How to Build a Blog With WordPress

Design Your Blog

The WordPress themes editor gives you access to hundreds of downloadable themes and lets you apply any of them in a single click.
Your WordPress blog can be customized to an astonishing degree, giving your site unique functionality in addition to a distinctive look. I'll explain how to make simple design tweaks, how to import free themes that bring their own style, how to add plug-ins for custom functionality, and how to create your own custom theme.

Log in to your dashboard by visiting 'http://your-domain-name.com/wp-admin'. (This location is the same as the directory where you uploaded the files.) Click the Settings tab in the top right to make a few initial alterations. Change the blog title, the tagline, and the time zone as needed. Click Save Changes.

You can make simple adjustments to the blog header through the 'Design', 'Header Image', and 'Color' tabs. Click the buttons to adjust the font color, and change the background gradient by clicking Upper Color and Lower Color. (Use the same color if you want a solid layer.) Click Update Header to modify your blog immediately.

For a larger-scale change, try replacing the default themes. New themes shuffle all of your post details into different layouts and looks, and many themes are free to download through WordPress and other sites. Visit the WordPress Theme Viewer to sample officially tested designs.

I like to check a few of the design options in the left menu, such as '2 columns' and 'right sidebar' to narrow the results; then I browse through the choices. Another option is to type a word in the upper-right search box. Try searching for 'wind', 'rain', 'night', and other poetic descriptors to see the range of different designs. If you like one theme, be sure to check out others from the same designer; to do this, click the More themes by this author link.

Once you find one or more themes that could work for your site, download them to your computer. Themes should come with installation instructions, but in general you just upload their folder into '/wp-content/themes'. Back in your 'Design, Themes' tab, click the new theme to apply it to your site instantly.

Build Your Own Theme

Building a theme from scratch can be daunting, so I recommend that you dive into the theme development page at the WordPress Codex before getting started. Or check out the 5-minute tutorial at BotHack for a brief introduction to how themes work.

Before I learned how to build my own theme from scratch, I used the Wordpress Theme Generator to save time. Though it permitsa much smaller degree of customization, it easily manipulates many settings to produce a unique look quickly.

To begin, visit the free site. The left column controls your settings, and the right side offers a live preview of how the page will look. Step through the options to make your own design. The 'Site name' section controls your masthead logo. Click the white box to change the font color, or enter the URL for your custom JPEG or GIF image. Any custom graphics will be referenced from their original location, not downloaded into a theme--so if you change or erase the original files, your blog will lose those graphics. I recommend that you upload them to your server and then enter that URL.

I retained a two-column design but customized the background pattern and text colors. If appropriate, click the Preview button in the lower-left corner to refresh the right pane as you adjust settings. I ran into a few bugs--in particular, I had trouble changing an already-entered image URL--but with a little patience, I got everything set up. Click the Save button to generate the theme as a ZIP file. Then extract the ZIP file, and upload the full theme folder containing the PHP and other files to your server's '/wp-content/themes' directory. In the WordPress dashboard, select the Design, Themes tab, and click the new theme to make the change.

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