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Michigan State University

Building a Website with Wordpress: Basic Theme Editing

This guide walks you through how to build a website using WordPress. It covers web hosting, installing WordPress, installing themes and plugins, and using the in-browser editor to adjust the theme (header image, colors, fonts, etc.).

Editing your theme

Once you've chosen a theme, you probably want to tweak it some so it fits your vision or design preferences better. We'll go over some of the basic things you can adjust without having to code, using WordPress' built-in editor.

Important Note: some of the editing options will vary from theme to theme, based on the features it offers. For these purposes, we'll be working with Twenty Seventeen, so if you see lots of extra options those are probably because of your theme.

Getting started:

  • In the "Appearance" menu, you should see "Customize" as the second option -- click that
  • You should see your site's front page, with a left-side menu
  • Under "Site Identity," you can upload a logo if you want to add one (used as a logo for an app, if you build one, and for a browser icon)
    1. Keep in mind you need to have an image already, there aren't any pre-loaded
    2. Also keep in mind that while WordPress gives you a width and height in pixels, those don't translate exactly to Photoshop dimensions, so be prepared to do some googling to figure out how to make an image
  • Also under "Site Identity": you can change your site title and tagline
  • When you're ready to move on, use the arrow icon at the top of the menu
  • If you want to adjust the colors, you're a bit limited with this theme, but you can choose "Colors" from the side menu and pick a generally dark or generally light theme. "Custom" lets you change link colors in the light theme.
  • If you don't want to use your site as a blog, you can set the landing page using "Static Front Page"
  • Once you've created additional pages, you can add them to your site's menu using "Menus"
    1. Click "Add a Menu"
    2. Name it something descriptive that you'll remember, like "Navigation" (because of the way WP does menus, just calling it "Menu" is not a great idea, it'll be hard to figure out what goes where later)
    3. Click "Create Menu"
    4. Tell WordPress where you want the menu to display -- you probably want the "Top Menu" choice
    5. Click "Add Items" to add pages, posts, or links to other sites to your menu
    6. When you're done, click "Save and Publish" at the top (you'll do this anytime you want to make a change)
  • Clicking on "Header Media" is where you can change the header to a different image (again, that you have rights to or have made) or to a video. You can also hide the image if you don't want to use one.
  • When you're all done, click "Save and Publish" one last time, then exit the menu
Megan Kudzia's picture
Megan Kudzia
Michigan State University