That’s my goal for you.
A lot of WP users haven’t realized yet how powerful WordPress is, so let this post be a source of inspiration as you discover new tools and tactics for customizing your WordPress website.
You’ll brand your site, personalize your content, and even make changes to the admin dashboard.
By the time you’re done reading, you’ll have a more beautiful, fully branded website.
There’s a lot to learn here, so bookmark this page so you can come back and finish if you need more time.
Let’s get started with the biggest customization tactic of all…
- 1. Pick a new theme
- 2. Switch to a static homepage
- 3. Create a custom homepage
- 4. Change your font
- 5. Change the number of posts per page
- 6. Enable infinite scroll
- 7. Use consistent Featured Images
- 8. Write a custom excerpt for every post
- 9. Customize how your site looks on Facebook
- 10. Add your social icons
- 11. Add social sharing buttons
- 12. Add a contact form
- 13. Create a landing page
- 14. Create a custom menu
- 15. Make your menu “sticky”
- 16. Add a breadcrumb trail
- 17. Customize your colors
- 18. Add your logo to the browser tab
- 19. Add a background image
- 20. Create a branded login page
- 21. Customize the WP admin
- 22. Update your Display Name
- 23. Display a custom avatar
- 24. Add an author box
- 25. Add an “About Me” widget
- 26. Control which pages widgets display on
- 27. Add category descriptions
- 28. Customize the footer text
- 29. Customize the emails WordPress sends
- 30. Customize your 404 page
- 31. Master the HTML widget
1. Pick a new theme
The quickest way to make a dramatic change to your site is to change WordPress themes.
Switching themes will instantly change everything about your site’s design.
But there’s a problem…
There are more than 10,000 WordPress themes to choose from!
You could easily spend days browsing and reviewing themes. In fact, a lot of people do!
Every week, people email me saying they’ve looked at hundreds of themes before choosing one of mine.
If you want to save yourself some time, follow my guide on how to choose the perfect theme for your site.
Of course, if you want to test out a new design right away, we’ve got 19 free WordPress themes that you can preview straight from your WP dashboard.
The next easy way to make a huge change to your site’s design is to switch from your latest posts to a static page on the homepage.
2. Switch to a static homepage
Here’s an insider tip:
Every WordPress site should use a static homepage.
Yup, even if you’re a blogger. In fact, especially if you’re a blogger!
You’ll get more subscribers and make more money with your website if you do more than list your newest posts..
For example, your homepage can include an email optin form to build your subscribers and then promote a few of your best posts instead of simply displaying your latest posts.
This change is easy to make from the WordPress dashboard. Just flip this setting to a static page:
Or, you can follow along with this straightforward video tutorial:
Of course, now you’re probably wondering how to create a custom homepage. That’s easily done too with the right tool.
3. Create a custom homepage
You can use Elementor to design a custom homepage.
In case you’re not familiar with it, Elementor is a page builder plugin, and as the “page builder” part implies, you can use it to create entirely custom pages.
This in-depth video tutorial will teach you how to use Elementor:
To get started, you can install Elementor on your site by searching for it in the Plugins menu or downloading it from wordpress.org.
After you install Elementor on your site, you can visit any Page and click the “Edit with Elementor” button to launch the editor.
You’ll be taken to this interface:
On the left side of the screen are all the various widgets available which you can drag-and-drop into the page content area.
To make a custom page, all you need to do is add the widgets you want into the page content. Each one has a ton of customizable options included, like this:
Gutenberg has similar blocks, but the widgets in Elementor are much more customizable.
But adding and customizing each widget one-at-a-time might seem like a lot of work. To make things easier, Elementor has stylish pre-made blocks that you can drop into any page:
Even better, Elementor has completed sales pages that you can insert into your pagge with just one click.
You can browse the pre-built homepages, insert your favorite, and then swap out the text and images for a perfect fit.
There are quite a few free sales pages, but most of the best ones are only available in Elementor Pro.
So to summarize how this all works…
You’ll rely on your theme for most of the pages on your site, but when you need an entirely custom page like for your homepage, this is a great time to use Elementor. In fact, even as a theme developer, I’ve started creating pages with Elementor instead of coding them myself because it’s so fast and simple.
Now that you know about page builders, let’s get back to global site customizations.
4. Change your font
The font you choose has a big impact on the character of your site.
That’s why you might be annoyed if you haven’t gotten to choose your font.
Well, I’m guessing your theme doesn’t have custom fonts if you’re reading this, so here’s a simple and free solution:
Install the Google Fonts Typography plugin.
This plugin will give you complete access to the Google Fonts library which is the de facto font source for the web.
I use Google Fonts in all of my themes and I don’t know any theme developers who use anything else.
Once you install the Google Fonts Typography plugin, you’ll find a new panel in the Customizer where you can quickly switch the font across your entire site.
I’ve got a detailed video tutorial on changing your font with Google Fonts Typography if you want step-by-step instructions.
If you’re using any of our themes, you’ll also find Google Fonts fully integrated in your theme’s PRO upgrade.
Now here’s another quick win to tweak the presentation of your site.
5. Change the number of posts per page
By default, WordPress displays ten posts on your main blog page and archives (categories, tags, author, and date archives).
Ten is a good default, but what if you have a multi-column layout like the layouts in Challenger Pro?
Visitors will scroll past all ten posts in a single swipe. Your site will perform better if you include more posts like 16 or 20 instead.
You can visit the Reading Settings menu (Settings > Reading) and quickly change the number of posts per page with this setting:
When someone reaches the end of your posts, they can click on the pagination to find more, but there’s another customization that’s better than simple pagination.
6. Enable infinite scroll
How often do you actually click the pagination links at the bottom of a blog?
I do sometimes, but all I ever click is the link to the next page of posts. Knowing that, do you really need anything more than a “more posts” button?
Infinite scroll allows visitors to scroll down a page and auto-load posts as they scroll. While this can work well for some sites, there’s a slight tweak that tends to work better. That solution is to include a “load more” button after your posts, like this:
Visitors can click the button to load the posts automatically without reloading the entire page.
The free WordPress Infinite Scroll plugin does an excellent job, but you’ll need to be comfortable editing some code in your theme.
Infinite scroll will get your visitors to read more posts and spend longer on your site. In fact, while we’re on this subject, here are two more ways to customize your site so that visitors read more of your posts.
7. Use consistent Featured Images
You do use Featured Images, right?
Just to make sure we’re on the same page, you can use this option in the sidebar of any post or page to add a Featured Image:
And the image will then show up on the blog and post page like this:
Featured Images will help each post get more attention and more clicks which means more readers and subscribers.
But there’s more to it.
Some WordPress users only think about one post at a time as they select Featured Images and it makes their blog look disjointed.
When choosing Featured Images, make sure you keep a consistent look.
For instance, I usually stick to vector art for Featured Images here on the Compete Themes blog.
Pick a consistent aesthetic for the Featured Images on your site and it will make for a more beautiful design.
If you want your blog to be even more enticing, follow this next tip.
8. Write a custom excerpt for every post
I can’t believe how few people write custom excerpts!
In the right sidebar of the editor, you’ll find this Excerpt box:
As long as you’re using a well-coded theme, the excerpt you write there will show up on the main blog page and archives.
There are two reasons for writing a custom excerpt for each post.
First, your theme probably uses the first 25 words. Don’t you think you can write a more enticing teaser for your post then just grabbing the first 25 words? Visitors will click more if you write compelling excerpts.
Secondly, you can make sure the excerpt fits into the design well when you write custom excerpts. If the default length looks too long or short, writing manual excerpts will fix that issue.
Plus, it will also make your site perform better on social media if you follow this next customization tactic.
9. Customize how your site looks on Facebook
If you followed my last two tips, you’re going to love the way your posts look when shared on Twitter and Facebook.
You need to add “Open Graph” tags to your site. The easiest way is to install the Yoast SEO plugin.
Yoast SEO is going to optimize your site to rank better in Google. I don’t want to get too sidetracked because this post is about web design not search engine optimization, so you can read these SEO tutorials if you want more info about all of that.
The other thing Yoast SEO does is add Open Graph tags to your site 😁
Open Graph tags show up in the source code of each page of your site and tell social media sites like Facebook what content to use when someone shares your site.
If you add a Featured Image and write a custom excerpt, that’s the content Facebook will display when the post is shared, but only if you have the Open Graph tags added.
With Yoast SEO, you also have the option of adding a different image just for Facebook and/or Twitter.
How cool is that?
You could use a plain photograph as your Featured Image, but have a different version with the title overlaid just for when people share the post on Facebook.
While we’re talking about social media, this next customization is essential for building your audience.
BONUS TIP: To save time, I write a custom meta description for each post, enter that into Yoast, and then reuse it as the post’s custom excerpt.
This WordPress customization is dead simple.
If you want people to follow you, you need to make it easy!
Most themes these days have social icons built-in, like the Mission News theme which includes icons for more than 50+ social media sites.
When someone clicks on one of the icons, it takes the visitor straight to your social profile. This is a great way to get people following you on whatever platform they prefer.
While adding social icons into the header and/or footer of your site is great for building your audience, you should also consider adding social sharing buttons.
I don’t want to confuse you, so let me make this clear.
In the last step, I recommended adding linked icons to your social profiles in the header of the site. Those are just links.
Social sharing buttons should be added into your posts, like this:
When someone clicks one of these buttons, it opens up a new tab with the post filled-in and ready to be shared.
There are tons of plugins to choose from, but my new favorite is Scriptless Social Sharing.
The problem I have with most share button plugins is that they slow down your site too much. Scriptless Social Sharing includes the essential features and nothing more. It loads super fast and works great on desktop and mobile.
With all the new traffic you’ll be getting, you’ll want to make a few more customizations to make your site more profitable.
12. Add a contact form
If you sell services on your site then adding a form so clients can get in touch is obvious.
But a contact form is an essential part of every website. You never know what opportunities may come your way.
When it comes to adding a contact form, WPForms is my favorite plugin.
It’s incredibly customizable and easy to use. Plus, the premium upgrades really take things to the next level.
My guide on how to add a contact form to WordPress will walk you through all of the steps.
If you’re not selling services or you already have a contact form, you may want to create a new landing page.
13. Create a landing page
A landing page is a page on your site that visitors land on. In other words, you send new traffic here to convert them into subscribers and/or customers.
If you’re successfully driving traffic to your site then its time to put up an offer on a landing page and send visitors there.
One trick with landing pages is that you either remove all navigation or restrict the navigation on that page. To do this, you’ll need to know how to create custom menus.
While it depends on which theme you choose, your site will likely output every “Page” in the main menu.
This is not ideal.
You’ll want to create a custom set of links for your menu, and potentially a few menus that you display on different pages on your site.
To create a custom menu, follow the steps in this video tutorial:
You’ll learn how to add links to any posts, pages, or even external URLs into your menu. You can also reorder them and create dropdown menus with ease.
Add this next customization to make your site even easier to navigate.
You’ve scrolled a ways down this post by now, but if you look at the top of the screen, you’ll see that the primary menu is still visible.
Keeping your menu fixed to the top of the screen at all times makes your site a lot easier to navigate because visitors don’t need to scroll all the way back up every time they decide to navigate to a new page.
There are two simple ways to make your navigation sticky (if your theme doesn’t already include this option).
First, you can install the free Sticky Menu on Scroll plugin.
This plugin works great but you do need to know how to find a CSS selector to use. For all of our themes, you can use either
#menu-primary-items depending if you want the entire header or just the primary menu to be sticky.
The second alternative is to use the sticky menu option available in Elementor Pro. This method doesn’t require using any CSS selectors and you can completely customize the design of the menu while you’re at it.
I have one more tip to make your site even easier to navigate.
You’ve probably heard of the fairy tale, Hansel & Gretel.
As you may recall, they drop breadcrumbs while they travel through the forest leaving a trail they can follow to find their way back home.
Web designers adopted this same term for the trail of links sometimes added below the header, like this example on Amazon.
Each link takes you one step backward in the sites navigation.
While your website is undoubtedly smaller and less complex than Amazon, it would still likely benefit from the use of breadcrumbs.
If you installed the Yoast SEO plugin recommended earlier in this post, then you don’t need to do much else. Just click this option to turn it on from the settings menu:
All of our themes are compatible with Yoast’s breadcrumb trail, but you may need to check with your theme developer if the breadcrumbs don’t show on your site.
With these last few tips, you’ve made all of the most important customizations to your navigation.
Now let’s move onto branding your site for a consistent visual effect.
17. Customize your colors
This is a simple and perhaps obvious step to brand your website.
Changing the accent color throughout your site will create a consistent visual effect.
If your theme doesn’t include custom colors and you don’t know how to customize your site with code, then let me introduce you to an awesome tool: CSS Hero.
Here’s a bit of background…
CSS is the name of the coding language web designers use to style web pages. CSS Hero is a WordPress plugin that lets you customize your theme without writing a single line of CSS yourself.
For instance, you can easily change the background color of your site with CSS Hero. You would start by opening up the visual editor which looks like this:
Next, you would click on the background revealing a set of customization options in the left sidebar.
Lastly, you would use the background color option to set it to any color you want and then save your changes.
CSS Hero can be used to change the color of any element on your site as well as the fonts, spacing, and loads of other design aspects.
This next customization technique is a must for every professional website.
18. Add your logo to the browser tab
I’m sure your logo is already at the top of your site. Every theme I’ve ever seen includes a simple option for this.
But you shouldn’t stop there!
You should also add your logo to the browser tab itself, like this:
That little icon is normally referred to as a favicon, but the WordPress interface calls it a “Site Icon.”
Nevertheless, you can find this option in the Customizer (Appearance > Customize).
Inside the Customizer, open the Site Identity section and you’ll find the Site Icon option at the bottom.
All you need to do is upload the logo image from your computer and hit the Publish button.
When choosing an image for the favicon, it’s best to use an icon if your logo includes one. For Compete Themes, I use the pen and shield icon, but if I didn’t have that, I would simply make the logo a blue square with “CT” in white text.
You might also be surprised to see WordPress recommend your image be 512x512px. That seems kinda large, doesn’t it?
Well besides the icon in the browser tab, your favicon will also be reused in bookmarks that can show up much larger. For instance, someone using an iPad Pro might save your site to their Safari home screen where the icon will display quite large.
You can follow along with our full tutorial on how to add a favicon to WordPress if you want more detailed guidance (there’s a video tutorial too)
Another way to give your site a distinct look is to use a branded background image.
19. Add a background image
You don’t see background images that often anymore.
These days, most websites stick to a plain white or light gray background. If you want to really stand out, try adding a background image that is both beautiful and on brand.
We can turn to CSS Hero once again for this customization.
Select the background, but instead of setting a color, you would choose the image option instead.
You can upload any image you want and even import one directly from Unsplash.
Now let’s take your branding to the next level.
20. Create a branded login page
If you’ve got members logging into your site, creating a branded login page is a must.
In fact, even if it’s just you logging into your site, branding the login screen provides a real sense of professionalism and satisfaction. Trust me!
I branded the Compete Themes login and now it looks awesome:
I did this using the free Custom Login Page Customizer plugin.
If you want to follow the same steps, I wrote a post for WP Newsify all about all about it.
If you’ve been following along then your site and the login screen are totally branded, but there’s no reason to stop there!
Let’s take the branding into the site’s dashboard to take your WordPress site customization even further.
21. Customize the WP admin
First of all, just in case you didn’t know this, you can change the color palette of the admin dashboard from the Your Profile menu.
Moving on, the color schemes there probably don’t match your brand perfectly. To get full control over your admin interface, check out the WP Custom Admin Interface plugin.
You’ll have a huge amount of control over the design of your site’s admin interface. For instance, you can create a new color palette that can be selected from the Your Profile menu.
And you can even rename and reorder your menu items, hide menus, and add completely custom new menu items.
If you want total control over the admin interface, this is the way to do it.
Now that you know all the best ways to brand your website for a business, let’s cover some personal branding customizations.
22. Update your Display Name
I see this all the time on new WordPress websites:
Who is admin?
Leaving your name this way doesn’t make your site look very professional and it certainly doesn’t help your personal brand.
The good news is that it’s very easy to change.
The name that shows up in your post byline and comments is referred to as the Display Name, and you can change it from the Users > Your Profile menu.
Once saved, it will update instantly across your whole site.
This video explains how to use Display Names in more detail:
With your name set, you’ll also want to add a custom avatar.
23. Display a custom avatar
You don’t want a default avatar displaying next to your new Display Name, like this:
Most WordPress themes integrate with Gravatar, so the moment you add an image there it will show up instantly on your site.
In case you’re not familiar with Gravatar, it’s a very simple service.
All you do add an email address and upload an image to associate with it. That’s it 🙂
You’ll see the Gravatar image show up on your site and any other websites that integrate with the service (a lot do).
Alternatively, you can install the Simple User Avatar plugin to upload a profile image to your site without using Gravatar.
Getting your name and picture onto all of your posts is a great start, and adding an “author box” can take things to the next level.
By “author box,” I mean something like this:
Author boxes are great for building your brand for two reasons.
First, they get your name and face in front of visitors.
Second, you can add a short bio that helps you add even more personality and relatability. Plus, you can link to any pages you want.
Since the author box shows up after the post content, visitors seeing it have just finished reading a post which is a great time to associate yourself with that content.
If your theme doesn’t have an author box included, I recommend installing the Simple Author Box plugin.
There are quite a few author box plugins available, but that one gives the best balance of flexibility and out-of-box quality in my opinion.
This video tutorial will give you a behind-the-scenes look if you want to watch how it works first.
The next way to customize your site will help you build your personal brand even faster.
25. Add an “About Me” widget
If your website has a sidebar, one of the best customizations for building your brand is to include an About Me widget at the top.
This will keep your name and avatar visible on every page you publish.
You can use the Text widget or HTML widget to create a layout like this yourself, or install the Easy Profile Widget plugin.
The more you expose visitors to your name, avatar, and bio, the more familiar you’ll become to them and the better your marketing will perform.
Speaking of widgets, here’s another awesome way to customize your WordPress website.
26. Control which pages widgets display on
Widgets are awesome, but there’s one problem.
Sometimes you want to add a widget to your sidebar, but you don’t want it to display on every page of your website.
What if you could choose exactly which posts and pages each widget displays on?
With the Widget Options plugin, you can.
After you install Widget Options, you’ll see this new section added to every widget.
You can add widgets to entire page types at once like all categories, or choose specific categories or even individual pages.
Since you can easily flip the rules between including VS excluding the widget on the selected pages, this plugin gives your site incredible flexibility.
Here’s another way to upgrade your site’s customization.
27. Add category descriptions
A regular category heading on your site might look something like this:
While this works fine on its own, you can actually add a unique description for every category.
With a description added, you can help visitors understand exactly what they’ll find on the page and it’s also good for SEO.
You can visit the Categories page (Posts > Categories) and click on any category there to edit it. Then on the next page, type the description into this box:
Most themes will display the description on the category page below the heading, like this:
You can complete this customization in a matter of minutes and give your site a more professional look.
Another way to boost the professionalism of your site is to customize your footer text.
Most WordPress themes include a short design credit at the bottom of the site.
While it’s often not possible to remove this text without writing code, some themes like Ignite, include a simple option in the Customizer to change the footer text.
You can include any text you want, but many websites opt to include the company name, the current year, and a copyright icon. You can use your emojis to add a copyright symbol or just copy this one to your clipboard – ©
29. Customize the emails WordPress sends
This might be huge for you if you have members joining your site.
WordPress has lots of pre-written messages it sends out. For instance, there are emails for when someone joins your site or changes their password.
None of these messages are going to be on-brand for you, so you can install the Notification plugin to get total control over the email copy.
This plugin is awesomely customizable and allows you to change the copy of existing emails and add completely new events for sending emails.
We normally think of website customization as visual changes for a site, but writing custom copy for your emails will take your customization even further.
If you really want every aspect of your site to be customized, one of the last steps is to edit your 404 page.
30. Customize your 404 page
If you unpublish a page or change the URL and someone visits the old address, they’ll see a 404 screen like this:
While you want to clean up broken links and 404 errors on your site, it’s a perfectly natural occurrence for a website.
Since you know people will occasionally see your 404 page, this is another chance to create a custom branded page.
For this, we’ll turn to the 404page plugin.
With this plugin you can create an entirely custom 404 page for your site. It’s designed in a very clever way.
With 404page, you can simply publish a regular page with any content you want and then assign it as your 404 page. This much easier and more flexible than using a custom editor for the error page.
Here’s one final tip that will give you a lot more control over your website.
31. Master the HTML widget
Learning to write code is a big job, but there’s the thing…
This means that you can learn HTML really quickly and once you know the basics, you’ll find you have a lot more control over your site.
With the HTML widget that comes included in WordPress, you can create virtually any content or layout you want without adding any new plugins.
For instance, I recommended a widget previously for creating an “About Me” widget in the sidebar, but this is easily done without adding a new plugin if you know how to write HTML.
It’s a great first step into code and I highly recommend it for WordPress users who want to get more technical.
First off, congrats on making it this far!
This post just kept getting longer as I came up with additional ways to customize a WordPress website.
To be honest, I’ve still only scratched the surface in this post – there are loads of other changes you can make to your site.
Returning to my first point, one of the best ways to start personalizing your site is to pick a customizable theme, so before you go, take a look at our top themes and preview them on your device. They’re all totally free to use – forever!
If you’ve got questions or other ideas to share, post in the comments section below.