WordPress Theme Customization
July 18, 2016
Create a Child Theme For Your Theme Customizations
The recommended option for doing any form of theme customization in WordPress is to use a child theme
. A child theme is a theme that inherits the style and functionality of another theme, called a parent theme.
Child themes allow you to add new functionality and style changes without ever altering the parent theme files. This is especially useful if you ever update the parent theme. If you have made changes directly to the parent theme, any update will wipe them out and you will need to spend time recreating them all.
Child themes are never touched when a parent theme is updated, making them the perfect way to alter your design.
Creating a child theme is a simple process. All you need to do is create one folder and one file.
On your local computer, create a folder with the name of your child theme. Create a file called style.css
within the new folder.
Edit the Style.css File to Make Customizations
There are a vast number of options you can add to your stylesheet to change your design. These changes are common to all themes, though most themes include custom section names that will vary slightly depending on the parent theme you are using.
Adding code to your style.css
file can enable you to:
- Change the color scheme of your website
- Alter the typography and text size
- Move sections of the site around (such as the navigation bar)
- Change the way images are displayed
- Add or remove design information depending on the area of the site
- Make thousands of other design tweaks
Changing the Link Style
Whenever you add a link to your site they are all usually controlled by a simple style option. There are four link states that will need to be looked at. They are:
- a:link (or just “a”) – this is a normal, unvisited link
- a:hover – this is what happens when you hover over a link
- a:visited – this is a link the user has already visited
- a:active – this is a link at the moment it is clicked
Use Custom Code Rather Than Plugins
Plugins are a wonderful aspect of the WordPress community. There are plugins out there that allow you to transform your website and enable you to do practically anything you can think of. However, constantly adding plugins is a great way to make your website bloated and slow its load times down to a crawl.
Plugins often require more code than is necessary for the jobs they carry out, simply because of the manner in which they interact with the core WordPress software. Each plugin also comes with management issues as you need to spend time updating them, as well as potential security issues if the plugin hasn’t been updated by the developer in a long time.
There are plugins out there that resolve one simple design aspect of your site, but often require additional code and files. Many of them can be replicated with a few lines of code added to the correct files which will reduce the overall load on your website and keep things tidier.
Plugins for more complex jobs are essential and part of what makes WordPress great, but before you add one for any simple tasks on your site, take the time to stop and do a little research. You will often find a simple piece of code that can do the job instead.
Start Customizing Site Design
There are a vast number of changes you can make to customize WordPress to suit your own needs. They range from simple tweaks, to customizing color schemes, to the extremely complicated changes that alter the structure of your website.
WordPress customization can seem like a scary process to begin with, especially if you are new to the CMS. There are themes (like Canvas) that allow you to make some of those customizations with a point-and-click style design menu that help to take away some of that initial fear. These are amazing for you in the beginning of your customization journey.
However, if you spend some time using a child theme and the style.css
file, you will learn to play with the building blocks of WordPress to create stunning website designs.