Setting up a blog is technical, left-brain work. Customization is all about your blog personality, getting creative with colors and layouts. And also sorting out some of the basic pieces you need to solidify your branding – little things that are vital to a thriving, popular blog (which is what we all want, whether it’s a business or a hobby).
Pick a Theme
The theme controls the look of your blog and the options you have to customize it. It’s not the colors or the fonts, those you can change in almost every theme. When deciding on a theme you’re looking at the overall way content is presented.
- Does it give you a sidebar (or two)?
- Is it optimized for a gallery structure if photos are your primary content?
- Do you like the way the header fits with the content?
- How is a list of blog posts displayed? With a big header and then multiple columns? Or in a single column with larger featured images?
Above all, your theme must be responsive, meaning it adjusts itself and looks great on a computer screen, a tablet or a 4″ phone. With that requirement, pick any theme you like!
Some themes are free. They are generally not as customizable and not as sophisticated as other themes. If you’re starting a blog on a budget, they’re not the end of the world. And you can rebrand once you have a bit of money to invest in your blog.
If you’re blog is a business, investing in quality design will encourage success. There’s a lot of different recommendations out there for different themes people like. Personally, I love Tweak Me v2. LOVE it, in fact. It’s the creation of at Nose Graze and it is DESIGNED to be customized. Easily and simply.
I’ve used a handful of different free and paid themes over the years. I always chose themes that created the structure I wanted for my content. But the one thing I always want from them is to take what they’ve created and make it my own.
Some of them let me customize EVERYTHING but had the most technical, complicated panels to do it. Some made me dig into the code to add my own php functions (which I can do, but I’d kind of rather not).
Tweak Me v2 utilizes Appearance >> Customize (which is already a part of your WordPress dashboard) so you can be very specific (even adding your own css and code) very easily! It also offers five pre-made layouts if you want fast, easy and well done without any hassle.
Basically, it has ruined me for every other theme because I want them ALL to customize this simply.
This is the part where you incorporate your branding into your site. With Tweak Me v2 this process will take 15-30 minutes tops! Go to Appearance >> Customize. Start at the top and work your way through each tab as if you’re filling in the blanks.
Fonts and colors
Utilize your fancy color palette and cool fonts for:
- link colors (normal and hover)
- basic post text (color and font)
- headings text (color and font)
- widget background color
- content background color
- footer (font and background color)
- social media links color
Those are just the basics, you can define a lot more elements either in the theme customization or with custom css to make your website look exactly how you want.
Menus and Widgets
WordPress uses widgets to describe bits of information in places throughout your site. TweakMe v.2 provides widgets on your landing page, footer and both sidebars to hold different types of information. One widget may contain your profile picture and a quick sentence or two about you. Another might have a field to sign up for your newsletter.
Menus are links to static things like your pages or your post categories.
Basically, in the menus and widgets of it all you want to think about HOW people find information on your site and then organize it so they find what you want them to find quickly and easily.
- Do you want them to sign up for your newsletter? That goes big and bold over featured posts or site search. And you definitely want people to sign up for your newsletter somewhere or multiple somewheres… without being obnoxious.
- Do you want them to connect to your social media accounts? You want those icons above your about information or post categories.
- Do you want your categories displayed as a menu? You can set your categories up even before you start writing posts by going to Posts >> Categories. If you defined the focus of your blog well, you probably have an idea of the 4-6 categories that all your posts will fall under. Once you have those create a menu (Appearance >> Menus) and place it where appropriate.
You’ve got your favicon image (theoretically… if you’ve gone defined your blog branding). In your WordPress dashboard go to Appearance on the left and then Customize. Click “Site Identity” right at the top and upload your favicon. easy peasey.
You also want to upload your profile picture so it shows up alongside any comments you add or on an author widget below your posts. Go to Users and then All Users and click Edit under you. Down towards the bottom you can change your profile picture by going to Gravatar. You have a Gravatar account from when you signed up with Askimet to get your API key so log in with that information.
Click “Create Your Own Gravatar.” Sign in. Click Add to upload your profile picture. Rate it (like a movie rating, and like movies G and PG are going to get more attention than R).
done and done.
If you’re not sure where to go next, jump back to the tutorial page to see all eight steps to create a blog you’ll love!