WordPress.com Theme Tips

themestripEvery WordPress.com theme has some customizable features – features that vary in number, kind and location from theme to theme.

You can select from a wide assortment of themes for no charge. Or you can purchase a premium theme featuring interesting designs, options for customization, and premium theme support directly from the theme authors themselves.

Many themes allow for custom header images, custom backgrounds, featured images, post formats,  etc.  Some of these themes allow you to customize colors or images while the rest of the style is fixed.

While you can’t create your own theme or import another one into a free hosted WordPress.com as there is no FTP access and you cannot upload any third party themes,  you have a large collection to choose from found in your dashboard at > Appearance > Themes and showcased in the Themes Showcase.

Changing themes is quick and easy.

Go to Dashboard > Appearance > Themes
browse themes until you find one you like and click “Activate”
or type in the name of the theme you want to use and
click the “Activate” link when it appears.

After you change your theme all you need to do is go here Dashboard > Appearance > Widgets > Inactive Widgets and re-install them where you want them to appear. The widget contents and settings will be the same as they were prior to changing themes.

You do not need to load the custom design tools unless you have purchased the  Custom Design upgrade.  All of these functions can be accessed from your dashboard:

featuresAppearance > Header – Many WordPress.com themes allows you to upload your own custom image header to obtain a much more personalized look and feel.

Appearance > Background – Most WordPress.com themes allow you to customize the background of your blog by either uploading an image or selecting a color.

Appearance > Theme Options (applicable only to some themes)

Settings > Reading – On any WordPress.com theme you can choose whether either a static page for your front page or a dynamic view with your latest posts.

Site Title and Tagline > Settings > General – The title is used to name the browser window and search engines display them on their search results. The Tagline is optional.

custom1The Custom Design upgrade allows you to  customize the fonts in your theme, apply a custom color palette and background pattern, and/or use CSS to make other appearance changes.

No changes you make aside from those found in the  features listed in the right hand sidebar on the theme description page for your theme (see above) will be visible to visitors unless you purchase the annually renewable Custom Design upgrade and do the required CSS editing.

NOTE: The Appearance → Themes → Customize section will not load if you have not yet published any content on your blog.

custom3If you are using the “Try Now” preview mode for the paid Custom Design upgrade to select, etc.  some of the settings in that mode will save but they won’t show up on the front end unless you purchase the upgrade.

To go back to the free options, go to Appearance → Themes → Customize → Colors and click the “exit the preview” link in yellow at the top of the panel on the right.

15 thoughts on “WordPress.com Theme Tips

  1. Very helpful, TT, thanks.

    I know you’ve experimented with various themes– may I ask what’s been your experience using Live Preview in assessing a new theme?

    1. Hi there,
      It’s used to create appearance changes and doesn’t increase traffic. Frequent publication of unique content that is promoted so people know about it increases traffic.

      More influential upgrades than appearance changes are:
      a domain of your own http://onecoolsitebloggingtips.com/2012/04/02/do-i-need-a-domain/
      and a no-ads upgrade which keeps all advertising including competitor’s advertising off your site. http://en.support.wordpress.com/no-ads/

    1. Hi Sophie
      Some folks are afraid of making themes changes. Others have been struggling with using the theme customizer. I thought I’d tried to bring the how-to’s to light to make it easier for my readers.

  2. One thing I like about the Twenty Eleven theme is that when reading a post – as opposed to being on the homepage – the sidebars don’t show.

    It looks very clean, and the effect is to put more focus on the post.

    Also, there is an option with Twenty Eleven to set up footer widgets, which is a handy additional place for the ‘follow blog by email’ widget.

    1. Hi David,
      I’m with you on that feature too. I want readers to focus on my reading posts and sidebar contents are a distraction on single post pages. I like the fact that we can choose whether or not to display sidebars on pages too.

      I used to be into footer widgets. I’m not now but as you point out Twenty Eleven has footer widget areas – three of them. I agree that footer widgets are great places for follow blog widgets. There are also good spots for copyrights too.

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