When it comes to design, a WordPress theme template isn’t going to meet every need that you have for your website. That’s why learning basic Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and navigating the WordPress Editor screen becomes an invaluable asset for building new websites with a fresh, engaging look and feel.
…Let’s say a theme comes with some pesky feature that you simply cannot have on your website – a phrase, a strangely positioned search bar, or a “Theme By” phrase, crediting the author of the theme.
“How do you fix that?”
It’s a cumbersome and hazardous process, usually with lengthy roadblocks and Google searches:
1. Open the Editor link in WordPress
2. Try to figure out which PHP page it is in, or what line of CSS correlates to the problem you’re seeing on your theme — it is daunting but you can use CTRL+F to find key snippets of code when you’re viewing the code in the browser:
3. The PHP code may break if you don’t know what you’re doing and save the .php files to fix a minor issue. The CSS you just edited may not fix what you wanted to fix.
4. You become upset that you’ve taken down your WordPress based site because of a tiny correction in PHP code OR you have to go back and edit the CSS all over again because you edited the wrong code.
How to solve this problem
This situation has been faced by many. Is there a fix? Yes, a few actually:
- Educate yourself about CSS, PHP, and editing WordPress Themes. Get some practice in debugging and coding CSS on several WP sites to expand your experience palette with the always-necessary part of website ownership: technical knowledge. CSSdeck is fun to use and isn’t like programming when you find a piece of code you want to customize. Code Academy is an excellent programming learning tool that’s extremely friendly to use and can level up your skill in CSS, PHP and other coding languages for the web.
- Install CSSViewer (Extension for Chrome and Firefox) which allows you to easily identify elements of CSS by scrolling over them with your mouse in real-time. Instead of search, use visual search – get the element id you need and go to the edit screen in another tab in your browser. With so many different naming conventions for fields, forms, buttons, and headers on every theme – you can get lost in it. This extension works well for me and I hope it saves you time as well!
- Get neat, task-specific tools: Start here to get some tools to fit your needs.
- Install a plugin that let’s you backup your entire WordPress site for free, BEFORE you make any edits to important files, to fix a design or theme nuisance. Just be sure to click the Backup button before you start hammering away.
- If a free WordPress theme is still too confusing for you to adjust, consider hiring help, perhaps a Fiverr CSS-assistant, or get a friend with coding background to devote some free time to your project(the best option, if it is available). We’re promoting our Assistant Café classifieds with the first link mentioned because its free to post.
- Learn how a WP theme is created
- You can always do a Google search to find some fixes and custom code, but for some things you may have to resort to getting paid help – waiting on a WordPress.com thread to get a reply may take a while, if it ever gets a reply.
- Try a set of web design forums, sign up and post your question – be sure email notifications are on in your profile. If it’s a broken plugin or theme, it may be best to find a better theme as some authors of free software don’t have the time to update, and may have lost interest altogether.
There may not be an easy solution
There will be lots of hype around “100% easy, fully customizable, drag and drop” WordPress themes out there, but I’ve yet to find one that has answered all my needs in one solution. And they’re usually pricy and still, you may have to ask for assistance on some changes.
I’m certain you will find at least one feature that wasn’t pre-programmed in the hundreds of custom “plug and play” options provided with such highly customizable, user-friendly WP themes. So it’s time to apply elbow grease and sweat your way through some coding lessons, like it or not.
- Take breaks once you feel you’re overwhelmed
- Cast aside care for your site and let the solution arise on its own
- Be patient – you don’t have to fix every issue right away, if you’re a sole website developer with a small website and a small audience
- Prioritize: is the content of your website the most important part of your website, or the size of a header, or the color of the links on a tag cloud? If your writing is outstanding, the theme edits can wait.
That’s why it will be important for anyone wanting to learn how to build a website to learn more about WordPress CSS-editing and PHP, at minimum. A good set of tools like those mentioned above will help you jump over certain roadblocks quicker, but overall you will still face some frustrations with details.
Set them aside into lists for later and work through them steadily, without hurrying. The more carefully you work, the less things will break and the more patiently you will be able to handle bugs as they come up in your “website-fixing” work.
We hope this post has left you encouraged for your next set of WordPress tasks! Please share any other advice you feel would benefit us and our readers.
Last update: 3.27.15