Getting Started With WordPress Customization

Getting Started With WordPress Customization

What are you doing to make your WordPress site stand out? As of July 2013, WordPress accounted for 18.9 percent of sites on the internet, or more than 70 million sites. If you haven’t customized and enhanced your WordPress site, the time is now.

Simple tweaks to add advanced coding will help create a unique experience for the user. The time and money you spend to increase traffic will be wasted if you don’t have an optimized theme that is unique and memorable. Here are some steps to improve your web design skills.

Getting Started With WordPress Customization

WordPress Customization

Learning to Code

If you’re afraid of making changes to code, get over it. Your website won’t collapse (though you should save a version of your coding before you begin making changes). There are too many resources available to you for this thought process to continue. For example, virtual schools like Codeschool and Codeacademy feature full service coding classes with video lessons and screencasts. The courses at these schools are an excellent way to pick up the fundamentals of coding, however if you want accreditation, online schools like PennFoster offer accelerated Web design programs.

As you learn the ropes of coding, you’ll be able to easily improve site design and functionality. Get into the details of your site by adjusting the link style. Editing the a:hover and a:visited state of links will change how the links react when hovered over or previously visited. Another advantage of being comfortable with code is you can override plug-ins with custom code. Plug-ins are obviously essential to solid website function, but too many plug-ins can slow down a site and clutter your organization.

Child Themes

If you have the basics down, jump into the cornerstone of WordPress customization — child themes. Child themes come in handy when creating a single product offering page or promotional landing page. A custom theme on these pages will drive home your message and improve overall effectiveness.

These allow you to manipulate the details of a script and not lose changes with a required update. These themes can be saved and used on multiple occasions, either for A/B testing or seasonal promotions.

Adding a child theme used to require creating a new file and installing the file from an FTP program. Now, use One-Click plugins to quickly create a child theme from any parent file.

Use the “!important” tag at the end of CSS properties to make sure your changes override other files. For example:

p { color: #ff0000 !important; }
p { color: #000000; }

5 Function File Tweaks

The functions.php file is an essential component of your WordPress package. The file, predictably, controls the function of a website. Modifying it allows you to edit core features without editing core files. The changes you make will depend on the type of site you operate.

For instance, a blog and content aggregator can make adjustments to prominently display author information. If you’re using a one-time author, you can adjust the functions.php file so the text “guest author” will be displayed, saving you from creating an additional author account. Copy and paste the code below.

add_filter( 'the_author', 'guest_author_name' );
add_filter( 'get_the_author_display_name', 'guest_author_name' );
function guest_author_name( $name ) {
global $post;
$author = get_post_meta( $post->ID, 'guest-author', true );
if ( $author )
$name = $author;
return $name;

You can also add author profile fields for a more robust post. Adding Twitter and Facebook fields adds legitimacy to a site and makes it easier for readers to connect with the author. Paste the code below to add the social media.

function my_new_contactmethods( $contactmethods ) {
// Add Twitter
$contactmethods['twitter'] = 'Twitter';
//add Facebook
$contactmethods['facebook'] = 'Facebook';
return $contactmethods;

A sign of great content is consistent engagement. Webmasters know to enable threaded comments by navigating to wp-admin settings > discussion area. If you’re developing themes, add the code for threaded comments to your functions header file and avoid clutter. Use the code below.

// enable threaded comments
function enable_threaded_comments(){
if (!is_admin()) {
if (is_singular() AND comments_open() AND (get_option('thread_comments') == 1))
add_action('get_header', 'enable_threaded_comments');

If you’re interested in RSS feed manipulation, function.php changes allow you to add a thumbnail or site advertisement into a feed.

function wpbeginner_postrss($content) {
$content = 'This post was written by Syed Balkhi '.$content.'Check out WPBeginner';
return $content;
add_filter('the_excerpt_rss', 'wpbeginner_postrss');
add_filter('the_content', 'wpbeginner_postrss');

Don’t forget about simple but crucial adjustments like adding Google Analytics.

add_action('wp_footer', 'add_googleanalytics');
function add_googleanalytics() { ?>
// Paste your Google Analytics code from Step 6 here
<?php } ?>

Spice it Up with Style

You can modify your WordPress design without creating a child theme or editing the function file. The addition of the Custom CSS feature enables website owners to add custom code to the style.css file. Change colors, alter typography, adjust navigation features, modify the way images are displayed and more. The WordPress forums provide great information for any questions relating to CSS.

There are a plethora of plugins to get you started with custom CSS. Beginning designers can use My Custom CSS, which provides syntax highlighting, or use the Jetback plugin from WordPress, which includes CSS customization. A more experienced designer can go with Simple Custom CSS, which is a basic text editor.


This just scratches the surface of WordPress customization. If you’re new to WordPress, start with these basics. Manipulating and mastering these core files will enhance your skills as a beginning designer or will help ensure your work as a web design professional is effective and unforgettable.

What are your favorite WordPress customization tricks? What’s the first thing you notice when you load a website? Let us know what you think below.


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