How to customize WordPress

WordPress comes feature-rich and smooth right out of the box, but have you ever wondered how to customize WordPress?  As in, really making it your own?  Want a blog? Done.  Want a static website? Done.  But are are lots of other ways you can use WordPress to meet your web needs.  Here is a list of helpful tools and tips for how to customize WordPress.

If you’re interested in how to customize WordPress, consider reading our past article on making your blog stand out, as well as this one about WordPress tutorials.

How to customize WordPress

wordpress-theme-from-scratch

If you’re skilled, you can create a theme from scratch.  This is by far the hardest way, even premium theme creators often use some of their previous themes as frameworks.  To start creating a custom WordPress theme, check out some of these resources.

Artisteer

artisteer

Artisteer is a finicky option.  It will not create a premium quality theme in terms of design.  But it will be valid XHTML and clean CSS.  The good news is you can use Artisteer to create lots of different kinds of themes.  I use it to create a framework for custom themes, then go back and customize them further.  Check out Artisteer here, or read this full review we wrote back .

Hybrid custom theme

themeforest

Search for a theme with a strong foundation, valid XHTML and clean CSS.  It should have many of the features you want but not all.  You can then take that theme and completely hack it up to meet your needs.  Think about adding new widget positions, changing the column structure or adding a new menu.

When choosing a foundation theme, go premium.  You’ll be glad you did.  They’re just better made, cleaner, with a solid code foundation.  Here are three of the best providers:

How to Customize WordPress’ Look and Feel

Custom Default Gravatars

gravatar customization

The Gravatar is an often underlooked (not a real word) feature of WordPress.  The Gravater was incidentally created by Matt Mullenweg, the creator of WordPress.  WordPress comes with a default Gravatar when commenters do not have one.  This is a nice, simple way to give your website a customized feel.

Custom Comment Styling

comment styling

Comments are the second easy way to add a custom feel to your design.  Nesting comments is a great way to encourage discussion on your blog.  Quality comments and good discussion are great ways to explode traffic.

Creating an effective “about” page

about

Your “about” page is the first step when a reader really likes what they see.  When you make the effort to write superb content, a reader will find it and seek more info about your site.  Next stop… conversion!  If they like what they read on your about page, they will sign up for updates and you’ve nailed it.

Revamping your footer space

how to customize wordpress footer

Footer spaces are now being used to show lots of information or tools.  It’s no longer just a silly copyright section.  The link below has some great examples of usable footers.  Customizing this section of your site really gives that extra customized feel.

Customize your WordPress 404 page

how to customize wordpress 404

Hopefully users aren’t encountering your 404 page often because your links are all current.  However, it does happen, sometimes out of your control because outside sites will link to your site incorrectly.  Customizing your 404 page says to your readers: “we went the extra mile to offer you a unique experience.”

Customizing the login page

how to customize wordpress login

If your site employs the user function of WordPress, creating a customized login page can be a nice touch.  Somehow branding the login to match your site but also be creative is a great touch.

Revolutionary thinking (put content before ads)

The instinct to make a few bucks for all the time you’ve spent on the content is sometimes overwhelming.  But if you listen to one piece of advice on this page, prioritize content over revenue.  You will reap the benefits.

Think of this as a design choice as well as a chronological choice.  When starting a new website, forego the advertising until you feel it is absolutely necessary and you have the traffic to make it worth it.  You choose which is better: little traffic with many ads to make a few dollars or few ads, making lots of money with lots of traffic.

Custom content archives

how to customize wordpress archives

Users need to be able to access your content.  If they come back to find some older content, the search form may not work.  Also, complete archives will help search engines know about all of your content.  You spend time writing it, should people be able to find it?

Custom Admin theme

how to customize wordpress dashboard

The admin theme will only be for your benefit or that of your writers and editors.  However, it can be nice to change things up, and some custom themes can add a whole new experience for the admin.  It can also save you time if you spend a lot of time in the dashboard.

Additional Resources

Check out these other resources and articles on customizing WordPress.

If you have your own tip for how to customize WordPress please share it below.

Hand coding

If you’re skilled, you can create a theme from scratch.  This is by far the hardest way, even premium theme creators often use some of their previous themes as frameworks.  To start creating a custom WordPress theme, check out some of these resources.

Zyma – Cheap Webhost Review

2012 Update

We have received a lot of comments saying how bad Zyma have been, constant down time, and poor service. Zyma were meant to provide us with a free account for life, and they did not renew our account after 12 months, so all I can say as I would not trust these guys. Over the space of the year, we found that our site was down more often, and that it was slower to respond. So if you are considering Zyma, I would not go with them as a provider.


Original review

As far as cheap webhosts go, you have a few options to consider on the market that drops to around just under $4US a month. This seems pretty cheap right? Zyma.com, a new player in the market, have just released a hosting offer for £4.95 per year. Yes, you read that right, PER YEAR! Zyma.com is a very new UK based hosting company, and this deal looks like a very good price, that will give the market a bit of a shake-up if successful; so I wanted to check it out, see what the catch was.

What they Offer:

  • Unlimited Web space
  • Unlimited Traffic
  • Unlimited Email Accounts
  • Unlimited SQL Databases
  • 99.9% Uptime Guarantee
  • Free Google Vouchers
  • Free Transfer & Setup
  • Moneyback Guarantee
  • Free Tech Support
  • cPanel Web Hosting + Fantastico De Luxe for easy WordPress installation.
  • Attracta seo tools via cPanel
  • Unlimited Addon-domains

This is a shared hosting account which means your site will be hosted on a server with other websites, and will share resources with them. So if all the other sites on the same box as your use up all the resources, your site would start loading more sluggishly. Shared hosting is common place on the internet, and all the other cheap hosting options comparable to Zyma.com are also on shared hosts.

Are there any hidden costs?

Not really. There are some add-ons which other shared hosts will give you for free, however, these other hosts cost significantly more. So if you need these add-ons, you pay for them, and you are at no loss.
These include:

  • Daily Backups – £2.99 per month
  • Private SSL Certificate £24.99 per year
  • Whois Protection – £4.95 per year
  • Unlimited Addon-domains

The daily backup option being something that might be worth considering. You don’t want to lose all your website data. However, if you are using a CMS like WordPress, you can get free plugins which will email you a copy of your DB’s regularly, so if you know what you are doing this isn’t necessary. Other cheaper shared host will give you a free domain, this is not the case with Zyma, and the £4.95 per year only entitles you to host only one domain.

How good is the Zyma Host Performance wise?

I did some tests to evaluate the speed of Zyma. I used host-tracker.com to check the response time of the site I have hosted on Zyma, I then compared this to three popular hosts, one in the UK, and two in the US.

  • Zyma – Average response time was: Global Average: 0.85 sec, UK locations:0 .55 secs. US Locations: 0 .85 secs
  • Dreamhost – Global Average: 1.27 sec
  • Clear Host – Global Average: 0.98 sec
  • 1and1.co.uk – Global Average: 0.32 sec

These are just spot tests at one point in time. Results will vary depending on peak times in different parts of the world. But they give an indication that Zyma doesn’t stake up too badly when compared to other shared hosts. A ping time around half a second for a shared webhost is pretty damn good.

Zyma guarantees 99.9% uptime. In the few days since having my Zyma account, I have had it monitored every minute using my Pingdom account. What this does is ping the site every minute to ensure it is up, and emails me it is down. So far, it has been up the whole time. This is a fairly short period to test the host thoroughly though. But, so far, so good.

How good is the support?

If you have a support question, they have phone contact numbers, email support, but more importantly, live chat via the website. They also have a good range of FAQ’s to answer common support questions. I was purposely pretty lazy when setting up my WordPress site on Zyma, as I wanted a support query to test their service on. The support person was very helpful, answered my question easily, and emailed me all the details I needed to help me with the problem I was having. So, from a one off spot check, the support was very good.

Who is Zyma best suited for?

Zyma.com is hosted in the UK, which makes them an ideal option for a small UK business. The sort of business that doesn’t have a huge budget for online marketing, but is looking to get a website online for a good value price.
Zyma.com is also a great cheap option for online markers, web developers and SEO types like myself. Why? It’s a cheap way to add more IP diversity to your site portfolio. If you understand SEO, you will know that you need lots of links to your sites. But the catch is that you can’t really link to your own sites that effectively if they are hosted in the same account, in the same IP C class range. However, if you were to host one of your sites on Zyma, for the cheap annual cost, you can then effectively link to other sites you own, without it appearing as though you are linking to your own site. Make sense? This was one of the main attractions for me, and why I was keen to get an account with them.

Conclusion

So from my small review, and some basic tests, I really see no reason what so ever to be nervous about committing to hosting a site with Zyma. They offer a very good service for a ridiculously cheap price. £4.95 per year is about $7.80 US per year. Add to that the cost of a domain… $7 to $10, and you have a very cheap website. The next cheapest option I could find easily was more than $50 US a year. And the standard shared hosting price is around $100- $120 a year. So this really is a great deal and well worth checking out.

Disclosure statement

A Zyma.com employee approached us to review their service. For this we received a hosting account from them free of charge for which we used to evaluate the service. If you would like me to review your webhost on Pingable, get in touch using the contact form.