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How and why to customise a WordPress theme

We share 3 ways to customise your WordPress theme

You might be looking through WordPress themes but realising that they’re all missing a feature you require. Perhaps you’re simply interested in making your WordPress site a little more unique.

Getting familiar with WordPress theme customisation can help you tailor your site to your exact specifications. In this article, we will give you three different ways to customise a WordPress theme so you can get your site looking and functioning exactly how you want it.

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  • 40+ free and unique one.com themes
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What is a WordPress theme?

WordPress sites are stylised using Cascading Style Sheets, commonly abbreviated to CSS. A WordPress theme is then essentially a collection of files written with CSS that dictate the visual presentation and functionality of your website. It acts as a design template, providing a framework for the layout, styling, and overall appearance of your site.

Themes can be applied either globally or to specific pages of your website, and they can encompass a wide range of elements, including:

  • Layout: Determines how content is organised and displayed on different pages of your site, such as the homepage, blog posts, and individual pages.
  • Styling: Defines the colours, fonts, and other visual elements that give your site its unique look and feel.
  • Functionality: Includes built-in features and functionalities, such as navigation menus, widget areas, and page templates, which enhance the usability and interactivity of your site.

You can find out more about WordPress themes in our dedicated article.

Why customise your WordPress theme

Although WordPress themes are a great way to incorporate a professionally developed stylesheet into your site without writing a single line of code, you may find that the theme you selected is still missing something. Let’s look at a few reasons why you may want to customise your WordPress theme.

Missing features and functionalities

If you’re creating a website for a specific niche product or service, you may find your site theme doesn’t address your unique needs. You might need to tailor the theme to accommodate niche-specific features. That might be extended ecommerce capabilities, portfolio functions, or community engagement tools for an association. If you’re in this situation, customising can help you create a site that is fully aligned with the distinct requirements of your niche while elevating its performance and usability.

Differentiation and uniqueness

When your website resembles others in your industry due to usage of a generic theme, customisation becomes essential. By infusing your theme with unique design elements and branding, you can create a distinctive online presence that sets you apart from the competition.

Customising your theme allows you to integrate your brand’s unique identity into every aspect of your website, from colour schemes and typography to custom graphics and logo placement. This should be part of a cohesive branding strategy that enhances your website’s visual appeal and reinforces your brand identity, making it instantly recognisable to visitors and helping create a lasting impression.

Need to align with audience preferences

Ensuring that your website resonates with your target audience is essential for its success. Maybe you’ve conducted market research and now have valuable insights into your audience’s preferences and expectations. By customising the theme, you can align your website with the specific needs and expectations of your audience.

Whether it’s adjusting the layout for optimal usability or fine-tuning the design to reflect their aesthetic preferences, customisation lets you tailor your website to cater to your target audience. This customer-centric approach not only enhances user satisfaction but also fosters greater engagement and loyalty among your audience, ultimately driving the success of your website.

Create your website with WordPress

Start building your site with the world’s most popular cms.

Choose a package
  • 40+ free and unique one.com themes
  • Stable and ultra-fast hosting
  • Free SSL certificate
  • Mobile friendly
  • 1-click install
  • 24/7 support

How to customise your WordPress theme

There are several methods you can use to customise, ranging from code-heavy theme editors to simple plugins. We will explore three distinct methods to help you tailor your WordPress theme to your exact specifications.

Add plugins

If you’re completely missing a functionality or wish to enhance some function on your site, adding a plugin is probably the fastest and safest solution for customising your WordPress theme. Whether you’re looking to add ecommerce functionality, social media integration, or SEO optimisation tools, there’s a plugin for virtually every customisation requirement.

You can find a wide range of plugins on the WordPress site. With the extensive library of plugins, you can easily extend your site’s capabilities without any need to directly modify the theme’s underlying code.

Use page builders and built-in customisers

For those who prefer a more visual approach to customisation, page builders and built-in customisers offer a user-friendly solution. These intuitive tools allow you to visually customise your theme’s layout, design elements, and content with ease.

Whether you’re a non-technical user or a seasoned developer, page builders such as Elementor and Beaver Builder provide interfaces to help you craft your own page layouts and designs without ever touching a single line of code.

Some classic themes also come with built-in plugins that are designed specifically to extend their customisation functionalities. These plugins serve to simplify the customisation process while keeping intact the integrity of the theme. With a theme editor plugin, you can integrate new features and functionalities without needing to become familiar with complex coding.

One drawback to note is that WordPress customisation plugins create changes within the plugin itself, so if you uninstall the plugin, your customised design will be disabled along with it.

Use the WordPress theme editor

If you’re comfortable with coding and prefer a more hands-on approach to customisation, some themes let you change their appearance and functionality by editing their code.

Depending on the type of theme you are using, the option to access the WordPress theme editor is available under Appearance » Theme File Editor, or Tools » Theme File Editor

By browsing over to this area, you can modify WordPress theme files directly from the admin area. 

However, some full-page themes don’t have this option available in WordPress. You can edit these themes using SFTP or SSH. 

It’s important to note that theme editors require knowledge of the relevant coding language, whether that’s CSS or a different coding form. Even pasting code snippets into the wrong area of the theme editor can create big problems, up to getting yourself locked out of your website. If you’re not comfortable with coding basics, we strongly recommend sticking to using page builders and adding plugins.

By leveraging these three methods of customisation, you can unlock the full potential of your WordPress theme and create a website that truly reflects your unique vision and requirements. Whether you’re adding new features, enhancing functionality, or refining design elements, the possibilities for customisation are endless.

4 tips for customising your WordPress theme

Here we share 4 essential tips to ensure a smooth and successful customisation process.

Create a backup and work on a staging site first

Before implementing any changes to your live website, it’s a great idea to create a backup of your site. Keeping a backup of your website before making any significant changes helps ensure that you can revert to a previous version in case anything goes wrong.

Work on a staging site

Strongly consider working on a staging site first. A staging site is essentially a clone of your live website that allows you to experiment with changes and customisation without affecting the functionality or appearance of your live site.

By working on a staging site, you can:

  • Prevent issues: Test any modifications to your theme thoroughly to identify and resolve any potential issues or conflicts.
  • Run changes safely: Once your customisations have been thoroughly tested and approved on the staging site, you can confidently apply them to your actual site, knowing that they’ve been checked and are ready for deployment.

Check for accessibility

Accessibility is a critical aspect of website design that ensures all users can access and interact with your site effectively regardless of any visual or physical disabilities.

As you make changes to your theme, it’s essential to keep accessibility considerations in mind. This includes maintaining accessibility standards, such as those outlined in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

You can also consider testing for accessibility to identify and address any accessibility issues introduced by your customisations. This can improve the overall user experience of your site, not only for users with disabilities but for all your visitors.

Be careful with coding

While it may be tempting to dive into the theme’s code to make customisations, proceed with caution, especially if you’re not a seasoned developer. Making changes to the actual theme code can be complex and may lead to unintended consequences. Here’s why you should tread carefully:

  • Adherence to coding standards: WordPress themes must adhere to strict coding standards set by the WordPress community. Modifying the theme code directly may result in violations of these standards, compromising the stability and security of your site.
  • Risk of errors: Without proper expertise, you may inadvertently introduce errors or bugs into your theme code, leading to site malfunctions or compatibility issues.

Instead of modifying the theme code directly, first consider using page builders and built-in customisers as outlined earlier in the article. These user-friendly tools allow you to customise your theme’s layout and design elements without the need for coding, reducing the risk of site-altering changes.

By following these tips, you can navigate the customisation process with confidence, ensuring that your WordPress theme reflects your unique vision while maintaining the integrity and accessibility of your website.

Customising WordPress themes

Customising a WordPress theme allows you to tailor your website to meet your specific needs, differentiate it from competitors, and cater to the preferences of your audience. Plugins, page builders, and built-in customisers are all different tools you can use to customise your WordPress theme and make your site look exactly how you want it, efficiently and effectively.

At one.com, we’ve included free custom themes that are guaranteed to receive security and functionality updates in our hosting plans. If you opt for our Managed WordPress add on with your hosting package, you get even more premium themes to choose from.

Create your website with WordPress

Start building your site with the world’s most popular cms.

Choose a package
  • 40+ free and unique one.com themes
  • Stable and ultra-fast hosting
  • Free SSL certificate
  • Mobile friendly
  • 1-click install
  • 24/7 support