A Beginner’s Guide to the WordPress Front Page
In this guide, we’ll discuss your options for creating a custom WordPress front page and explain how to implement each one.
Your WordPress front page (also called the home page) is the first thing most visitors will see when they land on your site. As such, it is vital for making a good first impression.
While your front page will normally display your latest posts, you may want something more customized to help your most important content stand out. Fortunately, there are lots of options available on the WordPress platform.
What a Custom Front Page Is (And Why You Might Need One)
Your front page is the home page of your WordPress site. By default, it displays your blog posts, starting with the most recent entries. WordPress enables you to set the number of posts displayed and even include teasers for other posts (depending on your theme’s options).
Fortunately, WordPress enables you to select any page to use as your front page. This means that you can use either a static page or a customized page. The latter option is particularly interesting since it enables you to stand out from other sites that use the same theme.
The benefits of a customized front page include the ability to:
- Optimize your static content.
- Better showcase what your site is about — its mission, distinguishing features, core values, etc.
- Add multiple strong Calls to Action (CTA) that are highly visible.
Customizing your WordPress front page enables you to fine-tune its look so that it meets your requirements. It can also give you an important edge over other websites with similar subject matter. Let’s take a look at a couple of ways to customize your front page in WordPress.
3 Ways to Customize Your WordPress Front Page
Before implementing any of these methods, it’s important to first back up your site. This will ensure that you can easily roll back changes you don’t like.
1. Choose Whether to Display Posts or a Static Page
You have two main options for your WordPress front page. To see them, go to your dashboard and select Settings > Reading.
Here, you can choose to either display your latest posts on your front page or make it a static page. If your blog is the primary focus of your site, displaying the most recent posts may be your priority. You can set the number of posts that will show by changing the number in the Blog pages show at most field.
If you select a static page instead, you can decide which page to use.
You can also choose which alternative page will display your blog posts. Keep in mind that you’ll need to have these pages already created before you can select them to display.
2. Customize Your Static Front Page Using Shortcodes
Essentially, a shortcode is a WordPress-specific code that enables you to perform a specific action quickly. For example, you can use shortcodes to add features or embed files within a page (such as videos or maps).
You can use shortcodes for a lot of things, one being to customize your WordPress front page. First, you’ll want to make sure you have a specific page set as your static homepage (as detailed above). Then, open that page and switch over to the Text editor.
Simply copy and paste the shortcode you wish to add into the editor. For example, you could use the [gallery] shortcode to turn your front page into a photo gallery, or the [video] shortcode to introduce your website with a custom video. If you switch back to the Visual tab, you’ll see a new space for you to customize the feature added by the shortcode:
In this example, you would click on the edit icon and add your video to the page. Then save or update it, and you’re done! Your shortcode should work accordingly. WordPress offers a number of default shortcode options to get you started, and you may have access to more depending on your theme and plugins.
3. Create a Custom WordPress Page Template
You can also customize your front page in WordPress by creating a custom page template. Start by opening a simple text editor like Notepad (you can also use any HTML editor, such as Atom). After this, write your first line of PHP:
<?php /* Template Name: MyCustomTemplate */ ?>
MyCustomTemplate is a placeholder, and you can rename it to whatever you’d like the custom template to be called (just be sure there are no spaces). Save the file, making sure to add the .php extension to the end.
You’ve just created your first custom WordPress template! Let’s upload and edit it. For this, you’ll need an FTP client. We recommend FileZilla. Use it to connect to your host, and look for your /wp-content/themes directory. Find the folder within for your current theme, and paste or drag your new template into that folder.
Next, log in to your WordPress dashboard and select Pages > Add New. On the right side of your screen, you’ll see the Page Attributes area.
You should see your new template in the Template drop-down menu. Select it, and when you publish (or update) the page, your custom template will be applied.
Adding a custom front page to your website has numerous benefits, including greater visual appeal and the ability to convey relevant information to visitors right away. Fortunately, WordPress is flexible enough to enable you to customize your front page in almost any way you need.