How To — Start A WordPress Blog — Customize WordPress

I have already imported the demo content (provided by the theme developer) and personalized my WordPress settings. The next step is to customize WordPress the way I want. The goal here is to create a WordPress site exactly as it is on the demo site.

Here’s a quick glance at what we’re going to do:

  • Customize WordPress Menus
  • Customize WordPress Widgets
  • Install Essential WordPress Plugins
  • Setup Essential Blogging Tools
    • WordPress Related Posts
    • Yoast SEO
  • Add Contact Form
  • Add Logo/Header

So let’s get started!

1. Customize WordPress Menus

WordPress Menus

“Menus” are custom menus usually used to create the navigation and footer links (unless the theme supports more). Once you create a menu, you can add pages, posts, custom link, categories, tags, etc. (use Screen Options to make all the options visible) and can easily change its sort order by using drag and drop. They are displayed in a predefined location by the theme hence you can’t change its location. But you can change the links or its sorting order from the “Edit Menus” by customizing the “Menu Structure”.

2. Customize WordPress Menu Locations

WordPress Menu Manage Locations

You can check the “Manage Locations” to see how many menus are supported by the theme and can assign a menu to a location. Select your “Header Menu” and “Footer Menu” and click “Save Changes”. You can create as many menus as you want and then assign a menu to a location or can assign a single menu to all the locations.

3. Install & Activate Necessary WordPress Plugins

Don’t Miss: How To — Start A WordPress Blog — Install A WordPress Plugin

4. Customize WordPress Widgets

“Widgets” are more commonly known as sidebars because it was originally used to customize the sidebar (with a search bar, popular posts, recent comments, etc.) of a WordPress site. Today it’s also used to create and customize the homepage or inner-pages (when the theme is created to customize that way). When you enter Widgets, it shows a list of “Available Widgets”, “Widget Area” (or active widgets), and “Inactive Widgets”.

Available Widgets shows all the individual widgets that you can use on your WordPress site. You can reuse the same widgets as many times as you want — provided the theme that you are using supports it. The available widgets and the widget area depends upon the theme that is currently active. You can drag and drop widgets from one widget area to another. And when you have customized a widget you can click “Save” or can click “Delete” to permanently remove a widget that you no longer need.

WordPress also has an “Inactive Widgets” area and it’s like a reusable trash. You can drag and drop widgets from your active widget area to Inactive Widgets so that you can reuse it later (without losing the data). It’s particularly useful when you want to change your WordPress theme and keep the settings of your old widgets.

Go to WordPress Dashboard > Appearance > Widgets and you can see that the default WordPress widgets are still showing up.

Customize all the widget areas:

5. Preview

WordPress Site Preview

And that’s the preview of the WordPress site after customizing all the widget areas. Just in case, here is a full preview.

6. Install & Activate Essential WordPress Plugins

  • AMP
  • Contact Form 7
  • Jetpack by WordPress.com
  • WordPress Related Posts
  • Yoast SEO

You can deactivate/delete plugins that you no longer need. Since you have already imported the demo content and widgets, it’s also safe to delete/deactivate WordPress Importer.

7. WordPress Related Posts

WordPress Related Posts shows a list of related posts with optional thumbnails and different styles to your readers.

WordPress Related Posts

Go to WordPress Dashboard > Settings > WordPress Related Posts, to customize the same.

8. Yoast SEO

Yoast SEO is not exactly a blogging tool but a WordPress plugin. It’s the ultimate SEO plugin for WordPress that allows you to optimize almost all the SEO aspects of your WordPress site.

Some of the features offered by WordPress SEO plugin are:

  • It checks whether a page is search engine optimized or not.
  • It enables XML Sitemaps, Breadcrumbs, RSS Optimization.
  • It lets you edit your .htaccess and robots.txt file from within WordPress dashboard.
  • It allows you to no-follow or no-index pages.
  • It allows you to define a canonical URL.
  • It offers Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ integration.
  • It’s multi-site compatible.
  • …and many other features.

Here’s the Yoast SEO Dashboard.

Yoast SEO Dashboard

8.1. Yoast SEO Dashboard – General

Yoast SEO Dashboard – General

You can click the “Open the configuration wizard” to configure Yoast SEO plugin by yourself or you can follow my guide and set various options exactly as I did (replacing the website name and tagline with yours). You can change it later as you learn more about it.

8.2. Yoast SEO Dashboard – Features

Yoast SEO Dashboard – Features

8.3. Yoast SEO Dashboard – Your Info

Yoast SEO Dashboard – Your Info

8.4. Yoast SEO Dashboard – Webmaster Tools

Google Webmaster Tools (or now known as Google Search Console) provides insights about your website’s visibility on Google.

Yoast SEO Dashboard – Webmaster Tools

Click on “Google Search Console” to claim the ownership of your domain name on Google Search Console. And it will open Google Webmaster Central.

8.5. Google Webmaster Central

Google Webmaster Central

The recommended way to verify your domain name is HTML file upload method as it’s a set and forget kind of method. But if you are a beginner and don’t know how to manually upload files to your server then the easiest way is HTML tag method (in Alternate methods).

8.6. Yoast SEO Dashboard – Security

Enable advanced part of the Yoast SEO plugin as it gives you more control over your WordPress site’s SEO.

Yoast SEO Dashboard – Security

Click “Save changes”.

8.7. Yoast SEO Titles & Metas – General

Yoast SEO Titles & Metas – General

Yoast SEO Titles & Metas option lets you customize the titles, meta description, and indexing option of your WordPress pages and posts and archives (categories, tags, media, author, date).

8.8. Yoast SEO Titles & Metas – Homepage

Yoast SEO Titles & Metas – Homepage

8.9. Yoast SEO Titles & Metas – Post Types

Yoast SEO Titles & Metas – Post Types

8.10. Yoast SEO Titles & Metas – Taxonomies

Yoast SEO Titles & Metas – Taxonomies

8.11. Yoast SEO Titles & Metas – Archives

Yoast SEO Titles & Metas – Archives

8.12. Yoast SEO Titles & Metas – Other

Yoast SEO Titles & Metas – Other

8.13. Yoast SEO Social

Yoast SEO Social

Enter your social media profiles so that search engines will associate it with your WordPress site.

Like this:

Social - Yoast SEO
Yoast SEO > Social Settings (on matrics360.com)

9. Contact Form 7

Contact Form 7 is the best contact form plugin for WordPress. It can manage multiple contact forms and you can customize the forms the way you want.

Contact Form 7

Go to WordPress Dashboard > Contact > Contact Forms, you will see a default contact form titled “Contact form 1” that was automatically generated when you installed Contact Form 7 for the first time. You can customize it so as to make it match your requirements. Hover over it, and click “Edit”. You will go to the “Edit Contact Form” screen with tabs like Form, Mail, Messages, and Additional Settings.

9.1. Customize Contact Form 7 Form

Customize Contact Form 7 Form

Use “Form” tab to customize what information has to be collected from your readers.

9.2. Customize Contact Form 7 Mail

Customize Contact Form 7 Mail

Use “Mail” tab to customize the way user-submitted data is handled. In the above example, all forms submitted by a user will be forwarded to another email address.

9.3. Customize Contact Form 7 Messages

Customize Contact Form 7 Messages

User “Messages” tab to customize the acknowledgement (a user sees when they submit a form).

9.4. Create Contact Page (Or Customize Existing Contact Form Page)

Create Contact Page (Or Customize Existing Contact Form Page)

There’s already a Contact page (included in the theme demo content), so instead of creating a new Page, I’m just editing it.

9.5. Add Contact Form 7 Shortcode

Add Contact Form 7 Shortcode

I have edited the contact page and added the shortcode (generated by Contact Form 7) to insert the Contact form.

9.6. Preview Contact Form Page

Here’s a preview of the contact form:

Preview Contact Form Page

10. WordPress Customizer

WordPress Customizer

“Customize” (WordPress Dashboard > Appearance > Customize) lets you modify several aspects of your WordPress site in real-time. Some of the items that you can change this way are Site Title, Tagline, Color, Header, Background, Navigation Menus, Sidebar Widgets, etc.

As you change a setting, it’s immediately reflected on the preview (on the right frame). However, the options available for customization depends entirely on the currently active theme.

10.1. Change Header/Logo

Change Header/Logo

For StudioPress themes, the header Image is actually your logo. For other themes, the header image can be a wide image to show at the top of your WordPress site.

10.2. Add New Header Image

Add New Header Image

It’s best to upload an image based on the suggested image dimensions (600 x 140 in this case) as otherwise, the header may not look like the way you want.

10.3. Upload/Select A New Header/Logo Image

Upload/Select A New Header/Logo Image

Upload your logo and add a “Title” as well as “Alt Text” (usually the name of your website) for the image.

10.4. Select & Crop Image

Select & Crop Image

Crop the image if its dimensions are not equal to the recommended dimensions and if it’s same as the recommended size then click “Skip Cropping”. When you are done, click “Save & Publish”.

11. Preview

And here’s the screenshot of the final WordPress site that I’ve created.

Preview Homepage

Just in case, here’s a full preview. As you can see, I have customized it exactly as it is on the demo site.

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Mahesh Mohan

Hey there, I’m Mahesh (@maheshone) — Chief Content Strategist @ Minterest and an organic marketing evangelist. I write about tech, marketing, and everything in between that truly excites me. Outside of that, I’m equally passionate about the financial markets, and also spend A LOT of time doing random things. Also, the Chief Everything Officer (@Infirn Labs).

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Meet The Blogger

Mahesh Mohan

Hey there, I’m Mahesh (@maheshone) — Chief Content Strategist @ Minterest and an organic marketing evangelist. I write about tech, marketing, and everything in between that truly excites me. Outside of that, I’m equally passionate about the financial markets, and also spend A LOT of time doing random things. Also, the Chief Everything Officer (@Infirn Labs).