Creating this Website – Part 2: Customising WordPress

Part 1 of this series described the initial steps in creating this website. The second part describes how I customised the website from the WordPress admin interface.

From the WordPress admin screen (/wp-admin from your website), many customisations are possible. It is even possible that these are enough for you. Given the combination of the admin customisations, themes, and plugins freely available, you may not need to write any code.

When I started, I didn’t know what was possible. In the end, I ended up writing a few (simple) plugins because I didn’t want to rely on third party plugins. This was for a few reasons:

  • Some plugins are freemium: you get some functionality free but when you need some necessary feature you have to pay for it.
  • I’ve heard stories (anecdotal) that plugins can clash. I thought that if I hadn’t even written a plugin, I would have difficulty diagnosing issues.
  • Curiosity: one of the reasons for creating this website was to challenge myself, re-learn web technology and to learn WordPress and PHP.

I split the customisations into two: those that can be done via the admin interface (configuration) and those that require programming knowledge.

Below, I’ll cover the customisations you can do via the Appearance, Settings, Jetpack menu items. In Part 3, I’ll describe the programming changes I made to the site.


You can do a lot from the WordPress interface. Once you logon as admin, you’ll see a Customise link at the top of the screen. Once you click the link, you’ll see various sections that you can customise. There are many options. So below, I’ll describe some of my customisations.


I chose the Twenty Fifteen theme and later created a child theme of this (described in Part 3). There are many standard and third-party themes available – both free and commercial.

Site Identity

Here you can choose the title for your site, the tagline, and a site icon.

Header Image

The header image appears in different places depending on your theme and screen size. In my case, the header image appears in the sidebar on a PC (large screen) and at the top of the screen on my mobile phone.

Background Image and Menus

I didn’t create a background image. The background image appears behind your posts.

The Menus option lets you create menus and add them to various places. I learnt about them when I was writing this post! I did create menus – not the easy way but the hard way by customising the Meta widget and creating a plugin. This was unnecessary but I did learn about creating widgets! Changing a widget requires coding – a slightly longer process in this case. I’ve now removed my two menu widgets and replaced the Albums and Other menus with Navigation Menus.


This is an easy way to change your main menu (sidebar, in some cases). You can add and remove many different widgets and even add HTML.

I created a custom Meta widget (as described above). This is also the place I added my Album custom post (more on this later).

Homepage Settings

You can decide to have your latest posts appear here or a static page. I chose to have my latest posts. However, I customised my theme to include updated photo albums too. I also change the order from publication date order to modified date order (more on this later).

Additional CSS

Jetpack can create a nice carousel for the photos in your post. When viewing photos via the carousel, some information about the photo is displayed. I found this intrusive and switched off the display using some CSS.

/* Jetpack Carousel */

.jp-carousel-image-meta {
display: none;


You reach the Settings menu by putting your mouse over the website name in the header and clicking on the Menus link.

General Settings

These are self explanatory. The most significant departures from the defaults were the date and time formats, to make them British and shorter.

  • Title: a title
  • Tagline: a tagline
  • Email Address: an email address
  • New User Default Role: Subscriber
  • Date format: j M Y
  • Time format: H:i


These are the defaults:

  • Default post category: Uncategorised
  • Default post format: Standard


For the latest posts, I added a customisation for what’s included and how it’s sorted. This is done via a theme customisation, which requires programming and discussed in a later post.

  • Your homepage displays: your latest posts
  • Blog pages show at most: 10 posts
  • Syndication feeds show the most recent: 10 items
  • For each article in a feed, show: Summary


These are mostly defaults.

  • Default article settings: attempt to notify any blogs; allow link notification; allow people to post comments on new articles.
  • Other comment settings: comment author must fill out name and email; show comments cookies opt-in checkbox; enable threaded commnents 5 levels deep.
  • Comments should be displayed with the newer comments at the top of each page.
  • Email me when: anyone posts a comment; a comment is held for moderation.
  • Before a comment appears: comment author must have a previously approved comment.
  • Content moderation: hold a comment in the queue if it contains 2 or more links (probably spam).
  • Avatar: show avatars.
  • Max rating: G.
  • Default avatar: Mystery Person.

Media Settings

These are mostly defaults.

  • Thumbnail size: 150 x 150
  • Medium size: 500 x 500
  • Large size: 1024 x 1024
  • Uploading: organise into month/year based folders


I wasn’t sure which was the best option but have chosen this one.

  • Common settings: Day and name


Helpfully, WordPress generates a privacy policy for you to customise.

  • Select page: Privacy Policy


Finally, my Jetpack settings are below. If an option is mentioned, it is enabled. Options not enabled are not mentioned below. Some of the options are not enabled when you are running WordPress locally, such as from localhost.


These are sensible to keep your site responding well.

  • Enable site accelerator
  • Speed up image load times
  • Speed up static file load times
  • Enable lazy loading for images


The carousel adds a nice touch to allow photos to be seen more easily.

Markdown is useful for writing technical (programming) posts.

  • Display images in a full-screen carousel gallery
  • Copy an existing post’s content into a new draft post
  • Write posts or pages in plain-text Markdown syntax
  • Check your spelling, style, and grammar


You can customise which share buttons appear on your posts.

  • Add sharing buttons to your posts:
    • Facebook
    • Twitter
    • WhatsApp
    • Reddit
  • Services hidden by share button:
    • Pinterest
    • LinkedIn
    • Pocket
    • Print


These are the options that affect how readers leave comments.

  • Let readers use, Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ accounts to comment
  • Enable Markdown use for comments
  • Allow users to subscribe to your posts and comments and receive notifications via email
  • Show a "follow blog" option in the comment form
  • Show a "follow comments" option in the comment form


The related content option has provided me with mixed results. Sometimes the related posts are appropriate, sometimes not! I’ll see if it "learns" as I add more content.

  • Show related content after posts
  • Highlight related content with a heading
  • Show a thumbnail image where available


These are obvious changes to protect your website.

  • Monitor your site’s downtime
  • Spam filtering (using Akismet)
  • Protect yourself from brute force and distributed brute force attacks, which are the most common way for hackers to get into your site.

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