Let’s continue exploring the WordPress admin panel we introduced in the previous post. The admin panel holds many powerful features that control the look and design of your WordPress website, and as a DIY small business owner, you’ll need to become familiar with all of these features–particularly those under the heading of the WordPress Appearance Settings.
As you might assume, the WordPress Appearance Settings control most of the options that influence the way your website looks. Here you’ll find important settings like menus, themes, and widgets. We’ll take a closer look at each of these features and learn how to manage them.
Key Features of the WordPress Appearance Settings
The following three categories make up a crucial piece of the successful management of a WordPress website’s front end design.
Appearance > Menus
The Menus setting allows you to create a custom menu for your website. By default, WordPress adds every page of your website to the default menu. If your website has only three pages, this might be fine. But as you begin to add more and more pages to the site, the default menu can start to get very cluttered. A cluttered menu, or navigation system, is one of the primary no-no’s of good user experience design.
Therefore, it’s good practice to use the WordPress Appearance Settings to create a custom menu for your website that only lists the pages which will be most helpful to site visitors. Once you’ve built a few pages for your new website, head to the menu settings and create a new menu with those pages. WordPress uses a handy drag-and-drop system for shifting around the order of menu items. Menu items can also be nested under other items by indenting them below.
Finally, head to the Manage Locations tab to adjust where the menu will appear. Some themes have multiple places for menus; others have only one (usually in the website’s header).
Appearance > Widgets
Widgets allow you to place little blocks of information in various places on the website. They are usually separate from the body of the website and are often found in the sidebar or in the footer. These blocks of information might include contact information, announcements, or secondary menus.
WordPress comes with several pre-made widgets out of the box. To add a widget, simply head to the widgets page in the WordPress Appearance Settings and drag and drop the widgets into one of the containers predefined by your theme.
For practice, try adding a text widget and place a fun announcement in it.
Appearance > Themes
If you’ve been paying attention, you noticed the word theme being mentioned here a couple of times. Themes are probably the coolest thing about WordPress. They allow you to change the entire design of your website with the click of a button.
Changing themes can alter the color, images, layout, sidebars, header, and footer–just about anything you want to change on your website can be accomplished with a theme switch. And the coolest thing is it doesn’t require any coding knowledge. The theme designer has already taken care of that.
Check out the theme page in the WordPress Appearance Settings and you will see a large database of themes ready to be installed on your new website. Simply click the Add New button and WordPress will serve up a list of the newest and most popular themes available to you for free. You can even search by certain features, if desired.
Chances are you’ll be able to find a free theme you like. Later, though, you might want more features and more control–especially if you are using a self-hosted WordPress installation. There are literally thousands of themes available on the web for purchase. Just do a quick Google search. Most custom-designed themes run about $40-$100, depending on the features.
Once you find a theme you like and purchase it, return to the WordPress Appearance Settings under themes and click the Upload Theme button to add the .zip file of your new theme. For more on themes, check out wordpress.org/themes, as well as a theme broker like themeforest.net.
These three key elements of the WordPress Appearance Settings (menus, widgets, and themes) provide a great introduction to the process of customizing your new website. It will take many hours of practice to master the successful implementation and management of these features, but now you know the basics. Time to get started!
Feel free to give us a holler if we can help. We happen to love this stuff.