WordPress Customization is a great way to add a personal touch and add functionalities to your website. These functionalities aren’t the default WordPress themes and plugins that come with your WordPress installation. However, it is not without its risks. Although WordPress is a very powerful and robust platform in its own right, you can easily wreck your site with the wrong changes.
One of the most common questions we get at WordPress Customization is why we don’t recommend tinkering with the WordPress default settings. It seems like we’re always making recommendations to change the appearance and functionality of WordPress.
We don’t just do this because we think we know better than you and we’re trying to upsell you. Really, we just think you’ll get more benefits from WordPress customization than you will from changing default settings.
In this article, you’ll learn the process of customizing your theme so it can be tailored to your exact needs.
Do You Really Need WordPress Customization?
When it comes to making changes to your WordPress themes, there’s always a temptation to go overboard. You may think that this change is “the one that will make all the difference”. There are often changes that you will see as “the one that will improve your site’s appearance”. However, be careful, because there is often more than one change that will improve the overall look and feel of your site.
You can buy a pre-designed theme, or you can customize your own to fit your needs. Both are good options, but if you do decide to customize, think about it carefully. Don’t proceed with WordPress customization without thinking about whether the changes you make will actually improve the look and function of your site.
Customizing Your WordPress Theme via the WordPress Admin Screens
The WordPress admin interface allows you to manage the appearance of your WordPress site using a number of custom menus. This interface can be used to reach all the pages and views on your site. This includes the ability to reach the various WordPress admin screens and to reach and edit all the settings and options available to your site.
For most WordPress users, the only way they will venture into the WordPress admin screens is when they’ve encountered some trouble with their website. It can be useful to have some basic familiarity with the WordPress admin screens, but the majority of users are likely only interested in changing a few things on their site.
Customizing Your Theme via the Customizer
WordPress themes have been a staple in the WordPress community for a long time. While they can be helpful for their simplicity, they can also be limiting.
The Customizer lets you add your own code to the themes template files, and add your own CSS and HTML—it can even add custom functionality or add user-submitted plugins. It allows you to add your own code to the user-created template files, giving you the ability to customize your site beyond what you can do via the built-in WordPress admin.
The Theme Editor (and Why Not to Use it)
The theme editor is integral to any WordPress site, but many users are unaware of its potential. Everyone understands the menu bar, but many overlook the simple little buttons to the right of the editor. The Theme Editor is a great tool but can be used incorrectly. I have seen users delete their navbar, no navbar, navbar with one menu item, navbar with two menu items. The navbar is very important, so don’t ruin it with the theme editor.
Installing a new theme—or changing an existing one—is a lot of work. You have to read the code, copy the changes, and then upload the changes to the theme’s directory. There’s also the risk of introducing bugs, so you can’t just test the changes by installing them. You need to run the theme through the theme review process, which takes time—and if you screw up, you can’t just fix it.