Unique Template
Image by Thiru Murugan
There are some obvious dangers to using a template, like malicious coding and such, but there is another, not so obvious danger. What if your template causes your blog to vanish into the blogosphere? What if it makes you boring?

The very best looking template in the world is the very worst template you can use, because everyone else is already using it. If your blog does not stand out from the dozens of others in your niche, how will your readers remember you? And if they do not remember you, why will they come back?

The key to successfully using a template is to make it your own. The great thing about a template is that the bulk of the work is already done, but the finishing touches are still up to you. You need to make enough adjustments to make your version clearly distinguishable from the original.

Case In Point – The Copyblogger Theme

Copyblogger is an extremely popular online writing tips site. It had a great theme which exemplified the simple style so many bloggers enjoy. When Copyblogger upgraded to a more advanced theme to suit their ever-growing site, Chris Pearson released the original theme for all to use. It was elegant, simple, and free. Thousands downloaded it.

With the theme downloaded, you have two options as to how you will use it. You can either upload it straight out-of-the-box, like JawJab have done, or you could make it your own, like Kristarella has done. Which of the two blogs are you going to remember? Which one has secured your attention by going that extra mile?

Customising Doesn’t Have to be Hard

There is a reason you are using a template; someone else has done the design work for you. The object of making the template unique is not to redesign it altogether, but to merely edit it. In the case of Kristarella, the huge individualism that she has pulled off consisted entirely of changing just the header and footer. In the same way, you can break the mould of your template with a few quick tweaks, such as:

  • Chaning the color scheme. Many templates consist of black text on a white background. The color scheme is created by the hyperlink colors, and a few background colors. A simple find & replace would turn the the original template into a brand new one.
  • Alternating header images. Other templates rely largely on their header images to distinguish them. If you can find a unique header, you have a unique blog. Consider what John Chow did with the 2 car image on his old theme.
  • Varying excerpts. Many themes are made to use an excerpt on their homepage. By changing the length of this excerpt by a paragraph of two, or by adding an image to your posts, you will be surprised at the difference.
  • Adding widgets and plugins. If all else fails, the content itself can help separate your design. Choosing a graphical aid, such as a Gravatar for your post author, or a MyBlogLog widget in the sidebar can often give the uniqueness you need

If you are more accomplished with coding, you could attempt a more advanced technique. For instance, if the sidebar is on the right, why not put it on the left? Provided you leave the original credits in the footer, there’s no limit to what you can do with WordPress templates.

Customising the design is the most important aspect of standing out to a first-time visitor. However, to appear unique to a regular visitor, you will have to dig a little deeper. Paying for a unique design may not always be an option, but even some basic changes to the default messages can go a long way.

Do you use a template on your blog, and what have you done to make it your own?

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