Does your WordPress site stand out? No? If you’re new to WordPress, it’s quite common to let the theme do most of the heavy lifting, making for a site that doesn’t look bad, but one that blends in quite nicely with the crowd. But an eye catching, professional looking design is important. It may even be more important than your actual content.
In the world of internet marketing, it’s long been a well accepted ”fact” that ‘content is king’ but actually, some research seems to suggest otherwise. In fact, the DESIGN of a website can have the biggest impact on a first impression.
Now I’m not saying that the quality of your content isn’t important (it’s what will inspire repeat visits, and of course sharing), but if your design is so bland that half your visitors don’t even bother to hang around long enough to read it, you’ll be missing out on a lot of potential readers/customers. That’s why in this post I’ll show you a few easy, and affordable, ways to make your site stand out.
Use Customizable Themes/Frameworks From The Get-go
If you don’t feel like learning how to code to have some creative control over your WordPress site,or hiring a professional developer, one of the best things you can do is choose a theme with design options. But when it comes to allowing you the freedom to customize your theme – no coding required – to stand out from all the other users of said theme, not all themes are created equal. There are a lot of themes that allow for almost 0 customization outside of the customization options built into WordPress (which is actually not that much).
Some stand out alternatives are Total, Headway, Make and Pinboard (both free) just to name a few of the many great options out there. With Total for example, you are allowed full creative control over how your site will look, without having to write a single line of code. By using the page builder you can create any layout, and then use even more options built into each module to customize page elements.
While themes like Total are simple enough to use for most people familiar with WordPress, it can be a little tricky to master as a complete beginner. If you are completely new to WordPress, you might want to consider a more basic theme with fewer customization options like ????? In this case you still have the option to change colors, fonts, the sizes and general layout of the pages, but you mostly choose from preset options rather than getting your hands dirty, drawing out the website you want. While yes, this does mean you have less detail control, at the same time it makes it easier not to get caught up in the little details, and personalize your website effectively in broad strokes.
Now, neither kind of theme is inherently superior to the other, it all depends on the customer. But if you’re a beginner when it comes to web design, as well as WordPress, choosing a theme that gives you some creative control over the design without overwhelming you with options might be a good idea.
If you’re in love with your current theme, and it basically offers no options for customization, don’t worry, there are still quite a few things you can do to make it stand out, so let’s dig into those.
Use A Logo
One of the more standard ways of differentiating a WordPress site from others that use the same theme, to make a site your own, is to use a logo instead of the standard headline text + font. If you’re on a tight budget, or you just like having the you can for example make your own, text only logo. Which might sound underwhelming, but by carefully selecting fonts and colors, you can create a very professional looking logo yourself.
To learn how to do this yourself, you can check out this detailed how-to post that shows you how to create one from start to finish. (The blog is also an example of a very popular site that uses a text only logo, if that worries you.)
There are many places where you can get a logo cheaply, a popular but controversial bootstrap-budget alternative is Fiverr. Where in theory you can get a finished logo for 5 bucks. The thing about fiverr is that you don’t just submit you will have to do your own research and find a designer that has a track record of designing logos that look like exactly the kind of thing you might want. The wait is also often quite long. (Also it’s 5 bucks, so don’t expect a unique design, expect some fitting clipart along with text in a cool font.)
Perhaps the most popular mid-range alternative, is 99 Designs, where you don’t hire a designer up front and then he/she designs it, no. At 99designs, you start a design competition, and you get to choose among lots of designs the one you feel resonates the most with you and your brand. It’s kind of like having the skills of a designer yourself, as through all the choices, you retain a lot of creative control.
Use A Page Builder Plugin to Create A Custom Homepage
By using a page builder, you can totally change the first impression a visitor gets when he/she visits your site. You can take your pick from page builder plugins we’ve already reviewed, or get one of your choice. If you’ve chosen to go with one of the themes I recommended earlier, than your theme might have a page builder, built-in already.
Page builders make the process of creating a custom website manageable for WordPress users who aren’t developers. The Visual Composer is by far one of the most popular page builder WordPress plugins available, and with good reason. The easy to use interface allows users to build pages on the front-end, so you can see your page on your live site as you’re building it (this includes actually seeing color selections, columns, excerpts, sliders and more all live as you tweak them).
Use Your Widgets/Sidebar
Another easy way to change the look and feel of your website, is by placing key visual elements in the sidebar. These can be self-designed mini-banners, or simply good looking and useful widget plugins that fit well with the rest of your site’s design. For example a widget plugin that showcases popular posts and shows their featured images. Checkout the WordPress.Org plugin repository – they have tons of great free widget plugins that you can use to change up your website look.
Remove Sidebar/Go Full-width
These days a lot of themes offer these options, the only thing you need to do is make us of them. Oftentimes it’s as easy as checking a box or clicking a button. It depends on the theme where you might find layout options. But, for our Total theme the option to select a full-width layout can be set globally from the Theme Customizer or on a per-page basis using the individual Page Settings.
If your theme supports it…
At this point we’re moving into area that many themes don’t support and that there aren’t really any plugins that deal with sufficiently well that it’s worth dealing with. If your theme doesn’t support this.
Change Up The Fonts
Now this is something that will require a few lines of code unless you’ve chosen a theme with the ability to do so. But if your theme allows it, and you already have a range of fonts to choose from, I recommend that you read this article on pairing fonts first. This will help you choose fonts that work together to create a professional vibe, rather than making the site seem like it’s suffering from multiple personality disorder.
And if your theme doesn’t come with font options built-in, you can always use a plugin. The WP Google Fonts free WordPress plugin is a quick and easy way to add support for over 670+ custom Google fonts to your theme.
Change Up The Color Scheme
While this can be a great, possibly the best, way to make your site stand out, it’s also a dangerous path to go down unprepared. Read this article on some safety guidelines to make sure you don’t go too far with your color scheme. And if your theme uses flat design, you can ‘steal’ some inspiration for color palettes here.
Once you’re ready to tweak your website colors though most themes make it easy. Many themes (free and premium) come with color skins built-in, custom color options in the Theme Customizer or with options for colors built into the page builder. Or, just like with fonts, you can also install a free plugin to tweak your theme colors.
Change Dimensions/Other Things
You could for example decrease the height of your site’s header to get more of your actual content packed into the first impression of a visitor. Or you can increase/decrease the width of your sidebar. This is usually straight forward, and sometimes it’s only by testing and actually looking at results will you be able to find out if there are improvements to be made.
Themes using page builders will allow you to freely move elements around, so you can add more whitespace where needed or reorder page element with ease. In addition, other themes like Total also add built-in options for just about every theme element (header padding, sidebar width, image sizes, responsiveness settings and lots more) in addition to all of the features added by the drag & drop builder.
Whatever You Do, Keep It Clean
One of the things many people do wrong when they try to personalize their website, is that they add a lot of unnecessary elements, instead of changing a few of the preexisting key elements of the design, to better align with their own brand and vision.
Your site doesn’t have to be complex to look good. In fact, in most cases, it’s the exact opposite. Cluttered, and too complex, websites are seen as uglier than simple, easy to follow ones. This means that even if you have the option to go for 4 side-bars, or stick your logo 8 places, maybe just stick with the one.
If you have any plans you’re struggling with, success stories to show off, or questions, please share. Or if you have any tips or plugins that have helped you customize your website we’d love to know what they were. Leave us a comment below!