It might come as a surprise to know just how many websites benefit from the professional design of website themes, just like those found on WordPress.com. Many themes offers custom page templates — such as full width, boxed, panel, or grid — and you can adapt a theme to suit your business needs. But doing this is a bit like altering pants to flatter your body type — in each case, fit is as important as style.
Simply put, themes are stylish website “homes” awaiting your site’s “decor.” Page templates are ready-shaped web pages where you can plug in your content. Page templates allow you a certain amount of freedom in deciding how each page will appear — whether it’s a blog post, a static page, an image gallery, and so on. Knowing how to adapt a theme using custom page templates is a useful way to take control of how you market your business online.
Take your pick
While the page template options offered by each theme might seem overwhelming, they do fall into different categories, which you can use to help inform your choice.
Keep the following page template suggestions in mind when deciding on a website theme:
- Mind your business: It’s important to consider how you want your website to feel — or how you want users to react to your online presence. If you’re a tailor, you’ll want a more casual, neighborhood vibe than, say, a lawyer. To gain trust, you’ll want to showcase images of your handiwork — and you might prefer to spread your portfolio across the entire screen. To do this, select a theme with a full-width page template, which allows you to use every inch of the screen’s width by eliminating the sidebar. With the sidebar details tucked neatly above or below, you can exhibit pictures of your skillful alterations on a clean canvas.
- Frame the forever stuff: A boxed-width page template centers your content on a white or colored background. For your website’s static pages — “About Us,” “Contact Us,” and “Home,” for example — this page template creates a framed effect. The frame highlights permanent pages and gives them a more durable appeal — similar to how a framed photograph hung prominently on a wall has more visual stamina than a picture pinned to a cork board. If your business has come far enough that it now has a dedicated staff (however small) and you build a staff page for the site, you might consider giving that page the prominence of a boxed-width page template. When combined with concise, digestible paragraphs, a frame’s white space also improves the readability of long posts by shortening line length. (The Paulie theme, for instance, offers both full- and boxed-width page templates.)
- Layer your look: A panel page template, like that offered with the Shoreditch theme, lets you layer your company logo, the navigation bar, the main text, or even hyperlinks on top of an image. As a tailor, interior designer, or fashionista, you might choose an image of an attractive fabric as the backdrop for your posts — or as the header of your blog. The layered effect builds off of your theme, giving the page a visually punchy personal touch. And page templates that emphasize graphic details can keep your visitors interested — and often inspire them to hit the follow button.
- Enter the grid: Depending on your theme, a grid page template allows you to position your sidebar on the left, right, bottom, or top of the page, across from the main image or images. A grid also lets you form even columns of text, put wide or narrow margins around the text, and stretch more important images to give them visual oomph. A grid page template’s versatility offers a way to cleverly define everything within the screen for a balanced, organized appearance. If you’re an event planner, for example, you might want to use a grid page template to present your services or announce a few spring discounts across the top or center of your homepage. Each service or promotion emphasized in its own box within a grid layout will be attention-grabbing.
Take a test drive
Like taking a test drive while vehicle-shopping, you’ll want to plug your content and images into a few different themes to test-drive their page templates. This will help you determine the best look for your website. Select a theme that fits your business’s purpose and offers suitable page templates. You might find inspiration, for instance, in the page templates available with the Baskerville 2 theme.
After choosing a theme, you can then edit the page options and page templates to achieve a fitting layout. And if you already have a website, you can play with the page templates assigned to it by selecting Page Options while editing or publishing a page. Either way, explore how your posts, pages, and images look on different page templates.
Keep the following “soft” rules in mind when playing with your layout:
- Don’t overcrowd the pages.
- Pair an appropriate page template to each parent page.
- Think about how page templates appear on a variety of screen sizes. Keep in mind that most WordPress.com themes will automatically adjust to fit virtually any device.
Learning how to adapt a theme using page templates will be valuable for your business website, but remember to have fun as you customize — because if you’re happy with the layout, chances are your visitors will be as well.