How To Customize Your WordPress Theme [DOs and DONTs]

How To Customize Your WordPress Theme

WordPress has been around since 2003. This makes WordPress one of the oldest website providers in the world. All these years, WordPress has developed, innovated, and transformed into a much better platform both for beginners and experts alike. As of 2021, there are 11,000+ themes available for and 455 million sites powered by WordPress.

Themes are a great starting point for beginners since they give you the basic functionality that every website should have and more customization to make it more personable. However, customizing WordPress themes can be tricky for some, and you might want to consider hiring a WordPress developer that offers a WordPress Customization Service.

But if you are on a budget or want to explore and dive deep into the WordPress Theme customization world. This guide will teach you the basic procedures and precautions when customizing your WordPress Theme. Without further ado, let’s get started.

Things to Setup Before Customizing Your WordPress Theme

Customizing a WordPress theme can be daunting and full of mistakes, especially if this is your first time doing so. Luckily for you, there are precautions you can take to minimize the impact of these mistakes.

1. Fully Backup Your Website Data

Backing up your website data is the first thing you should do before you start editing. This is especially important if you are going to be editing a lot of things. This way, when you make a mistake or want to go back to a specific version of your WordPress Site. You have your backup to restore it for you. Many hosting providers have this feature available and can make a backup easily for you. You just need to contact their support team. Alternatively, backing up your site can be done by installing a plugin like Updraft Plus.

2. Maintenance Mode

If you already have a website running and with frequent visitors, and when you start editing your website’s theme. You don’t want your visitors to see it since mistakes can happen. For this reason, turning on maintenance mode might save you good first impressions. Maintenance mode can be turned on by free plugins like SeedProd.

3 Ways To Customize Your WordPress Theme

There are many methods to customize your WordPress website. The most popular methods will be listed, but in most cases, the best approach is one where you don’t have to touch a single line of code unless you are a WordPress developer or an expert in code. That’s because there is a high chance you mess something up which will then require either restoring your site from a backup or finding someone who can fix it.

1. Customizing Via The WordPress Customizer

The easiest way to customize your WordPress theme is by using the default WordPress customizer. This can be accessed in one of two ways:

  • When you are logged in to your website admin (yoursite.com/wp-admin) on your left-sidebar, look for Appearance -> Customize.
WordPress Dashboard: Appearance - Customize
  • When viewing your site (you have to be logged in to your admin), click the Customize link on your header menu.
WordPress - customize button

Different themes have different customization layouts and options. Depending on your theme, you might get more or fewer customization layouts, as shown in the picture below.

WordPress Customizer

From this point, the best way to grasp the customization features of your theme is to experiment and customize away. Don’t worry about making mistakes since mistakes will always help you learn something and assume your website data is backed up. You should have no worries since you can always restore your original website.

2. The Theme Editor (Code Included – Do not use this method)

If you go to your admin screen and navigate to Appearance -> Theme Editor. This will show you your theme’s code.
You can edit your current theme’s code from here. However, there is one important thing to keep in mind.
You should ONLY edit the code if you have a child theme installed. If not, my recommendation would be not to edit the code of your theme directly.

That’s because if you edit your parent theme and you update it to a newer version, all of these changes you’ve made will be erased. The advantage of editing the child theme as opposed to a parent theme is that if you update your parent theme, the changes made in the child theme will be preserved.

It would also be best to edit the code with an FTP client like FileZilla since it lets you download and upload these files to integrate them into your current theme code. 

WordPress - Theme Editor

3. Creating a Child Theme

In WordPress, there is a parent theme. A parent theme is the entirety of the theme – it includes all the files, assets, and settings for your theme. A child theme is an extension of the parent theme, and its files are kept separate from the parent theme. This is great for customization since the child theme inherits the settings and feel of the parent theme while keeping all our future edits separate. And thus, creating a child theme allows you to update your parent theme without losing your customization.

This makes this method the best way to edit a WordPress theme since it enables you to edit and tinker away in a low-risk environment. If you aren’t satisfied with your changes or something goes wrong, you can disable the child theme, and it will restore to your parent’s theme.

Things to Setup After Customizing Your WordPress Theme

After customizing your WordPress theme, there are standard procedures you should be taking to minimize future headaches. Here are some of them.

1. Check for Cross-Browser-Compatibility

There are multiple browsers around, and each one of them has different rendering styles, which means that each of them might display your website differently or even not at all. Checking for cross-browser compatibility is a must for website development to maximize the reach of your website. You can do this by a third-party checker or by downloading the most popular browsers and checking your website in each one of them and making sure it’s working as intended.

2. Turn off maintenance mode (if applicable)

As mentioned before, maintenance mode allows you to create, edit, and customize your theme, and your visitors can’t see it. But when you are done with customizing your WordPress theme, you want your visitors to see it, which is why turning off maintenance mode is a must. There have been numerous nightmare stories where someone forgets to turn off their maintenance mode for weeks and months. Don’t be that person.

3. Responsive Design

Mobile-friendliness is becoming a standard in website design/development. This is because more than half of the world’s website traffic comes from smartphones. If you want to cater to mobile devices, it might be worth considering designing your website to look good for smaller to medium devices.

Conclusion

As you can see, customizing your WordPress website can be tricky and risky but if you apply the right approach it can be done safely. Always make sure to backup your site before doing any customizations and follow the best practices described above.

About The Author

Andriy Haydash

Andriy Haydash

Andriy Haydash is a WordPress Expert who helps people build and launch successful WordPress membership and e-learning websites.

Note: Not all of the articles are written directly by me.
Affiliate Disclaimer: Some links in the post may be my affiliate links

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