Ah, free WordPress themes. I’m convinced they’re one of the biggest reasons WordPress is the most popular blogging platform today. From one-column minimalism to grid-based magazine layouts, photoblogging styles to made-for-Adsense themes, there are free WordPress themes for every taste- just download, install and activate!
But to set your blog apart, you’ll want to tweak that theme- and when I say tweak, I mean make small changes here and there. To make these tweaks to your theme of choice, a tool like the Firebug extension for Firefox can be very handy- but, really, any text editor will do.
- Tweak your header
Usually the first place new visitors will look, and a good place to start. Some themes include “theme options” pages that show up when you’ve activated the theme, and others include banner photos or graphics that can easily be replaced with your own. If you’re using the default WordPress theme Kubrick, the aptly named Kubrickr will automatically find photos on Flickr for you to customize your header with. To get more in-depth, I recommend reading through WordPress’ official codex page on Designing Headers.
- Play with your widgets
Most WordPress theme designers “widgetize” their themes, and for good reason: widgets are probably the quickest way to personalize a WordPress theme. Built-in widgets, available in every fresh installation of WordPress, include widgets for displaying your Archives, Calendar, Recent Comments and so forth- and And if the theme you love isn’t widgetized, you can do it yourself.
- Experiment with color
Even slight changes to the colors on your site can have a big impact. Online tools such as the Color Scheme Designer can keep you busy for hours, or you can check out pre-made color schemes at sites like colr.org and GenoPal.
- Change your fonts
We used to have just two choices when it came to web fonts: serif or sans-serif. Today, we have methods like sIFR and FLIR, which replace your fonts using Flash, the newish Cufon, which doesn’t require Flash, and CSS3’s @font-face, which works by downloading the specified fonts.
- Personalize your About page
This one, which requires no CSS tweaking at all, just might be the most important way of all. Tweaking your About page, the only page that comes pre-built with WordPress, is where you can truly let your personality shine through. A photo of yourself is always good, but you should feel free to add anything here that shows the world- or your readers, at least- who you are. You can read more about tweaking your About page in a previous post of mine.
Of course, we’ve only barely scratched the surface of the ways you can tweak your WordPress theme. For more ways, the WordPress Codex is an excellent place to start, or look through our previous posts on WordPress here.