Theme Modifications in WordPress
Theme modifications in WordPress is something that every designer/developer has had to do at some point or another. If you haven’t, then you either are very lucky or not providing the level of service that you should be to your clients.
Very rarely do you ever find a pre-made or premium theme that has every feature that you are looking for or need. Plus, changing the small CSS/HTML design aspects that make that theme yours is something that is almost always required.
Layout & Navigation
When most people choose a theme for their site, it is because of the layout. When I give my clients theme options it is because they all have different layouts. The layout gives your site the look and feel.
Google puts a huge emphasis on the user experience. Choosing a theme that has small text, isn’t mobile friendly or responsive can have not only a negative impact with your site visitors, but with the search engines as well.
Navigation lends itself to the user experience as well. It should show a clear site organization. Making it easy for visitors to find what they want with little or no effort.
The reason that I described all of the above is because if you want to modify either of these in a WordPress theme, these are the heavy hitters. They are the hardest to modify, but depending upon what you are changing, also have the biggest impact.
They are the hardest modifications to make because it is a theme developed by someone else. It is like me trying to make the door of my truck larger, smaller, or different even though Ford designed it the way they envisioned the first time.
Colors, Fonts & Images
When looking to change a theme, these are probably the most changed aspects. Clients want a theme, regardless of who designed it, to match the color scheme of their logo or business marketing materials.
Using developer tools from within Firefox or Chrome, finding out where colors are set in the CSS files is a somewhat easy task. Depending on how the CSS was written, updating those can be somewhat daunting. When I design a new site, I try to group as many ids/classes together to let them share declarations. This makes it easier down the road to change a color scheme by changing a handful of items rather than hundreds.
Some premium themes actually give you the ability to change the color scheme of the entire site or a lot of the items on the site with the click of a mouse. This would possibly Item #6 on my list of things to look for when selecting a WordPress Theme (http://opiescomputers.com/5-things-look-selecting-wordpress-theme/).
Making changes to an existing WordPress theme isn’t necessarily hard to do, but it does require some programming skill and the desire to learn a few things.
For those who aren’t developers at heart, I would just offer up one bit of advise. Before you make any changes or modifications to a live site, make a backup. Ideally you would have tested it somewhere else before trying it on a live site, but not everyone has the resources for this. Having a backup ensures that if something goes wrong, you can always restore the backup and be right back where you were before you started.
At a later date I’ll detail more about how to dig in and modify each of the different aspects I have described above. Happy Modding!