The WordPress website is very convenient and practical. Even better, it can be easily customized down to a T. Thus, enabling you to achieve your most desired structure and functionalities.
There are various methods to do exactly that. And in this article, we will tackle 4 of the most efficient ways to customize WordPress themes. These methods are easy to follow and will sometimes require minimal technical coding skills.
On top of that, it will help you create a website that is unique and perfectly tailored to your needs. Something that you will not likely get straight out of ready-made templates. In the end, you can fully maximize the potential of your website up to your level of expectations.
So, are you ready to spruce up your website?
Why Should You Customize Your WordPress Theme?
It gives you full control
Pre-built themes come in a “one-size-fits-all” concept. Consequently, you can least likely expect it to conform to your specific requirements. Hence, having the ability to customize your theme gives you complete control over how your website should look, feel, and work.
It enhances the user experience
Customizing your theme puts you at a better edge to create a layout that makes your website easier to navigate. Moreover, this also allows you to place vital information at prime spots within the pages to make it more visible. In effect, it provides seamless navigability and a superior level of user experience.
Theme customization allows you to integrate different plugins and software to enhance the website’s functionality. As such, you can create a website that is full-packed with features that are most relevant and useful for your business and your visitors. In effect, it provides a better user experience and accessibility.
Your website represents you and your brand. Thus, it should best reflect your company’s image. Customizing the theme gives you the freedom to set up the appropriate visual elements to fit your brand. For example, you can modify the color schemes, layout, typography, graphics, etc., so that it resembles your business’ motifs and ideals.
Faster loading speed
Customizing your theme would also entail modifying the codes. Doing so also means eliminating unnecessary data, which is sometimes the culprit contributing to slowing down your website’s loading speed. Thus, editing can be an effective way to polish and give you cleaner codes.
Given the control to clean up the codes also presents you the opportunity to impose the latest SEO standards. Hence, giving you greater chances to increase your visibility on the web. At the same time, it also improves your search ranking metrics.
Again, customization is a reasonable means to edit out irrelevant codes. Moreover, doing so minimizes the risk of exposure to various security breaches. Hence, strengthening your structure and website in general.
4 Ways To Customize WordPress Themes
Method #1: Theme Customizer
The best thing about using WordPress websites is that it already comes with a built-in theme customizer. This native editor is easy to use, and it barely requires coding skills. Moreover, it lets you preview the changes in real time.
Each theme comes with varying degrees of support for WP’s default customizer. Nonetheless, this tool gives you quite the freedom to modify the basic styling, including color, font, layout, and more. However, some themes offer more extensive support to the customizer. Such advanced themes enable you to go well beyond the fundamental elements. Thus, making your website more flexible and easier to manage.
Logging in as an admin, you can access the default theme customizer through the main dashboard. On the left sidebar, go to Appearance, then select Customize. This action will open your chosen theme’s customizer interface. From there, you can select from the available list of aspects you can edit.
As mentioned, you can see the live preview of the changes without worrying about altering the core codes. In addition, there is also an option to see the previews in various screen sizes, including tablet and mobile devices. As a novice user, this gives you the peace of mind of having to implement your desired modifications without the risk of ruining the underlying coding itself.
Method #2: Page Builder Tools
A page builder is a plugin software that you can additionally integrate into your theme. This tool gives you the capacity to rearrange the layout of the web pages and posts. Thus, further enhancing the overall look and navigability of the site.
Page builders work in the same manner as WYSIWYG editing software. It basically means “what you see is what you get”. Literally, it allows the users to manipulate the layout and create an output that is very identical to what you already see in the preview mode. In addition, WYSIWYG editors enable you to conveniently drag the elements anywhere within the page as you wish.
In the same vein, page builder plugins are built-in with that drag-and-drop interface. The tool will intuitively revise the theme’s underlying codes as you modify the elements. It is as simple as that!
When choosing WordPress themes, consider their compatibility with page builder tools. Some are already bundled. Meanwhile, others offer it at a premium. If budget concerns you, you can try these page builders with a free plan – Elementor, Live Composer, Themify Builder, Beaver Builder, WP Page Builder, and Gutenberg by Kadence Block.
On the other hand, paid page builder tools can offer you more flexibility and extensive functionality. The most popular premium tools in the market are Divi, WPBakery, Visual Composer, Seed Prod, and Moto Press.
Method #3: Theme Codes
Now, this option might not be for everyone. This method entails direct manipulation of the theme’s underlying codes. Hence, it poses a risk of ruining the website if you are not equipped with the right skills and knowledge. So, it is highly advisable for novice users to be hands-off with this method for now.
But for those who are already well-versed in coding, you might prefer this over the previous options. It may sound more complex, but this gives you more precise control as you customize the theme from scratch. Thus, allowing you to create a website exactly how you want it to look and work.
The Cascading Style Sheets or CSS primarily dictate the appearance of the web pages. It gives you control over the color schemes, font style, sizing, spacing, positioning, typography, and other layout aspects.
The safest way to manipulate the CSS is through the WordPress Customizer. To add or edit out the existing CSS codes, you simply go to the Customizer, then proceed to the Additional CSS tab. As you input your own CSS, the modifications will only take effect when you update the theme.
Another way to refine the theme code is by directly rewriting the theme file. The proper way to do this though is to use a staging environment first rather than applying the changes straight into the live website. It is a lesser risk that way.
Do not alter the original codes of your downloaded theme. Instead, create a child theme of your chosen theme. This one looks, feels, and works very similar to the original or the parent theme. You can input all your custom CSS codes in the child theme to give the original your own version of the upgrade.
Nevertheless, the child and the parent theme are separate from one another. Therefore, whatever modifications you apply to the child theme, will not affect the parent. Thus, keeping the original theme code still intact and the security uncompromised.
Method #4: Full Site Editing
To make things extra fun, you can actually do full-on editing of your chosen theme. Thanks to WordPress’ latest update, you can now customize every nook and cranny of your website using the block editor. Access is also very convenient as they are already fully integrated into the default WordPress installation.
The block editor comprises an array of blocks allowing users to modify the pages and posts more easily. These blocks represent certain parts of the content element. So, there are individual blocks designated for the headings, post titles, paragraphs, lists, images, videos, galleries, etcetera. Breaking them apart makes it much more convenient for the users to implement detailed customizations.
This editor is previously known as the Gutenberg Project. Yes, it is still relatively new, but it has very promising upgrades in the aspect of WordPress customization. This latest tool essentially aims to take over the classic editor.
The block editor can do all the functionality that the classic editor is capable plus so much more. For one, you can now integrate various shortcodes into your site to make editing more straightforward. These simplified lines of code allow you to create changes without delving deep into the back end.
Another great addition is the block-based widget editor. This feature lets you add supplementary content to designated areas outside your main post. This widget can contain various files like images, videos, audio, calendar, navigation menu, recent posts and comments, and more.
The block editor is even more powerful by enabling the custom field creation feature. This advanced function lets you provide metadata to specific posts. The most common examples of metadata are author, date created, date modified, file size, and file type. Metadata is vital in improving the searchability of the post. Moreover, it also helps to boost your SEO strategies.
Best Practices When Customizing WordPress Themes
Back up your website before editing.
I cannot emphasize this enough – please back up your website before editing! There are plenty of reasons, but the most obvious is to protect against data loss.
Human as we are, we are bound to make mistakes. A simple click of the delete button can send your website haywire in an instant. So you see, it is not an impossibility that a grave mess can occur with just a single mishap.
Especially for someone unfamiliar with troubleshooting, it can be pretty complicated to pinpoint the cause of the issue. It actually takes a lot of time and effort to re-trace and examine the codes bit by bit. So sometimes, it is much more convenient to just go back with your latest website configuration and start all over again in a clean state.
Situations like this make it a very smart move to create a backup of your original or existing site before attempting any modification. So when things are not going as planned, you will always have a base to go back to. A base that is already solid good and functional, with or without the customizations.
It is safer to customize without editing the code.
This practice is very true, especially for non-technical users. Users without coding knowledge are better off not fooling around with the site’s code. Please leave it to the professionals, as they always say!
That is actually one of the primary purposes of customizer tools. This software is built to allow users to modify the appearance and enhance the functionality of their website without altering the back-end system. That way, you can keep the core intact, safe, and secure.
Trust me! You do not want your system to have loopholes. Not only will it affect the general performance of the site. But, it will also make it an open target for malware and hackers. Something that site owners and admins absolutely dread.
Use version control.
Version control is essentially a practice of keeping track of and managing the changes within your website. Source control software like Revisr, WP Rollback, and Gitium is very helpful, especially for developers. This tool gives them the power to easily revert the changes back to their earlier better versions.
In effect, developers can work and implement the changes faster and more efficiently. Version control also causes less disruption to other team members and website users as well.
Use a staging site.
As mentioned, a staging site is like a replica of your live or production website. This platform is where you make your customizations first. Thus, you will see and test how the modifications will exactly look and work like prior to its actual application and deployment on the live website.
A significant advantage of using a staging site is to help you identify and catch bugs and errors. That way, you are presented with a better opportunity to fix them even before causing actual issues. In effect, you minimize the chances of these bugs affecting the site’s performance and disrupting its users.
Avoid not impacting your site’s accessibility.
Accessibility essentially refers to the website’s easiness to be reading, perceiving, understanding, and navigating. This quality is very important as it significantly affects the visitor’s overall user experience. And that, we always want to maintain high if we want to increase your retention and conversion.
Here are some effective ways to improve your WordPress website’s accessibility:
- Color quality
As basic as choosing the right colors can already provide better accessibility. For instance, a high-contrasting color, like black and white, makes the content much easier to see and read. In addition, the difference in color scheme enables the texts or images to pop out better from the background.
- Font size
Aside from the color, the text size’s appropriateness is equally essential. The font should adjust and adapt based on the screen size. For instance, the content on mobile devices and smart tablets are better off displayed with smaller font sizes. Meanwhile, laptops and other computer screens require your website to display larger texts to ensure visibility.
- Highlight links
Important links are easier to identify, even at a glance, if you highlight them accordingly. You can choose to underline the links or change the font style or color to make it more catchy to the eye.
- Descriptive links
Instead of using plain lines of hyperlinks, it is much better to replace them with descriptive links. Example, “Click here to download”, “Contact us”, and the like.
Descriptive links are also beneficial for visually-impaired users. As the screen-reading AI reads through the content, the user will better understand the link’s context if formatted with lead-in keywords rather than a series of alphanumeric symbols that don’t make sense when read aloud.
- Text alternatives
Speaking of impairments, it is a good practice to include accessibility of your website to those users with visual or hearing disabilities. For example, you can add subtitles to videos so deaf users can relate to and understand the content. Or, you can also include an audio file or podcast alternative so that blind users can access it too.
Always follow WordPress Coding Standards.
The coding standards are created to maintain the cohesiveness and consistency of the database. Hence, enabling websites to be reliable, safe, and secure at all times. Any deviation from this practice could possibly put your site at risk and compromised in many ways.
Do You Really Need to Customize Your Theme?
No. The option to customize WordPress themes just absolutely depends on your preferences. The original theme is good to go on its own. Nevertheless, editing allows you to tailor-make the appearance and functionalities. Thus, giving you the opportunity to uniquely represent your brand and your business.
Can you customize free WordPress themes?
Yes. Free themes can be customized on basic levels. But, a paid theme or premium plugins can give you a more extensive scope of editing.
Can I customize my WordPress theme with Elementor?
Yes. Elementor is one of the most popular page builders in the market. It is available in free and paid pro versions.
Of the four customization methods presented herein, using WordPress page builder tools is my top-most preference. This software is very convenient and practical to use. It literally gives you the power to take charge of the editing precisely how you want it to.
Not to forget, its drag-and-drop operation makes the task all the more intuitive and hassle-free. Indeed, it is suitable for beginners and users without technical coding skills.
There are options for different budget situations. You can go for free plans to customize only the fundamental elements and nothing more complex. But, the availability of premium tools also gives you more extensive scope and control.