The Appearance Menu

This menu is where most of the action happens for changing the design of your site. Within this menu, you’ll find the Themes panel, where you can search for themes, install themes, switch themes, and even make some customizations to your theme’s header image, colors, and background. For the purposes of this class, and since most of you will already have a theme selected for you (or which you have selected) before the initial site is built, we are not going to look at installing themes. Just know that this is where to find the available themes, switch themes, and find some of the theme-specific options.

Widgets and Widget-ready areas

Next in the Appearance menu, you will find the Widgets panel. This is arguably one of the nicest, most flexible areas of a WordPress site. The general idea to a widget is that the theme author will designate areas of their site which are “widgetized” or “widget-ready”. Due to the fact that originally, these areas were designed for the left and right columns or “sidebars” of a site, that name has remained, although a “sidebar” can be anywhere on the page, including the header, footer, the main content area, or anywhere else. More and more, these are being called something like “widgetized areas”, though in the underlying programming, the term sidebar remains.

Custom Menus

Next we have Menus, which is where you can create custom menus to use in various parts of your site. Some themes will designate menu areas from which you can choose, and some will not. Those that do not designate special menu areas can still use custom menus, by creating a menu and then using a widget to put that menu into one of the widgetized areas. We’ll create a custom menu a little later in the class.

Custom Header and Background images

Next are Header and Background. We aren’t going to spend much time on these today, but essentially, this is where (if your theme supports it) you can choose a custom header image (either chosen from a list of defaults, uploaded from your computer, or selected from the images in your Media Library), and where you can choose a custom background color or image for your site. While these are very cool features, they generally don’t change very often, and may even be chosen already before you get started on your site, so we’re not going to spend much time on these.

Let’s dig into one of the most useful flexibilities of a WordPress-powered site: Widgets!