Pick a theme / design for your website
The great thing about WordPress is that it works with interchangeable designs – called themes.
Meaning, you can change the way your WordPress website looks with just one click.
For example, this is what a WordPress website looks by default, right after the installation:
With just a couple of clicks, and with a popular free theme called Hestia, for example, we can get it to look like this:
a) Pick a theme that you like
As I mentioned, WordPress themes are out-of-the-box design packages that define the way your website looks. You can install them quickly and then change them in the future if need be.
Your website design should be selected based on the purpose of your site – selling high-quality products, marking your online presence as a blogger, transitioning your business online, setting up a simple website, an ecommerce store or ecommerce website, or for email marketing.
The critical detail here is that themes don’t change the contents of your site but only alter the presentation.
There’s a huge abundance of WordPress themes out there. Just looking into the official directory at WordPress.org, there are hundreds of themes there.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are a lot more free themes on the web on third-party sites, and there’s also a whole other world of paid themes that are distributed by independent theme stores (like ThemeIsle or aThemes) and even theme marketplaces (like ThemeForest).
Even though there are myriads of paid themes out there, for most users, free themes are a great option to start with. The surprising thing about some of the best free themes is how many impressive features they bring to the table without asking for anything in return.
So, how to pick a theme that’s right for you? Here are some tips if you want to give this a more in-depth look. Generally, though, you don’t need to spend too much time on this and go a simple route instead.
We can do that because the theme you choose today doesn’t have to be your final decision. You can always come back to it later on and change it in a matter of minutes.
Therefore, we’re going to go for a safe bet and use one of the most popular free themes in the market today to demonstrate how WordPress themes work. That theme is the aforementioned Hestia.
Note. While we will use Hestia as the example in the following section, it’s not the only free theme that you can use. Here’s a collection of theme roundups for multiple purposes, starting from business websites to blogs, travel, food, personal sites, and more. You can use any one of those themes. The procedure is the same.
b) Install your theme
If the theme you’ve chosen is available in the official directory at WordPress.org then the only thing you need in order to install it is the theme’s name. Yep. That’s it.
Here’s how theme installation is done:
Go to Appearance → Themes from your WordPress dashboard and then click on “Add New.”
From there, input the name of the theme that you want to install, like so:
You’ll see it displayed on the list below the search field. Just click on the Install button under your desired theme:
After a second, the theme will be installed. To fully enable it on your site, click on the “Activate” button that will appear in place of the “Install” button.
Hestia is one of those themes that offers some excellent onboarding for new users. To see what the theme has in store for you, click on the button from the welcome prompt.
You’ll see your main Hestia panel, from which you can learn about the theme and extend its out-of-the-box features with some extras and integrations. Let’s do that now.
First, click on the “Recommended Actions” link to see what’s available.
Out of the options proposed there, let’s go with only “Orbit Fox Companion” for now. Just click the “Install and activate” button.
Note. Orbit Fox Companion is a plugin. We’ll talk about WordPress plugins more in depth later in this guide on how to make a website.
Orbit Fox is a nice addition to Hestia as it delivers some cool features to upgrade your site’s looks. For instance, you get some useful new modules for the homepage, a template directory that will be helpful when building your sub-pages (such as “about” or “contact”), and custom menu icons.
At this stage, your new theme is active on your site. You can see it in action simply by going to
Though, what you’re seeing there is far from the theme’s potential. Right now, we’ll take care of adapting the design, menus, and other elements to make the site look exactly like you want it. Here’s how:
c) Customize the theme
While the out-of-the-box look of your theme might be already quite nice, you should still do some basic customizations to make it fit your needs hand-in-glove. In the beginning it seems to involve a learning curve, but it’s really intuitive, especially over time.
To begin, go to Appearance → Customize. You’ll see the main WordPress Customizer interface.
From there, you can fine-tune a load of things. We’ll start with the homepage, since it’s the most representative.
Setting up your homepage.
Do the following:
- In the sidebar, go to “Homepage Settings.”
- Select the option, “A static page” under your homepage display setting.
- Click on “Add New,” to create a new page to act as your homepage.
- Input the name for the page – “HOME” seems like a good idea – and click on “Add.”
This will replace the default listing of your site’s most recent articles with a completely custom homepage. By default, you’ll see some cool elements on your new user-friendly homepage. These look nice both on laptops, smartphones, and other mobile devices.
For starters, let’s change the main headline on the page. It’s a good idea to put either the name of your business there or anything else that serves as the title for the entire site.
To make the changes, click on the pencil icon that’s next to the headline.
When you do so, a customization panel will appear on the left.
Through it, you can:
- change the background image – make it something related to your business
- change the title
- change the text under the title – you can remove this completely if you want to
- change the button text – usually leading to your products or most crucial pages (more on that in a minute)
Underneath that, you get to adjust any of the other available homepage blocks. It works similarly to the mechanisms offered by the popular website builders (like Wix, Squarespace, or Weebly). By default, you get all of these (see this list by going to “Frontpage Sections” from the Customizer sidebar):
- The Features section is a great place to explain what your company has to offer or what the purpose of the website is – that “purpose” is probably the no. 1 thing to keep in mind as you learn how to make a website.
- The About section is a great place to talk about your story.
- The Team section you can use if more people work in your business and you’d like to highlight them.
- The Ribbon is another place where you can mention your primary call to action.
- The Testimonials section is awesome when you want to showcase what your previous customers had to say about your business.
- The Contact section is where you can display your contact information and let people know how to best reach you.
There are also a handful of more sections available. It’s best to browse through those and pick the ones that make sense to use for your business and in your specific situation.
When you’re done adjusting the homepage, don’t forget to click on the main “Publish” button that’s at the top.
Adjusting the typography.
The next thing to do would be to take care of your site’s typography – the fonts used throughout the site.
You can do that by going to Appearance Settings → Typography from the WordPress Customizer sidebar. In there, you will be able to pick a font and see it on your site immediately.
Out the box, your new theme is going to use a couple of primary colors that define its default color scheme. You can change that setting in the WordPress Customizer. Just click on Colors in the main sidebar.
The Accent Color is usually the color used for buttons, links, and everything else that’s meant to stand out from the rest of the site’s design.
After doing the above, your website will start feeling like it’s truly yours. You will have made all the necessary tune-ups and customizations to make it fit with your brand.
Note. There are many more settings in the WordPress Customizer to experiment with. Most of them are designed to increase the user experience of your site. For instance, you can:
- pick the default layout according to your website needs – whether you want the sidebar to be on the left, right, or nowhere,
- how you want the blog listing to be displayed,
- whether you want a main background image for the entire site,
- the shape of the buttons, and much more.