10 WordPress Tips to Make Your Blog Look Like a Website (for Beginners)

WordPress Tips - Make Your Blog Look Like a WebsiteWhatever industry you happen to be in, you want to stand out from the crowd and be unique, and not give the impression that your online presence is just a slightly modified cut and paste job. Of course, if you’re depending on a pre-built content management framework like WordPress for the core of your blog or website, then that could prevent your online presence from truly standing out.

So, in this article I’ll run through 10 fairly straightforward ways that a beginning developer or blogger can customize their WordPress theme to ensure it doesn’t “look like a blog” — at least to a certain degree. Keep in mind that the goal here is not to hide the fact that a website is using WordPress — that’s quite difficult, if not impossible. The ultimate goal here is to help your website have a seamless, consistent, look and feel that does not necessarily scream “WordPress-driven” from the instant the home page loads up.

NOTE: These tips are for beginning WP developers who are coding themes for their own site, or experimenting with theme development. Most likely, these tips would not apply to custom downloaded themes that are pre-built and probably already have many of these customizations.

1. Customize Your Sidebar and Keep it Consistent

The sidebar in WordPress is a dead “giveaway” when a user visits your site. The sidebar will have default titles like “Blogroll”, “Categories” and “Archives”. You can easily change the text of these titles, and which sections are displayed, by editing the sidebar.php file in the theme directory. Also, WordPress displays a different sidebar depending on what page of the site you’re on, which can also be changed. I personally prefer to display virtually the same sidebar on all pages, to keep the site consistent.

Even if you’re not familiar with PHP, WordPress code is very developer-friendly, and easy to work with. A simple knowledge of how functions are called and how to open and close if statements is often more than enough to help you customize some of the sidebar code.

Also, you can easily duplicate and customize certain sidebar sections. Look at the sidebar here on Impressive Webs: You’ll notice there’s a list for “Articles” and “Tutorials”. This is done by duplicating the “categories” section and controlling what categories are displayed using parameters inside the function call for that particular section.

Check out the WordPress Codex for further information on customizing category listings.

2. Use “WP No Category Base” Plugin for Cleaner URLs

One of the most obvious ways to customize the look of your blog’s urls is to use clean permalinks, rather than the default querystring driven url structure. But that’s an obvious one. No self-respecting blogger would fail to enable custom urls, which can be done easily through the WP dashboard.

But one thing you cannot do through the dashboard is remove the word “category” from links that point to specific categories on your site. That’s where WP No Category Base comes in handy. This excellent plugin, which I’m using here on Impressive Webs, will strip the word “category” out of your WordPress urls, leaving a much cleaner experience, taking away the “blog” look and contributing to a more customized, branded feel for your website. WP No Category Base will also automatically create 301 redirection for all your old category links, and works with subcategories.

Be sure to read carefully the documentation and installation instructions for this plugin to ensure they are installed and functioning as expected.

3. Customize Metadata for Individual Posts

Every post has “metadata” contained inside of paragraph tags at the bottom of each blog post. This data is generated dynamically through the loop that pulls your content out of the database. You can easily edit, delete, or modify any of these pieces of data that are displayed with each entry, which can be found inside of the index.php file in your theme directory. The default look for the metadata section looks like this in WordPress 2.7.1:

<p class="postmetadata"><?php the_tags('Tags: ', ', ', '<br />'); ?> Posted in <?php the_category(', ') ?> | <?php edit_post_link('Edit', '', ' | '); ?>  <?php comments_popup_link('No Comments &#187;', '1 Comment &#187;', '% Comments &#187;'); ?></p>

By editing the above section of code, you can choose to display only comments and categories, and even alter the characters that are displayed. For example the &#187; will display ». You have the option to remove those characters and use something more appropriate for your site’s look.

4. Disable Comments (Not Recommended)

This is not necessarily something I would recommend, since user-contributed comments are a huge part of the blogging world, however, it should definitely be pointed out that removing the “Post a Comment” section at the bottom of every post would be a sure-fire way to adjust your blog to ensure a more customized look and feel.

While this would contribute to a “non-blog” atmosphere on your website, it is highly recommended that you keep user comments open and instead customize the look of the comment area. Of course, if you’re using WordPress purely as a content management system for developing pages instead of “blog posts” then this would be an obvious choice, and would make more sense.

5. Don’t Use “Tags” or a “Tag Cloud”

Again, while this customization option might not be for everyone, it is certainly an effective way to customize your blog so that it does not resemble every other WordPress installation on the World Wide Web. “Tags” are keywords that you can add to individual posts in your WordPress dashboard. They are similar to categories, but provide a wider interrelationship between posts.

Tags associated with a particular post allow users to click on certain keywords to view more entries related to that keyword, similar to clicking on a specific category. Tags also provide SEO benefits, as they help Google and blog directories properly categorize your blog’s pages. So, while you do have the option to avoid using tags on your posts, thereby ensuring a cleaner look to your website, be aware of the drawbacks of doing so.

For simplicity, I personally do not use tags on Impressive Webs. I like each post to be associated with 1-3 categories, and nothing more. That’s just a personal preference to keep the content the primary focus. I prefer to attract users who will actually read the content, as opposed to the ones that are click-happy and bookmark everything.

6. Change the Default Display of the Title Bar Content

The header.php file in WordPress’s default theme has a title bar that is coded like this:

<title><?php wp_title('&laquo;', true, 'right'); ?> <?php bloginfo('name'); ?></title>

Once again, you can see the « character that is highly overused in the web development industry. (Not to mention that it’s actually a left quotation mark for french text!) You can replace that character with a different one, and even change the way the page titles are displayed.

You’ll notice there’s a function called wp_title that holds 3 parameters (including the « character). The third parameter tells WordPress where to display the post title — to the left or to the right of your blog name.

You also have the option to remove the function that displays your blog’s name, and instead just manually enter a more keyword-friendly title. The blog name that displays in your Dashboard under “settings” will still display your official blog name on RSS readers.

7. Use the “Pages” Sidebar Section as Your Main Navigation

While I’ve already discussed a little bit about the sidebar, it’s worth mentioning separately that the “pages” section of the sidebar can easily serve as your main navigation bar. At first glance, nobody will even notice that this has been done.

In the default WP theme, here’s the code that generates the “pages” section of the sidebar, found in sidebar.php:

<?php wp_list_pages('title_li=<h2>Pages</h2>' ); ?>

Simply take that piece of code and place it wherever you want your main navigation to display. Of course, you’ll have to style it to your liking, in line with your theme’s look. And most likely you’ll want to remove the title of that section. You can do that by simply removing everything after the equals sign in the single parameter, so it will look like this:

<?php wp_list_pages('title_li=' ); ?>

Use the WordPress Codex to see other ways to customize the look of the page list in the default wordpress theme.

8. Don’t Call Your Website a “Blog”

Okay, this is not really a WordPress tip, per se. It’s more of a marketing recommendation for the purpose of more effective branding in conjunction with a site that just happens to use WordPress as its engine. Serious websites that provide significant content are viewed as “communities” or “resources”, instead of “blogs”. The word “blog” nowadays is probably more appropriate for individuals who post thoughts and musings on various personal and professional topics.

If you have long-term plans for your website, and would like to expand it into a thriving online community that is respected and recognized in your industry, then you need to view it that way from the start, and communicate that atmosphere to your users — even if you are starting out small and really are just a single “blogger” posting thoughts and musings on relevant industry matters.

9. Remove or Customize Default Text and Title Attributes

While I’ve already touched on the customization of a few text elements of the default WordPress theme, there are other little text snippets that can be edited, removed, or appended to. An obvious example is the “Powered by WordPress” section in the footer. Your website’s footer seems simple, but it is potentially a significant part of your site’s look, feel, and overall image.

There are also title attributes that are embedded in anchor tags throughout the site. Here is one example, found in the index.php file:

<h2><a href="<?php the_permalink() ?>" rel="bookmark" title="Permanent Link to <?php the_title_attribute(); ?>"><?php the_title(); ?></a></h2>

The code above is the section that will display the title of each post listed on your home page. The title attribute in the anchor tag has the super-obvious text of “Permanent link to …” and then the PHP function that spits out the title. You can modify this and other default text that appears throughout your WP theme.

10. Use “Nice Search” Plugin for Clean Search URLs

Nice Search is a very simple plugin that makes searches performed on your website look less “WordPress-y” and more like a custom search engine installed on your website. According to the author’s website:

“This is a really simple plugin that redirects your WordPress searches (?s=search-term) to the pretty-looking URI version: /search/search-term, and also converts spaces (%20) to plus symbols.”

Although this plugin has not been updated in some time, I do have it successfully running on WordPress 2.6.3 on another website, so it seems to be compatible with some of the more recent versions of WordPress.

Conclusion

I hope beginning WP theme developers, and possibly some intermediates, found these tips helpful. Most of this is compiled from my own personal, and somewhat limited experience with WordPress and PHP, so I’m sure there’s lots I’ve missed, and lots where I’ve simply stated the obvious.

I hope some of these tips will encourage “bloggers” to develop a more customized and branded look and feel to their site, allowing them to break free from blogging conformity.

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72 Responses

  1. I agree with you 100%. Blogs are so common and will just get worse. Making your WP site stand out by making it look like not a blog is essential

  2. Thanks and great tips here.
    Though on your last point, I will suggest use Google custom search to give more enhance look to your search engine and better create a search page with no sidebar for maximum result.

    • @harsh that was really a nice suggestion, can you show the reader the page you have created on your website that will show results from google.
      thanks

  3. Aside from being totally free, WordPress is also liked because of its flexibility. Individuals can utilize the templates available to fit their needs without needing to work with HTML, CSS, or some other net publishing languages. It’s the prominent answer for the bulk of Internet users that do not comprehend the components of the computer society

    • I don’t know how you can said it’s totally free! I paid $18 and still can’t find my blogs or the page I chose before I started blogging. there is nowhere on the site to ask what you User Name is if you have forgotten like i did. Then when I do my speel I can’t see where the Blog has gone? How does a newcomer find out these things as there is very little help on the main page.
      I’m so frustrated. Need lots of help and there’s no HELP button. They sent me an email to log into but no one answers?
      How does one know that keywords are not allowed in the “name” field? I don’t understand any of this. Don’t have a clue what I’ve paid for? Where’s the guide for beginners and how does one find their Blog site?

  4. Really right u r . I am going to re-touch my site by following your some essential tips, thanks for sharing your ideas :)

  5. WordPress is so robust, we actually use it as our only web development tool. Since most of my clients are small business owners, who want to be able to update on the fly, I can’t imagine doing it any other way. And with the ability to find or create and customize templates, each one has a distinct look and feel.

  6. Rick:

    Great post. I find it interesting that what makes WordPress so universal is also what makes it so WordPressy.

    This post gives me some new thoughts about WordPress websites.

    Thanks,
    Rick

  7. I like your thoughts about being less WordPress obvious but I have a problem with your site. I cannot get to the columns on the side of your website. I don’t know if it is just my setup but I am using Mozilla and the scroll right at the bottom of the page does not show up on your website? I had to stretch my page way beyoond what would fit on my screen and move it so I could see the sidebar.

    Rick

  8. WordPress is now primary “tool” for my websites. The fact i can build custom plugins to get exactly what I want was a big win.

  9. @Rick imby:

    Thanks for pointing that out. Fixed. I should really spend more time on QA for my own sites! :o)

  10. cs:

    Thanks for your post,…I’m newbie and this article very usefull for me

  11. Thank you for the energy and time devoted to compose this post which is meant to help us be more creative and influential.

  12. I agree with the blog comment. When you tell people you have a website they understand, but if you call it a blog they seem to gloss over.

    They may even stereotype you as a trendy internet user and not really take you seriously too, simply because of the general misconceptions of people’s blogs as something other than a personal website.

  13. Great tips. Another thing you can do is remove the date from each post.

  14. I am already using wordpress blog as website with some of your tips in action. For a business, people take a website more seriously than a blog.

  15. Good tips, things people learn as they grow on WP … Wish I’d seen this a few years back.

    But I would say the No. 1 thing that makes a blog function as a web site is the content. Job 1 is producing a fair number of standing pages with tentpole content, represented in a nav bar. (Another good plug-in is called Page Links To, which allows for a page file to immediately point anywhere. So you can add any web page to a WP nav bar.)

    Definitely remove the “Blogroll,” but I think there is nothing wrong with a hybrid — and the content defines the site.

  16. You’ve said it in details… very informative. But why you need to Make Your Blog Look Like a Website? people love blogs… people buys on blog.

  17. Great tips. Many thanks.

  18. Another thing I would recommend is using a custom page as the front page instead of the blog; I pushed my blog back to a different page entirely simply because I didn’t want my site to be all about the blog – I merely wanted the blog to be all about the site.

    These are definitely good tips, and I’ll look into them for some major customizations to my current theme, as they’ve kind of given me some good ideas. The other thing would be to completely customize said elements, though in this respect I haven’t really done that either but left my blog’s sidebar ‘as is’. I’ll also admit that I chose to not include the sidebar on any page other than the blog as a matter of personal preference, here again to differentiate between the blog and the main site.

    You can also easily customize the text used in the commenting portion of the site; for example, I edited some of the footers to certain pages in order to give the look and feel more of a personal touch (such as shortening the large amount of text and usability). On the note about tags, I feel there are more benefits than just SEO or user navigation; it also gives the user a feel for the kinds of categories being used, thus why I chose to keep my tag cloud visible. It shows that I generally write more about design or being a Las Vegas-based web designer, but occasionally also touch on personal development, problem solving, and programming, as well as a wealth of other topics.

  19. thx for tips. all of us need article like this

  20. This is very good stuff. It is frustrating to get stuck with something you really want to change and not know how to do it. These tips are useful to non-techies like me so I do appreciate it and will bookmark this page!

  21. Good stuff understandable to the non-techie, thanks!

  22. Gene:

    Thanks, I will try this on my website

  23. These are great tips to revamp the look of a blog. Great write-up!

  24. I have done almost all the things mentioned here , however still stuck up in the header and Logo. Do you have any solutions for that

  25. Very good information. I like the ideal of not calling your site a blog to keep it more professional.

  26. This is fantastic info. Does it apply to most or all blog sites like Blogger for instance?

  27. Rob:

    Thanks for such a well compiled post. Would you be able to give me some tips on my site? It is relatively new and looking at getting the best start possible and since you look like you know what you are doing I thought I would ask. Cheers!

  28. This is really a great article. Lots of helpful tips that one can use when starting your own online business. I don’t use tag clouds, I don’t find it neat.

  29. Thank you man! I like your design!

  30. Rudi:

    Some of the tips I have followed that make my site (blog) looks like true website. Thanks

  31. I am trying hard to change the look of my tourism blog but need a harder work :)

  32. Great advice man!!

    I think mine could be a lot better!

  33. thank u for write about it

  34. All of these are great tips. i don’t use tag clouds but a lot of my clients always ask me for one and I just roll my eyes every time they do…lol anyway nicely done.

  35. Good points. I especially like #8: it’s so nice to be viewed as a community or a resources site.

  36. A:

    Very useful article. Thanks for sharing your advice.

  37. The above tips are very useful for me to make my blog, look like as website

  38. The above tips are very useful for me to make my blog, look like as website,but i want to know how to remove the page tab from my right sidebar

  39. great post mate!! cheers:-)

  40. Dell:

    Thanks.. nice tips very helpfull…

  41. Nice article, and lots of great little tips, thanks! I’ll have to refer some of our users here. Most of our users use premium templates, so this is good to get them able to customize the templates to what they want.

  42. Thx for sharing good info. I am new bee and just installed wordpress .
    And Learn a lot .

    Thanks again

  43. Amy:

    Thanks for sharing this!

    It was a great read and very useful for me since I’m trying to create my own theme instead of relying on the current free ones. Will be using some of these tips for my furture websites! :)

  44. thank you for sharing.. it’s so helpfull :D

  45. Link Building is one of the most significant aspect of the off page optimization process and is a major determinant of the popularity of your site. For search engines, back links or links pointing to your website indicate that you are ‘hot’ in the online marketplace.

  46. thanks for the tips. URL is important to maintain a non blog style WP site. I normally use custom URL structure by putting in %postname% in the custome structure.

  47. Interesting article and some very good advice. The one thing I would say is that the majority of simple surfers would not be able to pick up on the fact that a particular website was built in WordPress. I bet if you took twenty random people who regularly use the internet and asked them ‘what is WordPress’, most would never have heard of it.

  48. Sam:

    I am not sure why a blogger who made his or her decission to go this way would like to make the change and make his/her blog look like a website.
    Blog is much more personal approach rather than commercial and people trust bloggers better than marketing websites.

  49. I use wordpress now for all my sites. Is the best tool for webmaster. The tips are cool, thanks so much from argentinia!

  50. Amazing post, some really good tips. WordPress is a good framework for most types of websites, but you need to know how to use it.

  51. Joe:

    WordPress 3.0 makes it a lot easier to create more “website like” websites :D , unless you are a theme developer like me and you have to update all your sites to take advantage of the new features.

  52. Jay:

    Making your blog stands out is really essential. It depends on the plugins you are using and the related themes you installed on your site. For me, that’s for a big win!

  53. Ann:

    I would really love to learn about WordPress. I heard they offer great interface. However, I am not familiar with programming languages like meta data, meta tag, etc. Do you have a tutorial article for beginners? As in beginners that do not have any programming background? It’s hard to understand the codes when you have no experience at all. Please take note, even if that’s my case, I would really love to create a website on my business using wordpress. Please help Louis. It seems like you are a very informative person. Thanks! :)

    • Ann, there are plenty of easy to follow tutorials and guides on the WordPress official website. In fact, you don’t need any programming experience whatsoever to get a blog up and running.

      A lot of the customizations I was talking about here require a little bit of HTML and PHP knowledge, because most of my audience are web designers and developers.

  54. Hi I think blogs look rubbish in general so it worth making them look like a website,
    just thought I would give a tip to anyone using wordpress you should always run a second wordpress blog on your site as a test blog, you can block it from the search engines as it is for test only.
    This is for testing everything that you want to change on your main site including changing the theme, make all the changes on the test site and if all is ok you can just copy from style sheets etc of the test site and paste into the main site.

    For example If you load a theme that is broken in some way worpress reverts back to the original theme BUT on the odd occasion it will make your blog go to a white screen for your entire site and back panel also, which means you can not see any pages and you can not log into wordpress to change anything, this has happened to me 3 times on different blogs and it makes you panic especially when you have 1000’s of posts and it is not easy to fix for the average person who knows nothing about scripts.
    WOW sorry a bit of a ramble but worth doing if you already have content on your blog.

  55. adhi:

    Thanks for sharing this useful info

  56. hey this article was quite informative to me. looking forward to your next article Thankyou.

  57. Very informative – Thanks for the great content (as usual).

  58. Great tips but don’t you think making use of tag cloud on sidebar gives possibility for more clicks and exposure to inner pages. I make use of WP cumulus for this purpose.

  59. Dave:

    Absolutely. These are some great tips. Fortunately, WordPress is so powerful that it’s capable of providing full-blown websites. It definitely takes a little knowledge and expertise to avoid that blog look though

  60. very nice article i found in dis sitee…..thankssss

  61. Mark:

    I like to come here most often if you post wordpress thoughts most often Louis. Thanks for very superb tips.

  62. Thanks for the tips!! I will give a few of them a try out later today on mine! ..

    Cam

  63. Josh:

    Hey there, thanks for the info, really informative. I love using wordpress but unfortunately I only know enough technical stuff to be dangerous. Decategorizer definitely sounds like a good idea, cleaner looking urls and permalinks are something that I have wanted to sort out for a while.
    Thanks again.

  64. Mani:

    It would be nice , if you can suggest anyh wp theme that makes wordpress blog into Website , thanks :)

  65. Disabling comments is important up to the part when you are getting really good readership. Otherwise, it makes the blog pretty lonely. Nice group of tips! :)

  66. Thank you so much for this post, I like it and try to do some change for my wordpress site now !

    Thanks and best wishes

  67. Good stuff! I’ve been using WordPress since 2007 and still found good advice in your article.
    I’m always suprise to see things we do and stick with that may harm or site … I sure will apply the new things I have learned here.
    Thanks a million!!

  68. sa:

    thanksfor your great post it really make change on my site

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