So you’ve created your class website and published some information. You’re well on the way to having a functioning classroom website!
But have you looked at what WordPress created for you yet? Do you think it looks a bit, umm, ugly?
If you don’t, then I’m here to tell you: It’s ugly.
Luckily you can make it look much prettier with absolutely no web design experience. Even if you do know how to design web sites, choosing a pre-designed theme from WordPress is much quicker than fiddling with the design yourself.
Changing Your Site’s Theme
To view these themes, go to your Dashboard and click on the Appearance button on the left-hand menu.
This will bring up the Theme Browser. At the top of the page, you’ll see the theme that you are currently listed. The rest of the page is a list of available themes.
Take note that that is only the first page of the available themes. There are five pages worth of themes to pick from – a total of 60+ themes! Not bad for a system that’s 100% free and completely point-and-click.
When you find a theme that you think you like, click on the picture. This will bring up a full size preview of your site with the new theme.
Does it look good? If so, click the “Activate Theme Name Here” link in the upper right. Otherwise, click in the X in the top left and keep looking. There’s bound to be something in there that fits your tastes.
Not All Themes Are Created Equally
When choosing a theme, there are a couple things you should keep in mind.
Sidebars Are Important. Some themes don’t have a sidebar – they just have a list of posts going down the center. This would be ok for a very simple site, but a sidebar is a very useful tool when it comes to navigating your site. I’d think twice about picking a theme that doesn’t have a sidebar on the side. (Note: Don’t worry about what’s in the sidebar. You can change that later)
Wider Is Not Better. The main content area shouldn’t be too wide. About 500px (what you’re reading now) is a good size. Anything wider will make your lines of text too long – and reduce readability. This is especially a concern if you work with students that struggle with reading.
Text Formatting Is Important. Pick a theme because it’s readable, not because it’s cool. Pay attention to the color of the text and the color of the background. Something like “Cutline” (featured in the screenshot above) is very simple, but it’s also very readable. Again, you’ll want to pay special attention to this if your students aren’t great readers. If your site is difficult for your students to read, they just won’t use it. Lose-lose situation.
Play Around. Find Something You Like.
There are a lot of options, so the only way to find the right one is to play around a bit. Take some time to try out different themes before you move on to the next step.
You may want to ask your students for some input. Remember that they are the ones that are going to be reading it regularly! At least we hope so…
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» How to Create a Classroom Website: An Illustrated Guide
January 19, 2009
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January 19, 2009