It wasn’t easy, but you finally settled on a premium theme for your self-hosted WordPress website.
You bought it, installed it, and watched all of your content magically reorganize itself inside the pages and sidebars of your new site. Your content is served up with new fonts, colors, and beautiful white space. It looks great.
As a matter of fact, it looks just like the example theme that inspired you to choose it. Exactly like it.
At this point, it might dawn on you that your site now looks identical to hundreds of other websites out there. Oh sure, it’s gorgeous, but it’s not unique.
You might think you’re stuck with the style you’ve chosen and destined to have a site that’s identical to lots of others on the web.
The good news is that there are four easy ways to add personality to your premium theme site … and they don’t involve writing code or messing with your core theme files.
Making these changes will give your site just the right amount of visual style so that it stands out and is remembered.
1. Give custom fonts a try
There’s nothing like a new font to give your website an instant makeover. And these days you don’t even need to pay extra to get custom fonts served up on your website.
First, the back story: until recently, we were stuck using a dozen or so “web standard” fonts. All websites used these fonts, and we became collectively tired of seeing them.
About five years ago, font-serving technology become feasible. Third-party websites “serve up” custom fonts when requested from your website. This means your site visitors see custom fonts when they visit your site, even if they don’t have those fonts installed on their machines.
So it’s easy to add custom fonts to your site.
If you are using the Genesis Framework and don’t mind copy/pasting some lines of code, you can use the method outlined here by Brian Gardner: How to Use Google Web Fonts With Your Genesis-Powered Website.
If you’d rather avoid ever seeing a line of code, use the well-regarded WP Google Fonts plugin to add custom fonts to your site.
2. Use compelling images
High-quality premium themes put the emphasis on your content. They use well-crafted white space, visual hierarchy, and layout styles to shine a light on your words.
But that’s not all they’re good for.
These beautifully designed themes also serve as perfect platforms for thoughtfully chosen images that add nuance and meaning to the words on your pages.
You can’t use just any old images though. If you really want to add personality to your site, you have to choose images strategically. Some tips:
- Experiment with using conceptual images. Conceptual images add shades of meaning and create curiosity without directly representing the topic at hand. It’s the difference between representing love with a photo of a heart, or a photo of a couple walking into the distance arm in arm.
- Remember to position images to highlight your words. Many images “face” in one direction or another. If a person or an object is facing in a specific direction, make sure it’s “looking” toward your copy, not off the edge of your website. (For example, notice where David Ogilvy is directing his gaze in yesterday’s post.) If the original image direction doesn’t work, either flip it using image editing software or find a different image.
- Establish an image style and use it consistently. You may decide that you’d like all your images to use a grunge effect, or to look washed out and antiqued. Apply filters to all your photos to give them this “look” and use them on all your pages and posts.
Our brains process images faster than words and have more resources available for interpreting them, so use images whenever you can.
Take the time to learn more with the free 12 Days of Visual Buzz course I created with Kelly Kingman.
3. Grab attention with an accent color
One of the best characteristics of a well-designed premium theme is that all the color choices are made for you. Subtle changes in color and tone highlight various areas of your site and draw your visitors through your information. It’s a beautiful thing.
But what if you want to stop your site visitor in her tracks?
If you want to grab attention and keep it, you should try an accent color.
Accent colors work best if they’re dramatically different from the most prominent colors on your site.
For example, if your site features cool blues, choose a warm orange or red accent color so it stands out. If your site uses rusty orange, find a bright blue accent color that will “pop” wherever you use it.
Accent colors should be used in small doses.
Feature them on your “submit” buttons, or create content box styles that use your accent colors when you want to make a special announcement. If you use an image-based header, your accent color can be featured there, too.
Brian Gardner comes to the rescue again for all Genesis Framework users with this post: Spruce Up Your Genesis-Powered Website with Content Boxes and Color Buttons.
If you’d rather not copy/paste code, try the Standout Color Boxes and Buttons plugin.
Having trouble figuring out what color to choose for your accent? Grab the replay for my Big Brand System Color Clinic and discover how to choose colors that work for your site.
4. Format your text so it’s easy to skim
Once your theme, fonts, images, and accent color have made your site visitor stop and pay attention, they’re going to dive in to your words.
Here’s how to keep them engaged once they do:
- Break your paragraphs up into digestible chunks. Don’t turn your site visitors off because you’ve presented your information in one unbroken wall of text. The return key is your friend! Start a new paragraph any time a thought takes a turn or you need to add emphasis.
- Sprinkle subheads liberally. Before your reader digs into your first paragraph, they’ll often glance down your page to see what it’s about. Your subheads give them clues about what’s ahead and help pique their interest for what they’re about to learn. Use subheads throughout your pages and posts to help entice your reader to consume your words.
- Use bulleted lists. If you find yourself writing a sentence that uses comma, after comma, after comma … the alarm bells should start ringing in your head. It’s a bulleted list, waiting to be born! Bulleted lists break up your information and make it easy to read. Use them to add personality and skim-ability to your writing.
Get more on formatting your pages for maximum readability in this post:
8 Incredibly Simple Ways to Get More People to Read Your Content.
Now, over to you
I want to hear from premium theme owners: what have you done to the beautiful structure you installed to add extra personality to your site? What techniques do you use to make it memorable?
Share your tips in the comments, and let others learn from your experience …
About the Author: Pamela Wilson founded Big Brand System to empower small business owners with marketing and design information that gives their businesses an edge. Want to learn more about using images to communicate? Sign up for the free 12 Days of Visual Buzz series here.