How to Get Started With WordPress

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Customize Your WordPress Installation

WordPress has an Appearance tab devoted to letting you alter the looks of your blog. Navigate to the first section under Appearance > Themes, and choose one of the many free layouts. Keep in mind that you aren’t locked into that exact appearance, since you can alter themes. Certain items are easier to adjust than others, though: In general, the color and style of the text and backgrounds are easier to change than images are (and in turn, all of those elements are much simpler to change than the layout of the template). You're better off selecting a template whose elements are generally well positioned and then making changes to the overall look of the site, rather than picking a template that has an attractive color scheme but requires significant layout reorganization.

If you don't like a theme, click the Customize link to start making changes.

Once you’ve found a theme you enjoy, the easiest way to adjust it is to choose Customize. The tools that WordPress gives you will allow you to alter some aspects of the site, such as the color scheme and background image, without having to dig into the coding that makes your theme operate. Naturally, more-thorough alterations (trying to switch out a border element, for instance) may require you to roll up your sleeves and get coding. If you're not ready to tackle that challenge yet, check out our guide to learning to code for free.

The WordPress Customizer lets you quickly change your website's color scheme, fonts, and more.

Advanced users: You don't have to leave your control panel to make changes, since WordPress also has a built-in theme editor (located under 'Editor' in the Appearance tab) that lets you directly alter the coding of any part of your template. You have a great deal of control over every aspect of your blog’s appearance; if you aren’t careful, though, you can damage the functionality of your blog. WordPress is built with a combination of HTML, CSS, and PHP, so you should have at least a passing familiarity with all three coding languages before you start directly altering your site template.

Advanced users can change the underlying code of their WordPress themes using the Theme Editor.

Most users should stick to changing their site’s HTML and CSS, as that approach allows you to control the site’s appearance yet gives you the ability to change the code back easily if you make a mistake. The most dangerous parts of a WordPress site to alter are the PHP scripts, which control the positioning of your blog’s content, along with where in your database that information comes from. Mistakenly altering or deleting these scripts can prevent your blog from displaying your site’s content properly, and that can turn your audience away in droves. Even so, steering clear of these sections—denoted by tags—is fairly easy if you're careful with your edits.

Although WordPress can seem intimidating at first, the key is to change only what you feel comfortable altering. Website designers at all experience levels can run into trouble with some of the subtleties of WordPress, but even users who have no familiarity with HTML or CSS can install and customize their own WordPress blog.

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