I’ll run through 10 fairly straightforward ways that a beginning developer or blogger can customize
their WordPress theme to ensure it doesn’t “look like a blog” — at least to a certain degree. Keep in mind that the goal here is not to hide the fact that a website is using WordPress — that’s quite difficult, if not impossible. The ultimate goal here is to help your website have a seamless, consistent, look and feel that does not necessarily scream “WordPress-driven” from the instant the home page loads up.
Customize Your Sidebar and Keep it Consistent- The sidebar in WordPress is a dead “giveaway” when a user visits your site. The sidebar will have default titles like “Blogroll”, “Categories” and “Archives”. You can easily change the text of these titles, and which sections are displayed, by editing the sidebar.php file in the theme directory. Also, WordPress displays a different sidebar depending on what page of the site you’re on, which can also be changed. I personally prefer to display virtually the same sidebar on all pages, to keep the site consistent.
These tips are for beginning WP developers who are coding themes for their own site
Use “Decategorizer” Plugin for Cleaner URLs- One of the most obvious ways to customize the look of your blog’s urls is to use clean permalinks, rather than the default querystring driven url structure. But that’s an obvious one. No self-respecting blogger would fail to enable custom urls, which can be done easily through the WP dashboard. The Decategorizer plugin had a few bugs, which have recently been corrected, and also requires that you install the Redirection plugin, for Decategorizer to work properly. Be sure to read carefully the documentation and installation instructions for these plugins to ensure they are installed and functioning as expected.
Customize Metadata for Individual Posts- Every post has “metadata” contained inside of paragraph tags at the bottom of each blog post. This data is generated dynamically through the loop that pulls your content out of the database. You can easily edit, delete, or modify any of these pieces of data that are displayed with each entry, which can be found inside of the index.php file in your theme directory. The default look for the metadata section looks like this in WordPress 2.7.1:
- <p class=”postmetadata”><?php the_tags(‘Tags: ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘<br />’); ?> Posted in <?php the_category(‘, ‘) ?> | <?php edit_post_link(‘Edit’, ”, ‘ | ‘); ?> <?php comments_popup_link(‘No Comments »’, ‘1 Comment »’, ‘% Comments »’); ?></p>
Disable Comments (Not Recommended)- This is not necessarily something I would recommend, since user-contributed comments are a huge part of the blogging world, however, it should definitely be pointed out that removing the “Post a Comment” section at the bottom of every post would be a sure-fire way to adjust your blog to ensure a more customized look and feel.
Don’t Use “Tags” or a “Tag Cloud” (Not Recommended)- Again, while this customization option is not necessarily recommended, it is certainly an effective way to customize your blog so that it does not resemble every other WordPress installation on the World Wide Web. “Tags” are keywords that you can add to individual posts in your WordPress dashboard. They are similar to categories, but provide a wider interrelationship between posts.
Tags associated with a particular post allow users to click on certain keywords to view more entries related to that keyword, similar to clicking on a specific category. Tags also provide SEO benefits, as they help Google and blog directories properly categorize your blog’s pages. So, while you do have the option to avoid using tags on your posts, thereby ensuring a cleaner look to your website, be aware of the drawbacks of doing so.
Change the Default Display of the Title Bar Content- The header.php file in WordPress’s default theme has a title bar that is coded like this:
- <title><?php wp_title(‘«’, true, ‘right’); ?> <?php bloginfo(‘name’); ?></title>
Once again, you can see the
« character that is highly overused in the web development industry. (Not to mention that it’s actually a left quotation mark for french text!) You can replace that character with a different one, and even change the way the page titles are displayed. You’ll notice there’s a function called
wp_title that holds 3 parameters (including the
«character). The third parameter tells WordPress where to display the post title — to the left or to the right of your blog name.
Use the “Pages” Sidebar Section as Your Main Navigation- While I’ve already discussed a little bit about the sidebar, it’s worth mentioning separately that the “pages” section of the sidebar can easily serve as your main navigation bar. At first glance, nobody will even notice that this has been done. In the default WP theme, here’s the code that generates the “pages” section of the sidebar, found in sidebar.php:
- <?php wp_list_pages(‘title_li=<h2>Pages</h2>’ ); ?>
Simply take that piece of code and place it wherever you want your main navigation to display. Of course, you’ll have to style it to your liking, in line with your theme’s look. And most likely you’ll want to remove the title of that section. You can do that by simply removing everything after the equals sign in the single parameter, so it will look like this:
Don’t Call Your Website a “Blog”
Okay, this is not really a WordPress tip, per se. It’s more of a marketing recommendation for the purpose of more effective branding in conjunction with a site that just happens to use WordPress as its engine. Serious websites that provide significant content are viewed as “communities” or “resources”, instead of “blogs”. The word “blog” nowadays is probably more appropriate for individuals who post thoughts and musings on various personal and professional topics. experimenting with theme development. Most likely, these tips would not apply to custom downloaded themes that are pre-built and probably already have many of these customizations.
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