How to customize your WordPress.com appearance (widgets)

Hi everyone! Laura from Northern Virginia here to tell you what to do after you’ve set up a WordPress.com account.
The following are some customization ideas for your new blog:

1. Change the template from the standard blue one to a different one.
Click on “Dashboard”
Then click on “Appearance” which will bring you to a “Manage Themes” page.
I think the “Ambiru”, “Connections”, “MistyLook” or “Ocean Mist”  templates look great. If you want a darker template, you can try adjusting the colors, or try “Chaos Theory”, “Freshy”, “Neat” or “ChaoticSoul” (we use this one). Try some of the different templates out and see what you like.
You can add a customized header (like ours with the path light/OLP logo and picture of one of our homes lit up).  Robin Steele can help you create a custom header for your blog, similar to ours.

2. Change the name of your blog.
Click on “Dashboard”
On the left-hand side click on “Settings”
This should bring you directly to “General Settings”
Change the blog title from “USERNAME’s blog” to something like “Outdoor Lighting of NAME OF YOUR TERRITORY Blog” or “Outdoor Lighting Perspectives – Exterior Lighting Solutions and Bright Ideas Blog” or you can keep your name but actually add spaces between words. For example, Kenneth and Staci Wells chose the username “alamocitylights” and their blog’s web address is: http://alamocitylights.wordpress.com/. They can change their blog name (what appears across the top of their page) to “Alamo City Lights”. As you can see on their blog page, they decided to customize theirs even further and give it the name “Outdoor Lighting Perspectives of San Antonio Weblog”
I suggest you also change the tag line from “Just another wordpress.com blog” to something that describes what your blog is about and include key search terms that you think customers are searching for on-line when looking for our services. Something like “A blog about outdoor lighting for residential and commercial applications in NAME YOUR TERRITORY” this may be too long to fit, but it is in small print. Kenneth and Staci used “Outdoor lighting for landscape, architectural, and outdoor living applications in San Antonio and the Hill Country” as their tag line.

3. Add more widgets
Click on “Dashboard”
Click on “Appearance”
At the top where it says “Current Theme” and has a picture of your template, click on “Widgets” under options.
The available widgets will appear and you can add more widgets (ie, things on your sidebar of the blog, such as text boxes, recent posts, pictures, links, etc.
I suggest you add:

A) Links/Blogroll for your local OLP webpage
Change the default “blogroll” from the wordpress websites to sites like
Your local webpage
Outdoor Lighting Photos from Flickr http://flickr.com/photos/27798849@N06/
Free Nighttime Design Sign-up Form http://www.outdoorlights.com/ComplimentaryLightingDesignDemonstration.html
YouTube Videos on Outdoor Lighting http://www.youtube.com/user/OutdoorLightsDotCom
A Main Link to Your Main Blog Page
and anything else you think is good to add.
You can add links by clicking on “Dashboard” and then “Links” on the left-hand side. Then click “Add New”. This will allow you to type in a title, the web address, and a description (if you like… I did not include descriptions on ours).
Also, I would suggest changing the default heading “blogroll” to “links” (most people visiting the blog will not be familiar with the term “blogroll”).
You do this by adding a new link, like mentioned above and then under the “Categories” section clicking “Add new category” type in “Links” and click the “add” button.

B) Option to email you.
Create a text box entitled “Contact Me Via Email” and in the body of the text box type the exact format as it appears below
<a href=”mailto:yadayada@outdoorlights.com”>Click here to email me</a>
Make sure you type in your correct email address in lieu of my example one yadayada@outdoorlights.com.  The WordPress.com support forums do not suggest actually typing in your email address so that it is visible to blog readers, because spambots search blogs for such email addresses.  None of us need more spam in our inboxes!

C) Text with key search terms
Create another text box with Arbitrary text or HTML, including key search terms. Use these terms for SEO (search engine optimization). Type in anything and everything that your potential clients would search on-line to find out more about outdoor lighting.  Ours were: “Outdoor lighting northern va, landscape lighting northern virginia, low voltage lighting northern virginia, architectural lighting northern va, elegant exterior lighting va, outdoor lighting northern virginia, lighting contractor, outdoor lighting arlington va, outdoor lighting fairfax county va, outdoor lighting loudon county, outdoor lighting prince william county, outdoor lighting fauquier county, outdoor lighting stafford county, outdoor lighting warren county, deck lighting northern virginia, outdoor lighting washington dc metro, nighttime lighting design, outdoor lighting garden lights, outdoor lights northern virginia, garden lighting northern virginia, outdoor lights northern va”

D) Add video to your widgets/side bar by using Vod Pod
Read here on how to do that:
http://blog.vodpod.com/2007/09/07/posting-videos-to-wordpresscom-with-the-post-to-wordpress-button/
Add these videos to your Vod Pod and any others you want
http://www.youtube.com/v/DnTP68ZRig4&hl=en&fs=1
http://www.youtube.com/v/9emzSO9Pnac&hl=en&fs=1

E) Add Flickr widget from the options of widgets.  Give it a title such as “Outdoor Lighting Photos” and fill in the proper RSS feed.  If you have your own Flickr account, fill this in.  If you want to use the main OLP one type in the following for the Flickr RSS URL:
http://api.flickr.com/services/feeds/photos_public.gne?id=27798849@N06&lang=en-us&format=rss_200

Those are just some suggestions with which to start.  Below is the web address of the online forum for WordPress.com blogs incase you need to search for an answer on how to do something or post a question to their experts: http://en.forums.wordpress.com/
Feel free to e-mail me if you have any questions.
Once you have set-up and customized your blog, please post a comment to this article and include your web address of your new blog so others can see it!

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2 Responses to “How to customize your WordPress.com appearance (widgets)”

  1. outdoorlightsdotcom Says:

    Hi Laura,
    It is great to have you as a resource on using Widgets in WordPress. I tried to add Flickr photos and the links are there but the photos are not feeding in. What am I doing wrong? Also, I tried to add the RSS feed for people to have email updates and it’s not showing updates. Can you help?
    Thanks,
    Robin


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