Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
I love blogging. It’s just that simple. If I could spend my entire day only writing articles for my own blogs and earn a decent living doing so, I would.
As I strive to create that utopia, I find myself constantly tweaking my existing blogs in order to improve ad revenue and conversion rates (how many visitors actually click on ads). One of the most significant aspects of a blog that will either convince your new visitors to stay, or force them to turn and run away, is the aesthetic quality of your website.
Let’s face it, if your blog looks like it was designed by some guy straight out of a 1995 “Introduction to Web Page Design” class, you can bet they won’t hang around, and they certainly won’t subscribe to your blog. However, if your template looks like it’s created by a Web 2.0 guru with one finger on the pulse of social networks and the other dabbling in high-tech widgets – your visitors may be impressed enough to actually take a look at what you have to say.
To that end, I’ve decided to completely revamp the WordPress template of one of my blogs, and I want to show MakeUseOf readers how wonderfully simple it is to change your WordPress blog theme.
How To Change Your WordPress Blog Theme In 3 Easy Steps
The website that I’m going to operate on is a paranormal blog called Invisible Articles. The site has been doing fairly well, but I noticed that it hasn’t seen the same traffic as the original version built on Blogger’s free platform. After running the blog for a few months, I realized why. This is the current appearance of the paranormal blog.
This is the Arthemia theme created by Michael Hutagalung. It’s an excellent theme that lets you build your blog based on an e-zine or news website look and feel. Unfortunately, I learned too late that most paranormal enthusiasts don’t really want the websites they visit to look like an e-zine with a white background and a nicely laid out menu bar of categories.
What this crowd looks for are dark backgrounds, spooky and intriguing imagery and lots of cool links and widgets. So, I’ve decided to fall back on one of my favorite WordPress themes known as Ikarus [Broken URL Removed].
Step 1 – Install The New Theme
Want to try out a new theme? It’s head-slappingly simple. All you have to do is download the WordPress theme of your choice and then copy that theme (along with all sub-folders) to the /wp-content/themes folder under your WordPress installation directory.
I use the JavaFTP web based client to transfer the files, but you can use whatever FTP client you like. If there are a lot of files in the theme, it could time out if you try to transfer the entire parent folder, so you may need to drill down and transfer one subfolder at a time. Once you’re finished transferring all of the theme files up to the “themes” folder of your WordPress blog, the new theme will show up in your WordPress control panel under the “Appearance” menu option.
Ready to switch your blog’s entire theme in the blink of an eye? Just click on the theme image and then click “Activate,” and you’re done! Well…sort of.
Step 2: Configuring The Theme Options
Now that I’ve switched themes, my blog style has completely changed – it’s like night and day! I’m very pleased by how drastically the new theme has completely changed the “feel” of this paranormal site, but as you can tell there are still a lot of the default images and settings that still aren’t working and don’t look right.
If this were my first time doing this, I’d probably freak out because I’ve spent many hours getting my last theme to look just right. But this time I know that I can easily switch back by simply activating the old theme if I have to.
Customizing the theme will be different depending on the theme you download, but in general the things you’ll need to customize will include the header image, or logo, of your blog, your advertisements, and usually you’ll need to configure embedded widgets or code, like image slideshows or video players. Many of these will be available to customize in a nice options form under the WordPress “Appearance” tab.
In my case for Ikarus it’s the “IKARUS Options” item, and this well-programmed theme lets you fill in the fields for images and links for the ads, customize colors and change the header image. With a few simple tweaks (and some quick image creation), my new template is almost done.
As you can see, my blog finally looks more like a cool paranormal blog and less like a dry and boring news website. Of course, there are a few things that can only be changed by tweaking the code or knowing some of the background scripting. This is typical of some of the more advanced themes, and Ikarus is no exception.
Step 3: Adding The Header Image & Ads
This free template is configured so that the ad images and links can go into the options field, but if you’re using Google Adsense, you have to insert the iframe code. The only way this works is by editing the “header.php” file itself. The default is the Ikarus logo shown above. To replace it with your own, you just create your logo image with dimensions 265 pixels wide and 75 pixels high, and then save it as logo.png and use it to overwrite the logo.png in the image directory in your Ikarus theme folder. To create my logo, I used CoolText.
Editing the PHP files aren’t really that bad. Usually the theme creator makes it pretty clear where the ads should go, as you can see in the header script above. Once I pasted my Google Adsense code and created my logo image, my page was completely converted to the new theme and live!
As you can see, testing out new themes with your WordPress blog is a piece of cake – just be careful which themes you choose. If you end up trying one that’s written by an amateur and riddled with bugs, you could waste hours trying to get it to work. On the other hand if you stick with themes that are obviously well designed (usually a quick glance at the quality of the design itself will tell), then you’ll likely have no problems.
Do you switch your WordPress blog themes often? Do you ever run up against any difficulties that you need help with, or do you have any tips for other WordPress users? Share your insight in the comments section below.