How to Customize a Theme in WordPress

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There are many free and paid themes available, but to get the perfect look, you may need to make some minor changes to the appearance of your theme. You may also need some minor content updates.

Here are the changes that can be performed to customize a theme in WordPress.

1. Customize theme settings in WordPress

You can make minor changes to the look and feel of a theme from within WordPress.

Before making any changes to a WordPress theme, create a child theme to avoid losing your changes when updating the theme.

  1. Log in to WordPress.
  2. Click Appearance.
  3. Click Customize.
  4. From here, you can make changes to the following parts of the site:
    • Site Identity
    • Layout
    • Colors
    • Fonts
    • Header Image
    • Background Image
    • Menus
    • Widgets
    • Static Front Page

Note: The options available will depend on what the author of the theme has made available.

2. Change the theme CSS in WordPress

You can make changes to the CSS of your theme from within WordPress.

  1. Before making any changes to a WordPress theme, add a child theme
  2. Log in to WordPress.
  3. Go to Appearance > Editor.
  4. Make your CSS changes or additions.
  5. Click Update File.

3. Update a WordPress theme with FTP

You can update a WordPress theme to its latest version through FTP. This is necessary for some premium and custom themes that can’t be updated in WordPress. You’ll need to download the files for your theme to your local computer before starting this process.

  1. Connect to your hosting with FTP.
  2. Navigate to the /wp-content/themes folder for your WordPress site.
  3. Upload your theme to this folder.
  4. If your theme is zipped, you will need to unzip it.

    Note: If you don’t have a way to unzip the file on your hosting account, you’ll need to unzip the file on your local computer, and then upload the unzipped folder of files.
  5. If your theme has a custom stylesheet, also known as a child theme, repeat the process for this as well.

4. Change the menu appearance in WordPress

The look of a WordPress menu can be changed by updating the CSS.

  1. Before making any changes to a WordPress theme, add a child theme
  2. Log in to WordPress.
  3. Go to Appearance > Editor.
  4. Enter the desired changes to the CSS.
  5. Example: This is sample code for changing the font size for a WordPress menu:

    .primary-navigation { font-size: XXpx; }
    • The XX is the new font size for your menu.
    • The px stands for pixel.
  6. Click Update File.

Your changes will now be visible across your entire site.

5. Change the footer in WordPress

You can manually make changes to the PHP code in the footer of your WordPress site. This enables you to change more than just the text that appears at the bottom of your pages.

Before making any changes to a WordPress theme, create a child theme to avoid losing your changes when updating the theme.

  1. Connect to your site with FTP.
  2. Navigate to the /wp-content/themes directory.
  3. Open the directory containing the theme you wish to work with.
  4. Locate the footer.php file.
  5. Copy the file to the appropriate child theme directory.
  6. Edit and update the footer.php file in the child theme directory.

Changes made to the footer.php file located in the child theme directory will take precedence immediately over the original footer.php.

6. Change the header in WordPress

You can manually make changes to the PHP code in the header of your WordPress site. This enables you to change more than just the text that appears at the top of your pages.

  1. Before making any changes to a WordPress theme, add a child theme.
  2. Connect to your site with FTP.
  3. Navigate to the /wp-content/themes directory.
  4. Open the directory containing the theme you wish to work with.
  5. Locate the header.php file.
  6. Copy the file to the appropriate child theme directory.
  7. Edit and update the header.php file in the child theme directory.

Changes made to the header.php file located in the child theme directory will take precedence immediately over the original header.php.

7. Change the theme background color in WordPress

The background color of a WordPress site can be changed by modifying the CSS.

  1. Before making any changes to a WordPress theme, add a child theme.
  2. Log in to WordPress.
  3. Go to Appearance > Editor.
  4. Enter the CSS to change the background color. Below is sample code:

    .site { background-color: #XXXXXX; }
    • .site is the css class for the whole site.
    • XXXXXX is the hex code for the color you want to use.
  5. Click Update File.

In these ways a theme can be customized in WordPress to fulfil the requirements of any project.

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