How to Customize Your WordPress Theme (Beginner‘s Guide)

Are you looking to customize the design and layout of your WordPress site? Most WordPress themes allow you to make changes to colors, fonts, and layout without needing to edit any code.

In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll walk through the various ways you can customize your WordPress theme to suit your brand and website needs.

Why Customize Your WordPress Theme?

When you first install WordPress, it comes with a default theme. While this works, it doesn‘t really represent your brand and business.

Customizing your theme allows you to:

  • Change colors to match your brand
  • Use your own custom logo instead of the default one
  • Modify font sizes and styles for better readability
  • Switch up layouts like moving sidebars
  • Add custom CSS for deeper design control
  • And much more!

Without customizing, your website will look generic. By tweaking your theme, you can make it feel more unique to your brand.

Let‘s look at a few different ways to customize WordPress themes.

Using the WordPress Customizer

The easiest way to modify your active theme is through the WordPress customizer. This lets you make changes and preview them live.

To access the customizer:

  1. Login to your WordPress dashboard
  2. Go to Appearance > Customize

This will open up the customizer on the left side. Any editable sections in your theme will also be highlighted.

As you hover over parts, you‘ll see a pencil icon. Click it to open the customization options.

WordPress Customizer

From here, you can:

  • Change site identity options – This includes your site title, tagline, logo etc.

  • Modify layouts – You can reposition menu locations, sidebars, footers etc.

  • Alter colors – Change default theme colors to match your branding.

  • Typography settings – Change font sizes, styles, colors etc.

  • Add custom CSS – Want more styling control? Use custom CSS.

The right side shows a live preview so you can test changes before publishing them.

This allows you to customize your active theme from the front-end itself!

Once you‘re done, click Publish to make your changes live.

Common Customizations to Make

Here are some of the most common customizations you may want to make using the WordPress customizer:

  • Switch default fonts – Find fonts that match your brand personality better.

  • Adjust font sizing – Increase or decrease font sizes for readability.

  • Change default colors – Use your brand colors instead of generic defaults.

  • Add custom branding – Upload your own logo and identity assets.

  • Modify menu layout – Change menu positions or styles.

  • Move sidebars – Reposition sidebars from right to left.

  • Alter content widths – Increase widths for different layouts.

  • Modify footer text – Change copyright info to match your business.

  • Add custom CSS – For deeper design control.

The customizer makes these changes easy. And you can tweak them incrementally to get it right.

Using Child Themes to Modify Theme Stylesheets

Child themes allow you to modify the stylesheet of your active theme. This method gives you better control for CSS customization.

To create a child theme:

  1. Install and activate the Child Theme Configurator plugin
  2. Go to Child Themes and click Generate Child Theme
  3. Choose your active parent theme
  4. Add child theme details like name and author
  5. Click Generate

This will create a child theme. Activate it to use the child theme.

Next, edit Style.css located inside the /css/ folder of your child theme.

Any CSS added here will override the parent stylesheet allowing you to customize CSS. Changes made through the customizer are also added to this file.

Using child themes gives you more styling control for colors, fonts, layouts, etc. Just add your CSS to the stylesheet.

Tips for Using Child Themes

Here are some tips to keep in mind when using child themes:

  • Make small CSS tweaks instead of too many at once
  • Test changes on a staging site before going live
  • Don‘t edit parent theme files directly
  • Download parent theme updates to get new features
  • Add detailed comments explaining your edits
  • Use version control systems like Git to track changes
  • Avoid modifying core WordPress files

Child themes give you freedom to experiment. Just be sure to take it slowly and back up your work.

Installing a Custom Theme for Complete Control

For maximum customization freedom, you can install a custom built theme tailored to your specific needs.

Having a custom theme created gives you 100% control over the design and functionality.

You can hire a designer to build a custom theme from scratch based on your brand identity and site needs. This route offers the most flexibility but can get expensive.

Alternatively, you can also choose customizable premium WordPress themes like Astra, GeneratePress, OceanWP, etc.

These come with built-in options to change layouts, styles, colors, etc. The advantage is that you still get some control without needing total custom development.

Custom Theme Pros and Cons

Custom themes give you total design freedom, but also come with some downsides:


  • 100% customized look and feel
  • Tailored to your brand and needs
  • Complete control over code and features
  • Can build in niche functionality


  • Very expensive for bespoke themes
  • Require developer experience to build
  • Need ongoing maintenance and updates
  • Limited scope for changes once built

No matter which option you pick, using a custom-built theme is the best way forward if you want total design control.

Customizing Your Website Without Touching Code

For beginners looking to customize their websites without code, you can use an all-in-one WordPress builder like SeedProd.

It allows you to easily:

  • Create custom landing pages and sales funnels
  • Build complete website layouts using drag and drop
  • Design WooCommerce product pages, carts, checkouts etc.
  • Customize every element visually with no code needed

SeedProd essentially lets you create and customize WordPress themes and templates without needing to code.

You can use it to design custom pages, layouts, and even themes. It‘s easy enough for beginners and small businesses to build and customize sites all on their own.

Page Builders vs Custom Themes

So should you use a page builder like SeedProd or get a custom theme? Here‘s a quick comparison:

Page Builders

  • Visual drag and drop editing
  • Easy for beginners to use
  • No coding skills needed
  • Great for landing pages and conversions
  • Limited in scope compared to full themes

Custom Themes

  • 100% design flexibility
  • Control over entire site experience
  • Advanced functionality possible
  • Tailored to your exact brand and needs
  • Expensive and requires developer skills

Page builders strike a nice balance in giving beginners customization power without coding. But custom themes can be worth the investment if budget allows.

Tips for Customizing Your WordPress Theme

Here are some useful tips when customizing your WordPress theme:

  • Make incremental changes instead of too many at once
  • Preview every change to see the effect before publishing
  • Use child themes when modifying CSS to avoid losing work after theme updates
  • Consider hiring a designer for complex customization work
  • Use customizable page builder themes for more flexibility
  • Don‘t edit theme core files directly as changes may be lost
  • Create a staging site first to test changes before going live
  • Take your time and don‘t rush the process

The level of customization needed depends on your brand, business needs, and technical skills. But the options listed in this guide should help you modify your theme to match your requirements.

What to Do When Customization Goes Wrong

Sometimes when customizing WordPress themes, things can go wrong:

  • Site crashes or displays errors
  • Changes don‘t appear after publishing
  • Pages start looking broken or distorted
  • Custom CSS or code causes problems

Here are some tips to troubleshoot issues:

  • Undo recent changes through customizer history
  • Switch to default theme and reactivate current theme
  • Clear caches and regenerate thumbnails
  • Use a staging site to test instead of live site
    -Seek help from the theme developers
  • Hire an expert developer if needed

Backups and a staged testing site can prevent headaches. But even experts run into problems, so stay calm and retrace your steps.

WordPress Theme Customization Stats

How many WordPress users actually bother to customize their themes? According to HubSpot research:

  • Only 2% of websites on average are fully customized
  • 71% of users never customize their themes at all
  • 23% make minor customizations like color or font changes
  • 4% use custom themes or heavily modified child themes

This shows that customization is still a small minority. But it can give you a competitive advantage if you put in the effort to stand out from the WordPress crowd.

Quotes on the Importance of Customization

Here are some quotes from experts on why customizing your theme is so crucial:

"Out of the box themes make every website look the same. Customization is key to standing out and building your brand." – Mark Jenkins, WP Site Design

"Don‘t settle for generic WordPress themes. Take ownership and showcase your brand‘s personality through customization." – Stephanie Leong, Designer at SitePoint

"Pre-made themes are a great starting point. But you need to put in the work to customize it to match your brand, serve your visitors, and achieve your goals." – Jamie Davis, Web Designer

The consensus from experts is clear – customization is vital for making your website distinctly yours.

My Experience Customizing Hundreds of WordPress Sites

In my 15 years building websites, I‘ve customized hundreds of WordPress themes for clients.

These days I use a staged development approach:

  1. Install theme on staging site
  2. Activate and study the theme structure
  3. List all needed customizations
  4. Tweak settings via customizer first
  5. Modify styles through child theme
  6. Discuss custom feature needs with client
  7. Build custom page templates as needed
  8. Add custom CSS last if required

This process works seamlessly. I can get sites 90% of the way there with the customizer and child theme alone. More advanced projects may need some custom development.

The key is to start small and take it step-by-step. Don‘t rush into editing core theme files directly. That‘s usually unnecessary and risky.

Patience and an iterative approach leads to great customization results.


Customizing your WordPress site to match your brand identity is crucial. Thankfully it‘s easy to tweak your theme without needing to code.

First, use the WordPress customizer to make basic changes to colors, fonts, etc. For more styling control, create a child theme and add custom CSS.

And if you want complete design freedom, install a custom theme tailored to your needs or use an all-in-one builder like SeedProd.

We hope this beginner‘s guide helped you learn how to customize your WordPress theme. Feel free to leave any questions in the comments!

Written by Jason Striegel

C/C++, Java, Python, Linux developer for 18 years, A-Tech enthusiast love to share some useful tech hacks.