The broad choices of themes is one of the major factors that make WordPress so great. There are literally thousands of themes out there for you to choose from. Whatever your taste and needs, chances are, there are themes that will suit you.
But this factor is also one of WordPress’ drawbacks. As Seth Godin put it in his book, too many choices will make people panic. They lose the ability to choose the best and might end up not choosing any of the available choices. And unless you design your own WordPress theme (or pay somebody to do it), there will be no perfect theme for you.
While hiring a theme designer would be too much of a burden for an ordinary blogger, you can easily design your own WordPress themes with the help of a particular WordPress theme called Constructor.
Constructing Your Own WordPress Theme
Recently, as part of my just-published MakeUseOf ebook: Recording Your Next Hit With GarageBand, I needed to quickly create a website. The choices were: build my own design with iWeb, or accept whatever theme that I could find for WordPress for the sake of richer functionality.
Constructor came to save my day. By using the features of this highly tweakable theme, I can have the best of both worlds.
You can find and install Constructor directly from your WordPress’ theme admin page.
Then after the installation and activation, click on the Customize link on the Appearance tab in the left sidebar.
The Constructor customization area will be displayed. There are so many elements that you can adjust there, and the combination of different settings of every element will design your own unique WordPress theme.
Let’s start with Theme tab. Constructor comes with several mini themes that you can choose as the base of the theme that you are going to build. Pick one and save your choice.
Then comes the Layout tab. Here is the place to choose what kind of layout that you want to use for your group of pages like homepage and archive page.
The next element that you can tweak is the Sidebar. You can decide the number and the positions of the sidebars. You can also set the width of the sidebar, extra bars and the containers.
The Header tab deals with all the elements of the header like the header height, font color of the title, those kinds of things.
The Content tab deals with elements of the blog posts, such as: hiding/displaying the author’s link, auto-generating thumbnails and creating an additional widget area under the post.
There’s nothing much going on in the Comments tab other than adjusting the size of commenter’s avatar.
As the name suggests, the Font tab will let you choose which combination of fonts to use. But I personally think that the number of available choices is too little.
The Color tab lets you choose colors and transparency of the theme.
The Design tab deals with borders and shadow.
Constructor also comes with an option for users to include their own CSS style.
If you want to use your own graphics for the site, you can manually upload them via the Images tab.
And for those who feel confused about which one is which in the image, you can click the question mark to get help.
The last function tab is Slideshow tab. The function is to allow users to display slideshows of images from the existing articles. Just check the box “Enable”.
The Help tab contains link to Constructor-related websites and donation request. If you like the theme, you may donate the author some money via PayPal.
And this might be the most important ab of all: the Save tab. After making changes here and there, you might want to save your creation as a new sub theme under Constructor. Write down the necessary information and then click the “Save Theme” button.
Enjoy your creation
To get the best result, you have to experiment with each and every element one by one. Do a couple of small changes, save, and preview the result. Continue doing it until you are satisfied.
Just to give you an idea of how far the theme customization can go, here’s the result of my creation that I use for my website dia.lo.gues. I use iWeb to create the design for the main page, then replicated the look using Constructor in WordPress.
The customization process is rather long and will require you to go back and forth between the admin area and your blog’s main page. So, some of you with active blog(s) with tons of visitors might want to experiment with this theme safely behind the curtain.
There are other highly customizable themes available for WordPress. You can perform a search in the WordPress Free Themes Directory using the word “customizable” as the search string.
Do you customize your WordPress theme or you just use one without modifications? Do you know other good alternatives to customizable WordPress themes? Share using the comment below.