bottles of different sauces

Little WordPress touches that make a big difference

6 min read
Stephani Worts

You’ve become an awesome WordPress designer. You tout your skills as a guru and lover-of-all-things-WordPress. You even know how to properly capitalize the name of your favorite platform. The problem is, you aren’t the only WordPress fanboi out there. In fact, nearly 61 percent of sites using a CMS (23.5 percent of all websites) use WordPress. Which is great for job security, but what can you do to set yourself apart from the crowd? Write all your own themes? Create amazing plugins? Stand on the street corner, harking your awesome WP work while standing on your head and juggling with your feet?

Before you take to the streets with your juggling pins, try these suggestions instead. While none of these tips will scream “I love WordPress!” as much as feet-juggling, it’s the little touches on a website project that make it look more polished and professional. Providing quality work also makes you more likely to retain long-term customers and users. Plus, some of these are just really cool tricks.

Automate, automate, automate!

Let’s face it, we all love to be lazy. Automatic car washes, automatic prescription refills, automatic bill pay — we adore the hands-off approach for mundane tasks. So why not automate website backups? Many people won’t think to make periodic backups manually — it’s just not on their radar. There are hundreds of plugins to accomplish this task for you and ensure you will be able to recover the site in the event of a catastrophe.

Set a schedule and a place to store the files and you’re done. Plus, if the client ever comes back to you and says, “can you restore my site?” you get to say “Yes!” and look like the hero.

Another area automation is handy occurs in your footer. Nothing screams “my site never gets updated” to me as quickly as an out-of-date copyright mark. It’s a little thing, but it’s easy to fix. Instead of setting up a text line stating “copyright © 20XX by MyCompany,” replace it with a dynamic function. My favorite function comes courtesy of ComicPress at

In your functions.php file, paste this code:

/* === Dynamically updating copyright === */
function comicpress_copyright() {
global $wpdb;
$copyright_dates = $wpdb->get_results("SELECT YEAR(min(post_date_gmt)) AS firstdate, YEAR(max(post_date_gmt)) AS lastdate FROM $wpdb->posts WHERE post_status = 'publish'");
$output = '';
if($copyright_dates) {
$copyright = "© " . $copyright_dates[0]->firstdate;
if($copyright_dates[0]->firstdate != $copyright_dates[0]->lastdate) {
$copyright .= '-' . $copyright_dates[0]->lastdate;
$output = $copyright;
return $output;

Then go to your footer.php file and replace your text copyright line with this:

?php echo comicpress_copyright(); ?

Or, if you prefer to have your copyright include your website name, use this one instead:

?php echo comicpress_copyright(); >  |  <?php echo bloginfo('name'); ?

That’s it! Now your copyright year will update automatically without any user input required.

Make it look pretty

Some of the little tweaks you can add aren’t as readily noticed as an out-of-date copyright mark, but can still add polish to your finished site. For starters, always add a favicon to your sites. A favicon is an easy-to-add graphic that appears in the tab of your browser window when you visit a site (among other things).

After you have your icon graphic (use your favorite search engine to search “how to create a favicon” if you need help), upload it to your website. Then add this code to the header.php file at the top (in the <head> section, but somewhere BEFORE the wp_head() call):

link rel="icon" type="image/png" href=""

If you create a favicon with the .ico format, use type=”image/x-icon”. Similarly, if your image is a jpg, you would use type="image/jpg" instead.

Another little detail you can change to add some pizazz is only seen from the WordPress dashboard. Any time you create a child theme, be sure to update the screenshot image. Create an image (I like to use the company’s logo) that is 600px x 450px. Save the file as screenshot.png and upload to the theme directory. Now when you look at the themes page, your child theme is easily distinguishable from the parent.


But why stop the customization there? You can easily upload a custom image (again, I like to use the company’s logo) to the default WordPress login screen. Without additional CSS tweaking, you should keep the logo at 80x80px. Name your file site-login-logo.png and place it in the /images folder of your theme. Then add this code to your functions.php file:

/* === Customize the Login Page === */
function my_login_logo() { ?>
<style type="text/css">
body.login div#login h1 a {
background-image: url(<?php echo get_stylesheet_directory_uri(); ?>/images/site-login-logo.png);
padding-bottom: 30px;
<?php }
add_action( 'login_enqueue_scripts', 'my_login_logo' );

Voila! Easy peasy, and now your login screen is customized with the company’s logo instead of the standard WordPress W. For tips on how to further customize the login page, check the WordPress Codex article.


Make updating content easier

No matter how well a site is designed, it will eventually need to be updated. For those less familiar with WordPress, however, even simple content changes can seem daunting. Another way you can add some snazz is by including visual editing tools.

One of the simplest and fastest is a visual text widget for sidebars (I like the TinyMCE Widget by BlackStudio). Install and activate this plugin, then visit Appearance > Widgets in your Dashboard. Now when you need to add text to a sidebar, you have a “Visual Editor” option in your available widgets. This works just like the visual editor on a Page or Post, and makes it MUCH easier to edit sidebar content.

If you aren’t opposed to a small investment, the Visual Composer from CodeCanyon is well worth the purchase price (currently $28). With this plugin, you can create virtually any page layout you can picture with a user-friendly drag-and-drop interface.


There are many other areas of WordPress where a little change can go a long way. What are some of your favorites? Let us know in the comments below.

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