If you have you church website on a WordPress installation, then you will have selected a theme which gives a consistent look across the pages of the site. From the WordPress codex;

WordPress themes are files and styles that work together to create a presentation or look for a WordPress site. Each Theme may be different, offering many choices for users to take advantage of in order to instantly change their website look.

You will have chosen a ready made theme, perhaps even one designed specially for a church. But even with customisable options, you may find that the theme does not exactly meet your church’s needs. And also, that your church website looks suspiciously like other WordPress sites. So what are the options?

  • Edit current theme: You could edit the current theme the website has. So rather than abandon what is in place, modify the files and styles to meet the church’s needs. This has the advantage of being the quickest and simplest technique.
  • Design a new theme: another option is to design a new theme from scratch. The wordpress codex has a large amount of information on ‘theme development‘. (This is beyond the scope of this article). But there are plenty of tutorials around, but bear in mind that older tutorials may not be up-to-date with changes to wordpress. (Nathan Rice recommends this tutorial.
  • Sandbox: a final option is to use the sandbox. This is the definitive theme, which is so semantically well marked up that any desired layout can be achieved by using CSS alone. This means it is ideal for new themers, because it has many examples of skins already and has been thoroughly checked out by experienced wordpress users. All that is needed is to create a CSS file.

One reason why the sandbox is an attractive proposition is because it already incorporates features that will be most likely become standard wordpress practice, such as hAtom and is widgets friendly. Many ‘new’ themes are just rehashes of previously broken themes and still are not incorporate widget features. By using Sandbox, you avoid the need to concern yourself with code changes in wordpress as people upgrade their blogs. You just update the core sandbox theme.

But, whatever method you choose, be sure to test it out thoroughly before committing it. Perhaps by testing it on a number of browsers. There will be a follow up post on CSS and style testing.