How to Build a Beautiful WordPress Site Without Starting From Scratch

Update: I’ve put together an updated, highly detailed guide on how to launch a WordPress Site from scratch. Enjoy!

Starting a WordPress blog can be really difficult. There’s CSS, Plugins and Widgets. Not to mention, domain names, hosting accounts and backup solutions to work out.

Starting a WordPress blog can be damn near impossible if you’re hoping to create a custom design from scratch.

Right off the bat, you’re going to need intimate knowledge of html, CSS, and maybe a little PHP to go with it. In addition, you’ll want to have your graphic design skills up to speed.

So that means you should be able to use Photoshop and Illustrator, plus have a strong grasp on color combinations, font selection, and page layout.

Feeling overwhelmed yet?

You’ve found yourself in good company. Now, I’m not trying to dissuade you from creating a site from scratch. If you have a business with very unique branding that demands it’s own unique look, or if your site needs to have special features you should by all means have a completely custom job.

So, at this point you fall into one of three categories:

Category A: You want a custom site, and can afford to hire a designer. If this is the case, look no further than JD at blogdesignguy.com. This man does amazing things with WordPress and branding.

Category B: You want a custom site, but you want to build it yourself. If you insist on going the custom route and are going alone, look no further than Headway. Headway is very visual and requires much less coding than building a theme from scratch.

Category C: You are who this article is really for. If you really don’t want to get your hands dirty, there are some great resources out there. Namely, free WordPress themes. I don’t want to say that your site will look like a template, because you can tweak most themes with your own logos, colors, fonts, etc.

But the look and feel comes all set up and ready for you, so you’re not starting with a blank slate.

For example, my own site Cloud-Coach is a free theme that I modified with my own header, logo and fonts. I actually removed a lot of features from the original template to give the site the clean look and feel you enjoy today. But at its core, it’s a free wordpress theme that I found online.

Ready to check out the goods? Here’s where to find them!

WordPress Theme Directory

WordPress.org maintains a directory of free themes you can download, or even install right from inside your wordpress installation. To find them, simply go to http://wordpress.org/extend/themes/ and start browsing.

The advatages of the themes you find here are that they are usually pretty reliable. You can read reviews from other people who have used them, and even check the forums to see if people have had any issues.

So you get reliability, reviews/ratings, tested themes…

…that have been downloaded thousands of times.

If you want something more unique, try…

Smashing Magazine

Smashing Magazine is an awesome online publication that covers all things WordPress, Graphic Design, Web. It’s hip and the writers have a great eye for what looks great.

They come out with epic list posts a few times a year that often point you towards hundreds of free (and beautiful) wordpress themes.

Here are a few:

http://coding.smashingmagazine.com/2010/08/19/100-free-high-quality-wordpress-themes-for-2010/

http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2011/07/05/free-wordpress-themes-2011-edition/

http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2011/01/27/free-minimal-swiss-design-wordpress-themes-4-themes/

These themes are often more ‘artsy’ and heavily designed, so if one doesn’t fit, it may be trickier to make it work for your purposes. But if you do find one that fits what you’re going for (look-and-feel-wise), you’re going to be really happy with it.

Now, the downside of these themes, is that it’s often harder to get support. You can try posting in the wordpress.org forums if you have trouble, but that’s not as reliable when you’re using a theme that isn’t listed in the wordpress directory.

So, if you’ve been hesitating on getting your website up and running because you can’t get a design you like or can’t afford a designer, you have no excuse!

Using free themes from WordPress.org and Smashing Magazine will provide you with a plethora of great design options in no time.

Did you build your website from scratch or start with a theme and customize it? Share your experience in the comments.

Photo by Chotda
Need help getting un-stuck?
Get exclusive Cloud-Coach wisdom delivered straight to your inbox.
6 comments
mobile web development
mobile web development

Website designing is growing faster day by day. It is must for the growth of every company and focus must be laid on it in the starting of the business.The points mentioned here are quite useful and comprehensive. Starting from scratch and taking it to the end point of perfection is a tough job but these points are quite helpful. Thanks for the share. :)

  Web Design Southport
Web Design Southport

Great lines. I will recommended to hire an experts or website design and development agency to create unique and creative websites. Or how you select a company is good for us, just vist its online website and check their past work that will give you a idea about their work and experience. Thanks.

ashleyjorn
ashleyjorn

This is a great article, Ethan! I wish it had been here when I switched over to WordPress last month :) I really like the theme you use, and I'm thinking that I need to spruce my site up a bit. I'll definitely check out Smashing Magazine!

ethanwaldman
ethanwaldman moderator

@ashleyjorn That's the beauty of WordPress.. you can always re-theme it whenever you get sick of your look and feel. You may find the origins of the Cloud Coach theme somewhere out there on Smashing Magazine ;)

Trackbacks

  1. [...] in the WordPress theme direc­tory? There’s a lot of great options out there. One of my favorite ways to find them is to look at SmashingMagazine. They usu­ally do a yearly round-up post of the best free WordPress [...]

  2. [...] in the WordPress theme direc­tory? There’s a lot of great options out there. One of my favorite ways to find them is to look at SmashingMagazine. They usu­ally do a yearly round-up post of the best free WordPress [...]

  3. [...] on blogging though, it is hard to argue with WordPress’s impressive library of plugins and endlessly skin-able good looks. But one thing newbies don’t know is that there are a whole host of excellent plugins [...]