Every so often we get an itch to change things up. Maybe it's a new haircut or wardrobe. Maybe it's redecorating your home. For me it was redesigning my personal website JustinHerren.com. While I enjoyed the previous look and functionality of JustinHerren.com, like Kim Kardashian, it was in need of a makeover.
Since my site uses WordPress for its content management, the first thing I needed to do was select a theme. I knew I wanted a theme that met the following criteria:
- Vertical layout
- Responsive functionality
- Lends itself to a more "flat" design approach
- Multiple page layout options
- Widget ready
After combing through hundreds of free and premium themes, I decided to go with the Interface theme by ThemeHorse.
Now that I had my base to start with, it was time to do a little customization to make it my own. Even if you're not an advance developer, there are several things you can do to customize a WordPress theme and give it your unique flavor.
1. Create a child theme.
If you're going to make adjustments to your WordPress theme, it's important to create a child theme. A child theme allows you to make changes to your themes files without overwriting the parent files. This way, when your theme has updates, all of your hard work adjusting these PHP and HTML files will not be overwritten. This saves a lot of headache and heartache down the road.
2. Select your color scheme.
Color is one of the easier things to change in a WordPress theme. All you need to know is a little CSS. The previous JustinHerren.com design used grays and orange as its primary color palette. I carried this color palette over for the redesign, but also incorporated the light green from the Interface theme presets.
3. Utilize the widgets.
Widgets help a WordPress theme come to life. While each theme has different preset widgets included, you can get even more functionality by using plugins such as Jetpack. Some of the widgets I incorporated into JustinHerren.com include custom menus, Twitter feed, tag clouds, custom html, and services.
4. Install some plugins.
Sometimes you just can't get all the functionality you want from a theme template. Plugin's allow the less developer inclined to generate more unique functionality to our website. A few plugin's that I've found helpful include:
- Google XML Sitemaps
- Page Tagger
- Responsive Gallery Grid
- Soliloquy Lite
- WP Google Fonts
5. Customize your footer.
You want your site to appear official and branded as your own. To help with this, it's important to customize your footer to be branded with your identity. For JustinHerren.com, I included the copyright date and removed the "powered by WordPress" and "theme by" content areas. This is where I needed a bit of coding experience. Every theme is different and some footer's are easier to edit than others. In this case I had to edit the functions.php file for my child theme. This is another example where having a child theme is beneficial. If I only edited the functions.php file in my parent theme, the next time an update is installed, my footer would revert back to the default language.
Now that all the customization and testing is done, I am proud to unveil the new and improved JustinHerren.com. Take a minute to poke around and enjoy the new experience.