By Gail Seymour
Whether you're adding a WordPress blog as subdomain on an existing Web site or using it as a simple content management system to make updating easier, you will quickly realize that the default template is less than inspiring. If you want your blog to stand out and reflect your business image, you will need to make some changes. Follow these steps to customize your WordPress installation to build your brand.
1. Replace the Default Theme
When it comes to replacing the default theme, you have three options for finding a new one.
- Download an existing template, either free or commercially available. WordPress.org offers a range of free themes, or iThemes.com has premium themes available for around $80. A quick Google search will return thousands of sites offering WordPress themes to download.
- Some of the available themes may be close to your brand image, but may still need further customization. You may be able to simply overwrite the images of a theme, or you may need to commission a template designer to create a theme based on your existing Web site or brand.
- Create your own template from scratch following a tutorial like the one at themeshaper.com or using Artisteer's WordPress Theme Generator or similar software.
Your new template will need to be uploaded into the /wp-content/themes/ directory of your Web site using an FTP client. Login to your WordPress admin panel, and navigate to Design > Themes and select your theme. Click “Activate” and when you refresh your Web site, your new WordPress theme will load.
2. Ensure Navigational Consistency
If you are using WordPress as a subdomain of a larger Web site, it's not just the colors and images that need to match your main site. Your navigational structure also needs to be comprehensive and consistent. Designing your theme template with your main site navigation in mind will help. You might also want to integrate WordPress on pages of your main site. Besides ensuring a smoother transition between sections of your site, this will also help to keep your main Web site up to date and make it more dynamic.
3. Choose Plug-ins Carefully
There are thousands of Plug-ins available for WordPress, some of which make managing your content easier, others that add functionality to the blog, such as enabling ecommerce transactions. It's easy to get carried away when browsing plug-in directories and end up adding multiple gadgets because they look cool.
A better method would be to think about the actions you want your users to be able to take, and how you want your blog to appear, and search for plug-ins that will enable this behavior. That way you won't clutter up your site with features your users don't need or that dilute your offering.
4. Set up Search Engine Friendly Links
By default WordPress names post pages with a clumsy looking numbering system, so page URLs look something like www.yoursite.com/wp/index.php?postid=123. As well as being hard to remember, these links are not search engine friendly. To change these links to display as www.yoursite.com/wp/post-date/post-title instead, login to your WordPress admin, and navigate to Options->Permalinks then select “Date and name based,” or of you prefer specify a naming convention that matches your main Web site using the “Custom structure” option.
These four steps will have you well on your way to boosting your brand image with your WordPress blog. From here it's a matter of ensuring the posts use the same language and support your main site's message, albeit in a slightly less formal tone.
About the Author
Gail Seymour has been a Web site designer for more than 10 years. During that time she has won three Web site design awards, and has provided the content and copy for dozens of Web sites and more than 50,000 Web pages.