WordPress is an incredibly powerful tool for building a website. However, right out of the box it doesn’t look very professional.
After you’ve deleted the default “Hello world!” post and changed your tagline to something other than “Just another WordPress site,” what are some other ways you can make your WordPress site look more professional?
Keep reading to learn some tips, tricks, and hacks to use your WordPress installation to its full potential.
1. Look More Professional with a High Quality Theme
Sure, it’s easy to stick with the default WordPress template, and you might even like the way it looks. However, the problem is that it is just that – the default. If you use the default theme that comes with WordPress, many other sites out there will look just like yours.
Instead of sticking with the default theme, your first order of business upon installing WordPress should be installing a theme. If you want your website to look high quality, you need a high-quality theme.
High quality doesn’t always mean expensive. There are a lot of free themes for people who are getting started or who just don’t have the budget.
Whichever way you go, look for the theme with a demo that most captures what you’re looking for on your website. Make sure it is well-rated and reviewed by other users, and ideally look for a theme that comes with great documentation.
2. Change Your Favicon
A favicon or site icon is the little square icon that appears on the tab in your browser or beside your bookmarks. Until you change it, your favicon will either be set to nothing, or will default to your web host’s favicon or the one provided by your theme.
Changing your favicon is a small thing. However, it’s a step you need to take if you want a professional-looking website. To start, you need to create your favicon. You can do this by sizing down a simple, square part of your logo to 32×32 pixels.
Once you have a suitable file, you can usually change the favicon on your site through the WordPress Customizer interface. From your WordPress Dashboard, go to Appearance > Customize. Once the Customizer has loaded, click on Site Identity, then upload your image file through the Site Icon section.
3. Fill Out Your Profile
If your website is going to include a blog as well as static pages, you’re going to want to fill out your user profile so that the author box at the end of your posts isn’t empty.
First, go to Users > Your Profile. Fill out the information, such as your nickname, publicly displayed name, social media, and biographical info.
You’ll notice that there is nowhere to change your profile image here. To set your profile picture, you need a Gravatar (or WordPress.com) account. Creating a Gravatar gives you a universal profile you can use on your own site and elsewhere to add comments and have the same image appear. Simply create a free account, add an image, and connect the same email address you use for your site.
In most themes, changing just these two things will make your author box appear fully filled out at the end of your posts. If it does not, check your theme settings to see if “Display author box” is turned off. If you still can’t seem to make it appear, install a plugin like Simple Author Box. This plugin also gives you customization controls on the appearance of the author box.
4. Customize Your Menus
Most themes use at least one navigational menu. Some have two or more, with different ones being used at the top, in the footer, and elsewhere.
To edit your menus, go to Appearance > Menus. Here you can add pages, posts, categories, and other links, and drag them into the order you want. You can also nest some options under the top-level options to create drop-down menus.
If your theme has more than one menu location, you can check off where you want the menu to appear below, or go to the Manage Locations tab.
5. Set a Static Homepage
Do you want your homepage to act more like a page, and give your visitors the option of navigating to your blog to see your posts? This is called a static homepage, and you can turn it on under Settings > Reading.
Simply change “Front page displays” to the second option, “a static page,” and choose which page you want to display on your homepage. It’s debatable which mode is the best option. However, if the main purpose of your website isn’t to serve as a blog, then using a static homepage is the most professional option.
6. Change Your Permalink Structure
This simple change will make your website URLs shorter and more search engine friendly, but it is best to make this change when you are starting out. That’s because it could break your backlinks if you aren’t careful. If you want to change this and you already have an active site, follow this guide to ensure you don’t lose your search engine rankings.
If your website is relatively new, this is easy to change. Simply go to Settings > Permalinks and switch from “Plain” (the default) to “Post name.”
7. Never Leave a Post Uncategorized
The default category in WordPress is “Uncategorized.” If you ever forget or neglect to put your post in a category, this is where it will end up.
It looks unprofessional to have this category displayed on your site. The simple solution? Just call that category something else.
Go to Posts > Categories and edit your Uncategorized category. Give it a new name and slug (the word used for the category in your URLs) and click Update. It’s still best to assign a relevant category to each post you publish. However, changing the name of the default category to something more meaningful will cover your back should you forget.
8. Customize Your Category Archives
Speaking of categories, you see that Description field? In many themes, you can add a description here which will display on your categories. This gives your category archives more content, which makes them better for search engines and more of a resource for your readers.
By default, there’s not very much you can do in the description field. To give yourself more visual options, including the option to add links and other HTML, install the CategoryTinymce plugin. This plugin will add visual editing buttons to your description field.
9. Customize Your 404 Page
As far as 404 pages go, the one that comes by default with WordPress is pretty bland. You may want to jazz things up, like some of these brilliantly-designed 404 pages. Or, you might just want to make your 404 page more useful to your visitors. Either way, the easiest way to customize your error pages involves a plugin.
The 404page plugin is a great choice for customizing your error page. The plugin works like this: simply create a page to be used as a 404 page. Then, select that page within the plugin as your custom error page. That’s all you need to do!
Try adding links to your best content to your 404 error page. That way, if a visitor does arrive at this page, they’ll quickly be able to resume their journey on your site.
10. Turn Off Comments on Pages
This is such a simple trick, but it prevents your visitors from being able to add comments to pages like your Contact page instead of just contacting you. This makes your site look much more clean and professional.
Simply go to your Pages list, click “Quick Edit” and uncheck “Allow comments.”
If you have a lot of pages, you can also do this in bulk. Select all your pages, choose “Edit” in the bulk actions drop down, and turn off your comments.
11. Turn Off Self-Pings
By default, WordPress tries to alert other websites you link to, to let them know you linked to them. This creates a “trackback,” or an automatic comment that links back to your website.
However, when you link internally to other pages on your website – which is a good SEO practice – WordPress does the same thing. This very quickly becomes very annoying, with WordPress automatically generating trackbacks for every post you link to on your own site.
There is a plugin that turns this off for good, so you never have to think about it. Just install No Self Pings, activate it, and get on with your life.
As you can see, there are a vast number of options when it comes to customizing your WordPress site to make it look more professional. Whether you’re changing the appearance of your site, or just turning off annoying features like self-pings and page comments, WordPress has all the tools you need.
What will you do to make your WordPress site look more professional? Share your thoughts in the comments below.