Overall appearance – choosing a theme

WordPress uses a system of “themes” to control the overall appearance of your website. There are thousands of themes avilable – and some are better than others. On TidyBlog we have attempted to select a small number of popular themes with a rang of “looks”. The themes we’ve given you to choose from have been tested, and, in some cases, adjusted, to make sure they work. That’s not as trivial as it sounds – a theme is a set of files and programs which someone has created to decide what goes where on the screen, and how they interact, and if these programs have not been written properly, a “bad” theme can break your site! That said, if you can’t see the theme you want to use on our list, or you’ve seen a theme elesewhere you really want to use, get in touch with us, and we’ll take a look at it.

To choose your theme, pop out the Appearances menu. You’ll see a screen shot of the “default” theme at the top, and under it, panels showing screen shots and descriptions of other themes. NOTE this is a multi-page display too so don’t forget to click on to the next page if you don’t see what you want on page 1.

Note that all new WordPress installations from 2010 onwards get by default the theme called “Twenty Ten” – so if you pick that, you may find you see a lot of other sites that look similar to yours! On the other hand, it’s a well designed theme and straightforward to deal with. We have preseleted this on your new site.

You can change your theme at any time. Even when the site is up and running, you can visit this page, choose a new theme, and click “Preview”, to see what your actual site would look like with this theme. Bear in mind, however, that not all themes allow for all the same feature to be used, so when changing themes, make sure the new theme has a place on the screen for the features you are choosing to use.

Some themes offer more opportunity for you to customise them than others, e.g. with Twenty Ten you can change the photograph used for the banner across the top, or create a background image.

So… you’re probably spoiled for choice and can’t decide. If you havn’t seen a theme you really like, please leave it on “Twenty Ten” for now, and then once you have some pages on your site, you can revisit this page and see how it looks with other themes. We use Twenty Ten when writing this document so if you’re finding your way around, it’ll be easier if you stay with us for now!

Click on the “Activate” link next to your chosen theme.

Note this doesn’t change the appearance of the “control panel”, but it has had an immediate effect on the “live site”. If you want to see how your site looks, at any time, just pop the Pages menu, hover the mouse over the name of any page (you will only have one page called “About” on a new site) and click “View” in the little menu that appears below the page name. To return to the control panel, click your Back button. Or you can keep a “live” site page in another browser window, then just “refresh” the page to see the effect of any change you’ve made.

IMPORTANT note that many of the elements of your page layout are pre-selected by the choice of template. For example, TwentyTen has six different places you can put Widgets (which we’ll cover in the next section) but others differ.

Next we’ll look at Widgets.