Download PDF of WordPress customization tips
Page layout – The basic elements of the page include the header, main content, siderbar and footer.
Themes – WordPress.com offers more than 100 free themes. See Theme Showcase. A theme is a design template for your blog. This blog, for instance, uses Coraline. I chose it because it’s clean and easy to customize. It’s also been around for a while, so I figure that its developers have worked out any bugs. Pick the theme that works best for you. Other popular themes include:
Don’t stress out over all these choices. You can switch from theme to theme with the click of a mouse.
Widgets – Drag and drop widgets into your sidebars and arrange them as you see fit. Widgets include such tools as Twitter feeds, Facebook badges, search buttons, blogrolls, RSS feeds, and lists showing recent posts, categories, archives and more. Caution: Don’t add too many widgets or you may overload your blog and make it slow to load. That will discourage visitors. Read more about widgets here.
Menus – Menus are important because they help readers navigate your blog. But before you set up a custom menu, add pages to your blogs for permanent content. Your pages will generate menus automatically. Add categories to your blog posts. Add a category widget so readers can find your content by category. Once you do all that, you should have no need for custom menus. Your readers should be able to navigate your site without them.
Header – Many WordPress themes allow you to upload your own picture to use in the header. Go to Dashboard/Appearance/Header. WordPress instructions are here and include themes that allow custom headers and required header sizes.
Featured images – You can also use your own photos on the headers of individual pages. See featured images for more information.
Resizing images – Learning to resize images is important if you want sharp-looking custom headers. Make sure your custom image is the same size that the header requires. This blog, for instance, requires images that measure 990 x 180 pixels. One way to produce images of that size: Take horizontal sections of existing photos and resize them in Photoshop. Open the photo in Photoshop, go to Image/Image Size/Pixel Dimensions. Enter 990 pixels as the width and 180 pixels as the height. Press OK. Save image as a JPEG. You can then upload the image to your Media Library in WordPress and use it as your header image.