pen paper writing icon WordPress icon png newspaper icon

How To Edit a WordPress Theme (Easy Guide)

How To Edit a WordPress Theme

WordPress is perhaps the world’s most recognized content management system (CMS), powering over 40% of all websites on the internet. Its functionality and customization make it a top choice for many companies to connect with an audience, run an e-commerce store, and produce content.

While WordPress has a plethora of themes to choose from, many users find it necessary to edit their chosen theme to fit their evolving needs — whether it’s changing the color scheme, adding custom functionality, or optimizing the code for performance. 

Let’s explore the basics of how to edit a WordPress theme, including the tools you need, best practices, and common mistakes to avoid.

Understanding WordPress Themes

WordPress themes are pre-designed templates that allow you to customize the look and tone of your website. They include a set of files that determine the layout, design, and functionality of your site. 

The main components of a WordPress theme include the style.css file, which controls the visual appearance of your site, and the index.php file, which is the primary template file that determines the overall structure of your pages.

When selecting a WordPress theme, it’s important to consider your specific needs and goals for your website. Some themes may be better suited for e-commerce sites, while others may be designed for blogs or portfolios. 

You should also consider factors such as the level of customization you require, the responsiveness of the theme on different devices, and the level of support the theme developer provides.

Why Edit Your WordPress Theme 

How To Edit Your WordPress Theme

Screenshot Source: WordPress

The WordPress theme you choose for your business may not always be suitable, as technologies and business directions change over time. 

Yet, editing an existing theme is often preferable to choosing a new theme, as it allows you to maintain the existing functionality and content of your site while making targeted changes and improvements.

For example, video and SEO have become integral in modern marketing practices. You may want to embed the epic piece of content you made with a video trailer maker or replace the hero image with a video for more movement and visual engagement on your landing page. 

Improving Video Functionality

Depending on the original theme you chose, you may encounter limitations on the types of video you can use. By editing the theme, you can add support for your preferred video player, adjust the size and position of video elements on your site, and ensure they load quickly and smoothly. 

Improving SEO Functionality

Another example would be enhancing SEO by improving site performance. A website’s loading speed is crucial to user experience and SEO. If your site takes far too long to load, visitors may leave before seeing your content, and search engines may penalize your site’s ranking. 

By editing the theme, you can remove unnecessary code, optimize images, and improve caching and compression settings to help your site load more quickly. This can significantly impact your site’s performance while retaining the existing design and functionality while making improvements under the hood.

This level of customization can help you create a more engaging and interactive website that better serves the needs of your audience.

Editing WordPress Themes

There are several ways to edit a WordPress theme, depending on the level of customization you require and your familiarity with coding and website development. It’s best to have at least basic knowledge of HTML and CSS before proceeding.

However, you can find free HTML website templates that you can use to build your WordPress theme.

WordPress Theme Editor

Video: Quick WordPress Theme Editor Tutorial | WP Learning Lab

The WordPress theme editor is a built-in tool for making simple changes to your theme without leaving the WordPress dashboard. 

To use the theme editor, navigate to Appearance > Editor in the WordPress sidebar. From there, you can select the theme you want to edit and choose the file you want to modify. 

Be careful when using the theme editor, as changes made here can affect the functionality of your site. 

You should always back up your theme files before making any changes. One small error could completely shut down your site, making it impossible to fix without a backup, which is an incredibly frustrating experience.

FTP To Edit WordPress Themes 

Video: Easy Steps to WordPress FTP Update (WordPress Themes) – Using FileZilla FTP WordPress Update Method

FTP (File Transfer Protocol) is a more advanced method of editing WordPress themes that allows you to access your site’s files directly. 

For this approach, you’ll need an FTP client such as FileZilla or Cyberduck. Once you’ve connected to your site using FTP, you can navigate to the theme files you want to edit and make changes using a code editor such as Visual Studio Code or Sublime Text

This method gives you more control over your site’s files and allows you to make more advanced changes, but it also requires a higher level of technical skill.

Best Practices for Editing WordPress Themes

Video: How to backup your WordPress website – EASY and FREE!

As mentioned, backing up your website before editing the code is essential. There are several ways to back up your WordPress site, including using a backup plugin, manually exporting your site’s content using the WordPress Export tool, or using your web hosting provider’s backup service. Create regular backups of your site to quickly restore it to a previous state if necessary, minimizing downtime and mitigating lost revenue.

Maintaining the integrity of your WordPress theme while making edits is crucial to ensure that your site continues to function properly. One way to do this is by creating a child theme, which allows you to make changes without modifying the original theme files. 

How to Create a Child Theme on WordPress

How to Create a Child Theme on WordPress

Screenshot Source: WordPress

  1. Create a new folder for your new child theme in the “wp-content/themes” directory.
  2. Create a new style.css file in the folder and add the required header information.
  3. Create a functions.php file and add any custom code or modifications to your child theme.
  4. Activate the new child theme from the WordPress dashboard, and your modifications will be applied while preserving the integrity of the parent theme.

Finally, comment on your changes and test them before pushing the site live. 

Final Thoughts

If handled improperly, editing your WordPress theme could impact the functionality of your site or result in a catastrophic data loss. When in doubt, it’s best to outsource this task to a professional developer.

However, if you have a basic grasp of HTML and CSS, you can make some changes to your WordPress theme. Alternatively, creating a child theme can help you customize your site without compromising its integrity.


Leave a Comment