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Configure Blog Appearance (Themes)

To change the appearance of your blog, change the theme. Themes are complete visual layouts that are ready to use. Each theme offers a unique design and set of customization options. Changing your blog's theme will not affect Posts or Pages you have already added, but may require you to reconfigure Widgets and Menus.

Note: Many themes are created by third-party developers and we cannot guarantee that they are bug-free. If you encounter problems, we recommend that you switch to a simpler theme.

Also, it is not possible for you to install your own WordPress theme on Blogs at UMass Amherst. We encourage you to use the customizing options available with many of the existing themes.

Change Your Blog's Theme

To change your blog’s theme:

  1. Log in to your blog, and on the Dashboard toolbar, click Appearance (Appearance icon). The Themes screen will open showing a grid of available themes. Your current blog theme is located at the top-left of the screen and is marked Active. For a description of features and customization options for our available themes, see A Guide to Blog Themes.
  2. To try out a theme without activating it, mouse-over its thumbnail image and click Theme Details. A overlay box will open showing a theme description and larger image. For a fully interactive preview of what your blog will look like using the new theme, click Live Preview. The Customizer screen opens.
  3. On the Customizer screen, click the tabs in the settings pane (at left) to set options, then assess the live preview (at right). Customize options vary by theme, but standard tabs include Site Identity (title and tagline), Menus, Widgets, Homepage Settings (Latest blog posts or a static front page), and Additional CSS (customize appearance beyond theme settings using Cascading Style Sheet code).
    Note: Some options can also be set elsewhere, for example, for widgets and menus you will find more complete options working from the Dashboard toolbar. See Customize your Theme, below.
  4. To activate a theme from the Live Preview screen, click Save & Activate (or to cancel without saving, simply close the window using X at top left).
    Alternately, without previewing a theme, on the Themes screen, you can click Activate under the thumbnail image for a theme.

Customize your Theme

Each theme included in our WordPress package lets you modify various layout and style elements. Configuration options vary by theme. For example, most themes let you upload a custom backcground image or logo to use in the title area of your blog. More advanced themes allow you to choose fonts, change link colors, add a logo to the heading, or add a custom flavicon.

To set the options for your blog’s theme:

  1. Use the instructions above to select a theme.
  2. On the Dashboard toolbar, click Appearance (Appearance icon) > Customize. The Customizer screen opens with a menu of tabs (at left), and a live preview of your blog (at right). This is the same screen you see in the Live Preview described above.
  3. For additional options, on the Dashboard toolbar, click Appearance then Widgets, Menus, etc.. Depending on your active theme, you may also find tabs such as Theme options.
    • Click a tab to open an administration screen, then configure settings and click Save Changes. 

Set up Widgets & Menus

Widgets and Menus need to be set up for each theme. Once configured, custom settings, widgets, and menus are preserved with each theme; if you try out a new theme, then decide to return to a previous theme, settings for the previous theme will be preserved.

The first time you use a theme you need to:

  1. Widgets: See Manage Blog Plugins & Widgets.
    Until you modify a widget area, your blog will display the default set of widgets (For instance the main ssidebar typically displays the Recent Posts, Archives, Categories, and Meta widgets).
    Note: Widgets you had set up using a different theme can be recovered from the Inactive Widgets area of the Widgets administration screen.
  2. Navigation Menus: See Add & Manage Menus on Your Blog.
    Some themes are set by default to add new pages to a top navigation menu.  Many themes, however, require you to add a menu to a location before any navigation appears.
    Note: Menus you set up using a different theme will still be available on the Menus administration screen, but you may need to assign the menus to locations.