Day 2: Let’s Design!

Lesson 2

Isn't this exciting! You have a blog now! But it looks pretty basic right now, doesn't it?

What you need is a theme! So today you're going to pick out a theme and install it.

What's a theme? Well, it's the basic design of your blog. It has the pretty elements and colors and structure that all of your information fits into. Don't worry about the blog posts you've already written or started on. They'll stay right where they are. They'll just look prettier!

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Step 1: Choose a Theme!

You can find free ones on WordPress. They have a few already in the Appearance -> Theme menu you can try out. But if you want more options for free, they're over here.

If you're willing to invest more on your blog I highly recommend the Genesis Framework and a child theme from Studiopress or Restored 316. They're more professional, secure, and they work better. (Restored 316 has a quiz to see which theme is best for you, too!)

The theme that I currently use is called Hello Trending by Hello You Designs. I love all of her designs. They're pretty and have so many cool features.

You have to get the Genesis Framework to use child themes that are designed for it. Genesis is a parent theme. A child theme doesn't work without a parent.

Pro to getting a child theme: you can't screw it up and crash your site like you can with just a parent theme. Trust me, that's not fun. If you do something wonky to your parent theme, you can't access WordPress at all and you have to call your host to fix it. Luckily, Bluehost was able to fix it for me when I did that.

Step 2: Install Your Theme

Don't worry, this is actually very easy. It was actually so easy I was freaking out because I was like "This can't be that easy, can it?" Well, it actually is. So here we go.

  1. Go to Appearance then Themes on your WordPress sidebar menu.
  2. Click add new
  3. Click Upload Theme
  4. Choose the file for your theme. Themes are usually zip files. If you picked a Genesis child theme you MUST install the Genesis Framework first. (It's the parent remember? Parents first then children.) So for this step choose the Genesis Framework file.
  5. Click install now.
  6. If you picked a Genesis child theme, repeat the steps for the child theme.
  7. Click Activate.

Now go marvel at your beautiful new blog! Ahh isn't it pretty! You might not be all done though. You have some more setting up to do.

Step 3: Customize Your Theme Settings

Now you are free to change anything you want under Appearance then Customize. This is where you can tell it what colors you want, add elements, take elements away, and change fonts. You'll also upload your logo or just leave your blog name as text. That's fine too!

Whatever you want to do is great! It's your house, you can decorate it however you want!

Step 4: Set Categories

Now remember that Blog Structure Blueprint we talked about? That's going to come in handy. If you haven't already, go to Posts then Categories in your sidebar menu. Put all of the topics you want to blog about into categories. Mine for instance include Mom Life, Pregnancy, Babies, Toddlers, Activities, and Earning and Saving Money.

If you've chosen sub categories, you can set those up or you can make your sub categories work as tags like I do. Tags are like secondary categories. You can tag any post whatever you want. So I have all of my sponsored posts tagged as "sponsored." If you were to click on the tag it would show you every sponsored post I've done. So tags can move across categories while sub categories are just... sub categories. You do you, though. Whatever works.

Step 5: Set Up Your Menu

Your menu is very important so let's take care of that right now. Most themes have the menu across the top for easy reader access. Some have it hidden behind a little menu box. I don't suggest that. I prefer to have the navigation bar at the top with the menu in full view.

To set up your menu go to Appearance then Menus (yeah we're hanging out in the Appearance tab today.)

When you're first starting out, I recommend adding all of your categories to your menu bar so your readers can access what they want to read about. Just add the categories to it. You can drag and drop to rearrange and put some into a drop down under another category or page.

Whatever you'd like to do, you can do. As the late, great Bob Ross says "This is your world. You're the creator. Find freedom on the canvas."

So Today You Should:

  1. Choose a theme
  2. Install your theme
  3. Customize your theme settings
  4. Set categories
  5. Set up your menu

If you need more time to work on anything, you don't have to do it all in 7 days. It's not a race. Feel free to take your time where you need to.