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How to Customize Your WordPress Blog Design

So, you’re about to start your own blog using the WordPress platform. You’ve purchased hosting and a domain and you’ve installed WordPress. Now what?

Now, it’s time to design your blog using the provided tools in the WordPress backend of your blog. There’s a lot to go through when customizing your WordPress blog, so we’ve provided a step-by-step guide to get you started.

1) Access the backend of your WordPress blog to open the dashboard

Easily access the backend of your blog by navigating to yourdomain.com/wp-admin (replacing yourdomain.com with your own domain name). This will reveal the login page.

Enter the username and password you retained when you initially installed WordPress in your hosting account. Tick the checkbox “Remember Me” for faster logins. After logging in, you will be taken to the dashboard, a fully functional backend website management console.

2) Adjust your blog name and tagline

Within the dashboard, you will see a list of menu items on the left column. The first thing you should do is edit your website/blog name and tagline since the tagline always displays the generic line: Just another WordPress site. Chances are, you won’t even use the tagline, but just in case – let’s edit it.

In the left menu, hover over ‘Settings’ and click on ‘General’ in the drop down.

Adjust your blog name and tagline in the provided fields.

And when you’re done, scroll to the bottom and click ‘Save Changes’.

Note: At any time, open a new tab and navigate to your domain to see changes reflected immediately!

The next thing that should be done is to change the structure of your permalinks. It is preferable to have your page and blog post URLs take the name of their respective post titles because this helps SEO. So instead of having a URL named after the article ID number or the date it was posted on, we’re automatically going to assign the name of the post as the URL.

Navigate to ‘Settings’ and then to ‘Permalinks’. On this page, click on ‘Post name’ to change the permalink structure.

At the bottom, click ‘Save Changes’.

4. Create Your Two Main Pages: Home and Blog.

These two pages should be created and set before we get into the more detailed customizations. In the dashboard, hover over ‘Pages’ in the left menu and then click on ‘Add New’ in the dropdown.

The editor will open and provide a place for your page title. Add ‘Home’ to the title and click ‘Publish’ in the upper right-hand side. You can fill in the page later. For now, we’re just laying down the framework.

After publishing, click the WordPress icon on the upper left-hand side to go back to the dashboard, and it will bring you to your current page. Click ‘Add New’ at the top, and create a new page again using the title ‘Blog’. Return to the dashboard.

Now you have two main pages published and ready to go. But we need to set them first. These are the two pages that should be set in the dashboard settings. Once again, hover over ‘Settings’ and now click on ‘Reading’.

Change ‘Your homepage displays’ to ‘A static page’. Then from the ‘Homepage’ dropdown, select ‘Home’. And from the ‘Posts page’ dropdown, set it to ‘Blog’. Then click ‘Save Changes’.

5. Create the menu.

In the dashboard, hover over ‘Appearance’ on the lef-thand side and click on ‘Menus’ in the dropdown. If a menu has not been created, create a new menu and call it Main Menu. Make sure ‘Primary Menu’ is ticked, and not ‘Secondary Menu’. Then click ‘Save Menu’.

If a main menu has already been set, make sure it is set to the appropriate location. At the top of this page, click on the tab that says ‘Manage Locations’ and then set the ‘Primary Menu’ to ‘Main Menu’. Click ‘Save Changes’.

Now add your two pages to this main menu. Using the tab at the top, click on ‘Edit Menus’. In the left box, check ‘Blog’ and ‘Home’ and then click on ‘Add to Menu’.

After adding them to the menu, the home and blog pages will be displayed. You can reorder them through simple dragging and dropping. Click ‘Save Menu’ to finalize.

6. Pick a theme.

In the dashboard, navigate to ‘Appearance’ and then ‘Themes’ in the dropdown. Only a few basic WP themes will be listed and the one your blog uses will be shown is in the first position. Click ‘Add New’ to select a new theme from the WP repository.

Use the menu above the themes to find the perfect theme for your blog. Use the filters to search for features you would like your theme to have included. Once you find your perfect theme, click on it and then click ‘Install’ on the upper left-hand side. Once installed, click ‘Activate’ in the box that appears.

7. Customize your theme.

In the dashboard, hover over ‘Appearance’ and click on ‘Customize’ in the dropdown. This will bring you to a new screen where you can preview the changes made to the design of your blog.

In this example, I’m using the basic WordPress Twenty Twenty-One theme. Other themes may give you many more options to choose from in this customization screen. Here, we will go through basics.

Click on ‘Site Identity’ in the left-hand column.

If you have a logo, you can upload it by clicking on ‘Select Logo’ and uploading it from your computer through a few steps depicted below. Don’t forget to give your image an ‘alt text’ which describes what the image is. When you’re finished, click ‘Publish’ at the top to save your changes.

On this same page, select ‘Site Icon’ in the left column, and go through the same steps of adding an image as above. The site icon will be displayed in the tab of your browser. It should be an image of 512 x 512 pixels or larger. A simple image is best.

Return to the full set of customizer options by clicking the back arrow to the left of ‘Customizing Site Identity’. As noted above, each theme provides different options such as background color and even typography. Play around with options available to you.

You can skip ‘Menus’ as you have already created yours, and the ‘Widgets’ can be better manipulated in the ‘Widgets’ section of the dashboard under ‘Appearance’.

To exit the customizer, click the ‘X’ in the top left-hand side of the screen.

8. Endless Additional Options

Above are the main steps to begin customizing your new blog. Different themes will offer different selections and options such as sidebars, footer columns, and even built-in widgets.

Widgets can be added to sidebars and footer columns through Appearance > Widgets in your dashboard.

With the Gutenberg editor, you can manipulate the design and layout of each page and blog post with columns, blocks, and widgets. In this manner, you can even create your own custom sidebars with different designs and widgets for different pages and posts.

9. Custom CSS

If the theme doesn’t provide easy options to adjust the elements you seek to change, you can add your own custom CSS by clicking on ‘Appearance’ and then ‘Customizer’, then selecting ‘Custom CSS’. If you need help adding CSS, visiting the WP support forums is a great place to start to find help for specific CSS changes.

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