instances, the developer may even place bad coding on purpose to take advantage of your blog. This doesn’t happen very often, and it’s worth mentioning free themes directly from WordPress.org are usually scanned for such issues.
Which is Right for You?
This is perhaps one of the most difficult parts of building your blog. It all boils down to what you find important and how you want the site to look. Will you be able to put in time and effort to customize the site, or do you want something that is more basic and automated?
Having an idea about what you want to do with your blog will be very helpful in deciding. If you want to go all out and build a blogging empire with great potential for income, a premium theme may be better. If you simply want to monetize a hobby or just want to share experiences, perhaps a free layout is the choice for you.
Remember, you can easily switch the layout of the website at any time. With a couple clicks of the mouse, you can shift from one appearance to another almost instantly. So if you find a theme later that is better for your needs, it doesn’t take much to change your blog.
Two Ways to Install WordPress Themes
WordPress has two different ways to install a theme for your blog. You can either use the internal system from WordPress itself, or download and install them manually. Both methods are very easy to use and require no programming knowledge.
1. Direct Theme Install within WordPress
The themes available from within the WordPress admin dashboard are free. You’ll also find some of the limited free versions of premium layouts I mentioned earlier.
Here is how you install themes directly from WordPress.org’s database of free layouts.
- Click on the “Appearance” tool in the left column of the WordPress dashboard.
- Click on the “Add New” button across the top.
- You can filter themes by Featured, Popular, Latest and Favorites. You can also use the Feature Filter which will help you fine-tune exactly what you’re looking for. Another method available is using the search field on the right-hand side to put in keywords. For instance, you can search for “health” themes and WordPress will look for layouts including that keyword.
- Once you find a theme you like, you’ll see an “Install” button on the bottom right of the image when you hover the mouse over it. Click the Install button.
- After the theme installs, the button will change to “Activate.” Clicking this will automatically change your blog to the new theme.
2. Manual Theme Install from Your Computer
You’ll download premium themes to your computer once you purchase them. You may find free themes on websites to download as well. At which point, you’ll need to install the layout manually. Don’t worry…it’s a simple process.
- Click on the “Appearance” tool in the left column of WordPress.
- Click the “Add New” button at the top of the page.
- In the Add Themes screen, you’ll see the “Upload Theme” button at the top. Click this to continue.
- A new section will open up and you’ll see the “Choose File” button. Click this and add the theme you downloaded.
- Once the theme’s file is chosen, click the “Install Now” button.
- After the theme is installed, click “Activate” to make it immediately live.
Adding Your Logo to the Site
If you want your blog to stand out, you might want to consider adding a logo. These graphics are often found in the top left-hand side of the website. Most themes nowadays come with a tool when you customize to add this image.
Why is the logo important? Because it looks more professional and it will stand out in the minds of your visitors. This is especially helpful if you want to connect social media and do a bit of branding on the Internet.
What do you think about when I say, “an apple with a bite missing from it?” A lot of people will envision iPhones or iPads. That’s the impact of a logo linked to a prominent company, which is obviously Apple in this case. The same effect will happen with a good blog logo and solid content.
If you lack skills in graphic design, or lack the tools to create one, the Internet is full of places you can go. Here are a few suggestions:
FreeLogoDesign.org provides the tools necessary to create a quick and easy logo complete with color and font choices. You have the option to download your free creation or pay for a high-resolution version of the design.
Canva is one of my favorite sites for designing a lot of things for the Internet. One of its many features is the logo creator. This is another free system that has an easy-to-use, drag-and-drop interface when creating graphics of all kinds.
Fiverris a freelancer website that lets you contact potential designers to hire for creating your logo. The prices often vary greatly depending on what you want to display on your blog. However, many professionals start at $5 per design. This may be an inexpensive way to get a nice image.
And Now Your Site Is Ready for Content
The design process is perhaps one of the most time-consuming parts of starting a website. However, don’t focus too intently on perfection. When it comes to WordPress, nothing is truly set in stone. You can easily make changes later should you decide to make the blog look different.
With the design part out of the way, the next step is to add amazing content. This involves the essential meat and potatoes of what WordPress is all about. It’s also one of the funniest parts about using WordPress to build your blog.