When it comes to your home computer, you may have taken the time to choose a new wallpaper, install your favorite applications, and do other customizations so that it works just the way you want it to work. Your blog should be no different. In fact, it’s even more important that you take the time to customize your blog, because you’re sharing it with everyone on the Internet!
Thankfully, customizing the various options and features in WordPress is a very straightforward and easy-to-understand process. You could stick with the default settings, if you’d like, but you can do so much more by adjusting a few options here and there.
New Layouts, Themes, and Templates
Under the “Appearance” section in the WordPress administration panel, you’ll find the ability to customize the layout and general “look” of your blog. This starts by choosing a theme.
We’ll be going into further detail in future chapters, but the gist of it is that you can download and install different themes for your blog. This defines the layout, color scheme of links, and other features that are pertinent to the look and feel of your blog. There are many free themes available on the Internet, as well as premium paid themes and the ability to get custom themes too.
Most contemporary WordPress themes, which are sometimes called templates, provide what is known as widget support. This means that you can customize the content located in the sidebar of your blog without having to go into the actual “code” of your blog. Widgets can easily be moved, rearranged, and changed. Common widgets include category listings, search bars, and recent comments.
Installing WordPress Plugins
Another great way to customize your WordPress blog is through what are known as plugins. Just like the themes described above, there are both free and paid plugins available on the Internet.
Plugins serve a variety of different functions, limited only by imagination of the plugin developers. The idea is that they can add to or alter the functionality of WordPress to best suit the needs of each particular blogger.
There are plugins that aid in reducing spam, improving search engine optimization, creating useful contact forms, showing related posts, automatically backing up the WordPress database, and more. Some are more useful than others and, thanks to the newer WordPress versions, installing and activating plugins is easier than ever.
We’ll be describing some of the best plugins (and how to use them) a little later on.
User Profile Options
Whether you are the only writer on your site or if you manage a staff of several writers, each contributor is given his or her own user profile. There are options for turning the visual editor on and off, for instance.
Perhaps more importantly, you should take the time to fill out your user profile with your name, your preferred display name, your e-mail address, website, and biography. Depending on your chosen theme and layout, these may or may not be displayed.
You’ll notice at the end of each post on Blogging Tips, for example, the author is given a brief “author box” that includes his or her name and a link to his or her website. This adds to the connectivity and community that your blog can offer. It provides context.
WordPress Settings and Options
As you install more plugins on your WordPress blog, you may encounter more settings and options pages. Even at its default “bare” installation, though, WordPress has many key settings and options that you should know about.
Among the “General” settings, for example, are fields to define the site title, tagline, timezone, date format, and time format. Under the “Writing” settings section, you’ll see the size of the post box, whether emoticons should be automatically converted to graphics, and whether you allow for posting via e-mail.
Take some time to go through the various settings pages — like Reading, Discussion, Media, and Permalinks — and see what other changes you would like to make. All of these can have a rather important impact on how your blog is read, displayed, and enjoyed by your site visitors.