Customizing Your Blog

There are many ways to customize your blog to ‘make it your own’. Here are a few of the options available. Always make sure you are in the Dashboard for the blog you wish to modify. (Log in, then look in the upper left-hand corner and confirm that the title of your blog is listed there. If you see the name of another of your blogs, click the My Sites link. You will see a list of your blogs here – click Dashboard for the one you wish to work on.)

Header Text and Image

Modifying the Header Image

Depending on the theme that you choose (see below), you may or may not be able to change the header image. The following instructions refer to the standard WordPress method of changing a header – your chosen theme may do it differently.

  1. In the Dashboard of your blog, go to Appearance > Header.
  2. You will see a preview of the current header image, with some information about how large the header is (i.e. 940×198). This information is important for you when designing or selecting a new header image. Different themes will use different header sizes.
  3. You have three options for selecting a header image:
    1. There may be some sample Default Images that come with the theme. If you wish to use one of these, simply click the radio button (circle) to select the one you want.
    2. If you have already uploaded an appropriate header image to your Media Library, look for “Or choose an image from your media library” and click the Choose Image button. From here, you can click the Media Library button to view and select the header image you would like to use. Click Set as Header when done.
    3. To upload a new header image, look for “Choose an image from your computer” and click the Browse button, locate the file on your computer and click Open. Click the Upload button.
  4. If the image is not the exact dimensions that the theme requires, you will be brought to a screen where you can choose which part of your image will be used as the header. Keep in mind that this means some parts of the image may be cut off, and it may be stretched to fit if it is not big enough. This is why it is best to design a header image that is the right size in advance (if possible). Simply drag the dashed box around the image to select what will be used as the header. The borders of the box can be extended by clicking on any of the square points and dragging them out or in.
  5. Click Crop & Publish to save the settings. You will see it in the preview when you return to the header image page.
  6. If you are satisfied, click Save Changes to apply the new header. If not, you can start over by uploading another image.

Displaying the Site Title

The Header page may also include an option to hide the title text from the header, Display Text. You would hide the text, for example, if you designed an image that had the title on it already. Simply select ‘no’ and click Save Changes to hide the text.

Modifying the Site Title and Tagline

You probably noticed the site title text that appears in the header area of your blog — and maybe you’re rethinking what it should say. There may or may not be a tagline just below the title, depending on the theme that you’ve chosen.

  1. In the left-hand menu, find the Settings section heading and click on it. This will bring up the General Settings page.
  2. Here, you can modify the Site Title and/or the Tagline. You may opt to delete the text in the tagline — you don’t need to have a tagline, so that’s OK. It is not recommended to remove the Site Title, however, as that information is important as it is used in various locations of your site.
  3. Click the Save Changes button at the bottom of the page.

Themes

Themes dictate the look, the layout and some of the functionality of your blog.

Please see this page for more information on selecting a theme.

Widgets

Widgets enable you to add functionality to the sidebars in your blog. Again, this starts with choosing the theme that has the appropriate layout for you (2-column, 3-column, etc.) and then choosing which widgets to add.

Here are some examples of functionality that can be added using widgets:

    • Meta – adds links to Login to the blog system, access the administrative areas of a specific blog (IF the user has the appropriate role in the blog) and RSS feeds for the blog’s entries and comments.
    • RSS – if you would like to pull entries from someone’s blog, Twitter account, etc.into your sidebar, you can add the RSS feed from their site here.
    • Links – add a list of other blogs or websites you would like to reference
    • A list of Pages, Recent Posts, or Special Recent Posts in your blog
    • Recent comments in your blog
    • Text
    • Tweet Blender – Show tweets from accounts, hashtags and keywords in the sidebar and/or in an archive page. Plugin must be enabled in order to add the widget to a sidebar .
    • A list of Categories and/or Tags used in your blog
    • A Tag cloud
    • Authors – provides a dynamic list of users who have posted to the blog, additional features such as a link to a list of the authors’ posts, RSS feeds, etc. can also be enabled.

Selecting and Activating Widgets

  1. Make sure you are in the Dashboard for the blog you want to add a theme to. (Log in, then look in the upper right-hand corner and confirm that the title of your blog is listed there. If you see the name of another blog, click My Sites. You will see a list of your blogs here – click Dashboard for the one you wish to work on.)
  2. In the left-hand menu, find the Appearance section heading and click on it, then click the Widgets link that appears under the Appearance heading in the menu. This will load the Widgets page.
  3. First, look at the column on the right-hand side. This section will list the different areas of your blog that you can add widgets to. You may have sections like “right column” and “left column”, or if you are using a more complex theme, you may have ones listed “top-left”, “middle”, etc. This allows you to add different widgets to specific areas of your blog interface.
  4. Look through the available widgets. Once you have found one you like, click on the heading (for example, Tag Cloud) and continue to hold the mouse button down while you drag to the area in the right column that you want the widget to appear in. You should be able to see the widget move as you move your mouse. Once you have it over a section that you can add it to, you will see a dashed box. If you release the mouse button, the widget will be dropped here.
  5. Many widgets have settings that you will modify, such as Title, etc. Once you have modified the settings, click the Save button.
  6. Click the Close button to stop viewing the settings.
  7. If you wish to remove a widget, click the Remove button.

Plugins

Plugins are used to add a higher level of functionality to the entire blog. They range in scope – there are some to enhance the multimedia abilities of your blog, some to check for broken links and some to help track statistics.

We have installed a number of plugins that you can enable on your blog.

Please see this page for more information on activating plugins.

Background

*Note: Not all themes have this option included. Please check your theme’s Appearance and Customizer settings to verify.

This option allows you to easily select a background colour or image for your blog.

  1. In the Dashboard for the blog you wish to modify, go to Appearance > Background.
  2. The Preview will show you the current selection. If you have not modified it from the theme’s default, this will be blank.
  3. To upload a background image, click Browse, locate the file on your computer and click Open.
  4. Click the Upload button.
  5. You will now see a preview of what your background will look like with the current settings. You will also see some new Display Options that allow you to change how the image is applied (left, center, no repeat, tile, etc.)
  6. Alternately, you can select a background colour. If you had already selected a background image, you will need to click the Remove Background Image option first, otherwise you won’t see your selected colour.
  7. Click Select a Color (or, if you know the hexidecimal value of the colour you want, simply enter it into the field). The colour picker will pop up. To choose a range of colours to view, click a colour on the outer ring. Then, select a specific shade in the inner circle to actually choose the colour to be applied.
  8. Click Save Changes to apply.

Custom Menus

*Note: This is a new feature in WordPress 3. Many themes do not have this enabled for use in their menu bar, but you will find it in Twentyten, Misty Morning and ryeLike. In themes where the menus are not enabled for use in a menu bar, you can still display the custom menus as a widget in a sidebar.

This option allows you to create flexible menus for the blog, that can display in a menu bar at the top, or as a list in a sidebar (as a widget). Please keep in mind that some themes may allow custom menus, but not dropdown menus. In these cases, only the top-level item will appear when used in a menu bar.

For more details, see the “Custom Menus” support page on WordPress.com.

Creating a Basic Menu

  1. If this is a second, or subsequent, menu for this blog: Click the “Create a new menu” link, seen near the top of the page.
  2. Enter something meaningful for the Menu Name, and click the blue Create Menu button.
  3. Look to the left – here, you will see the various types of items that can be added to the menu. This can include Custom Links (to link to another website), specific Pages in your blog, and even Categoriesof posts in your blog (when clicked, will show a list of all posts in that category).
    • To add Pages: click the View All link to see a list of all of your pages. Check the boxes for any pages you would like to add, then click the Add to Menu button for that section.
    • To add Categories of posts: click the View All link to see a list of all of your post categories. Check the boxes for any categories you would like to add, then click the Add to Menu button for that section.
    • To add a Custom Link: Enter the full URL of the website you would like to createa a link to, and give it a label that will be displayed in the menu. Click Add to Menu.
  4. To reorganize the items you have added to the menu, simply click on an item and drag it up or down to the position you would like it to be in.
  5. Indenting: Notice that you can move the item to the right, beneath another item, and it will appear indented. This will create a dropdown menu when added to a menu bar (theme permitting), where the leftmost item will appear in the menu bar and the indented items will appear below it when it is clicked. If this menu is added to a sidebar, as a widget, you will simply see a list of items with some indented.

Displaying a Menu

Menus can be added two ways – as a menu bar, often seen at the top of a theme (theme permitting), or as a list of items in the sidebar.

To use a menu in the menu bar:

  1. In the Menus page, look for Theme Locations in the upper-left of the page.
  2. Here, you will see how many menus your theme supports and will allow you to select which menu is to be used in which area. This is how you will know whether your theme supports the use of any menus as a menu bar.
  3. Click on the dropdown menu to see a list of menus you have created, and select the one you wish to use in that area.
  4. Click Save to apply the changes.

To use a menu as a list in a sidebar (or other widgetized area):

Your theme does not have to support menus in order to do this.

  1. Go to Appearance > Widgets
  2. Find the Custom Menu widget in the list, and drag and drop it into the widgetized area you would like it to be in. (There may be many, depending on your theme).
  3. Give the item a Title. This will display in the sidebar.
  4. Select the menu to display by clicking the dropdown menu to view the options, then clicking the menu name.
  5. Click Save to apply the changes.