Entrepreneurial Writers: Make Your Website Look Good For Less

Essential WordPress PluginsRecently I’ve been hounded with e-mail spam offering website design services to help me make my website look better, because it doesn’t look as good as it could.

Although in my opinion, WordPress is one of the best ways to build your website and it’s fairly easy to create one with very-little to no web design background, this can often leave your website looking just like everyone else’s website. Fortunately, there are a few options you have to make your website look good (and unique) without having to hire a web designer that will cost your an arm and a leg when you’re first getting started.

 

Theme Frameworks

Although these will sometimes cost a little bit of money, theme frameworks let you have more control over your design and make changes without actually having to know anything about HTML or CSS. There are a few available for free, although in my (albeit limited) experience, you get what you pay for. Although you don’t have to know code, if you do decide to learn it you can make even more changes to the theme.

Not sure if it’s the right choice for you? Get started with Woo Themes, which has a few free options (which could work as an option on it’s own). There’s also StudioPress (which has Genesis, which has a lot of subthemes available to make your website stand out) as well as drag and drop options from ithemes (which is offering a halloween discount right now).

I’ve had the opportunity to mess around with both Woo Themes and StudioPress, and I like them both a lot, however, I don’t know that I’d put up the money now at them moment (since my website is still developing) given the new web design knowledge that I have.

 

Child Theme

WordPress Defines a Child Theme as

A WordPress child theme is a theme that inherits the functionality of another theme, called the parent theme. Child theme allows you to modify, or add to the functionality of that parent theme. A child theme is the safest and easiest way to modify an existing theme, whether you want to make a few tiny changes or extensive changes. Instead of modifying the theme files directly, you can create a child theme and override within.

A child theme takes a pre-existing WordPress theme and makes changes to it using HTML, CSS, PHP, JavaScript, and more in a new child theme directory. Child Themes are great because they allow you to make slight changes as well as big changes, depending on what your looking to do with your blog or website.

In a child theme, you don’t make direct changes to the files, instead you create a new directory and make new as well as copies of files that already exist in your base theme. Read more in the WordPress Codex.

Currently, I’m working on building a child theme out of my current theme, Prana, and making slight changes to it regarding layout, colors, and font choices, since I just learned basic HTML and CSS through Girl Develop It and Lynda (read more about class options in my previous post about online and in class learning).

While I did eventually take a class on theme building, this Webdesigner Depot has a great online how-to for beginners.

 

Starter Themes

Unlike Child Themes where you build off of an existing theme, these allow you to start from scratch with a very basic framework. These also allow you to work right in the starter theme instead of creating a sub-directory like you would have to for a child theme. Some starter themes include Bones, Underscores, Roots, and more–each offers different things as well as different levels of how pre-built the theme is, and for the most part, are available for free.

This will be my next step after I successfully build a child theme and teach myself more coding and successfully launch my redesign using child themes.

How did you create your website’s look when you first started out?

About Kristen Gillette

Kristen Gillette is a freelancer who has written for a wide variety of publications including Philly2Night.com, two.one.five. Magazine, and Cred Magazine, thINKingDANCE.net, the Philadelphia Dance Journal, TechnicallyPhilly.com and more. She runs AdultBallerinaProject.com

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