Customizing Wordpress Themes

I've found some very nice Wordpress themes that match what I have in mind but I'm having trouble customizing them.

For example, I don't need my home page to have a blog-style front page to it.  I don't need it to show the date.

My other pages have a place that viewers can leave replies.  I don't need this either.  On the right bar there's a button for RSS feeds which I can't seem to get rid of.

Should I just look for another theme, or can I remove these things?  I can't seem to do it through the dashboard.


Thanks.
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epichero22Asked:
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Jason C. LevineNo oneCommented:
Some of what you are asking for is able to be set through the Dashboard, some of it might be in the theme options, and some of it probably will involve you editing the theme files.

For the home page, you should be able to designate either a Wordpress page or the blog style.  This is usually set in Settings | Reading on the backend.

All pages and posts can be set to accept comments or not.  You can control this on the page/post edit screen per post, from the Quick Edit link on the lists of ages and posts, or via a number of different plugins that can toggle comments on or off in batches.  You also want to look at the options in Settings | Discussion to set the default visibility of comments on future content.

The date is iffy.  I know that some of the better theme designers actually put an option to disable the date or the author in the theme options panel (Elegant Themes is the one that springs immediately to mind) but typically you will have to edit the various files to remove the PHP code that retrieves the date.

The RSS icon is almost assuredly going to have to be removed manually.  Most likely it is found in your theme's header.php file.

Which theme is it?
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epichero22Author Commented:
The theme I have enabled is Tandil 1.3.8 by WpThemesPlanet.  

I'm really not trying to have a blog, just a basic website for my business.  I would like to just have a home page with links on it and a control to allow visitors to sign up for my newsletter as a sidebar (as well as linking to Facebook, and maybe some other URLs) . So I clearly don't need things like calendars or comments.

I don't know if using WP is a good idea.  I've been a bit frustrated so far.  For example, setting a static page as my home screen produces two of them in the navigation bar.  What's up with that?

Also, how do I manually edit the code?

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Jason C. LevineNo oneCommented:
>> I don't know if using WP is a good idea.  I've been a bit frustrated so far.

No, it is a good idea but there is a bit of a learning curve to understand how WP wants things done.  Also, picking the wrong theme can really increase your frustration level.  If the theme is optimized to be a blog and expects bloggy structures (a post-based site, not a page-based site) then you get into a situation of pounding a square peg into a round hole.  I've been there, done that.  

The reason it is good is because any CMS (not just WordPress) gives you a better and more consistent experience creating and deploying content and also delivers better SEO than a series of hand-coded pages will.  I personally find WordPress to have the best balance between ease of use, community support, and ease of custom development but if it is not your cup of tea then explore Joomla, Drupal, Concrete 5 or any number of others.

>>  For example, setting a static page as my home screen produces two of them in the navigation bar.  What's up with that?

That theme is and older one and not coded very well. It doesn't take advantage of WordPress Custom Menus which gives you more control over the navigation and instead automatically adds any published top level page to the menu bar.  This will give you both a "Home" and "Title of Page" version and you will have to hack the header.php to exclude things by page ID.  It's crap...just get a better/more modern theme and you'll be a lot happier.  Custom Menus are awesome.

>> So I clearly don't need things like calendars or comments.

Then don't use them.  Comments are on by default but you can fix that in Settings | Discussion.   The sidebar widgets (including the calendar) are set by default by this particular theme rather than show a blank sidebar.  If you add a widget from Appearance | Widgets, all of the default ones go away.

>> Also, how do I manually edit the code?

Theme code can be edited directly from WordPress under Appearance | Editor or just FTP to your theme's folder and go nuts:

/yoursite.com/wp-content/themes/themename/

For minor tweaks, it's a bit easier to use the built-in editor but you don't get code coloring.
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epichero22Author Commented:
I just switched it to "Business Casual" by Chris Poteet and it is more cooperative.  Before I was selecting themes based on their previews.  The problem is that my company name has the word "Red" in it so I saw it as necessary to pick on based on that.

Does WordPress categorize the bloggy themes from non-bloggy ones?  I suppose what I should do is first find a theme that fits as closely as possible to what it is I'm looking for in terms of structure, and worry about the graphic design later (which I'm sure is as easy as changing the color settings in Photoshop and saving).

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Jason C. LevineNo oneCommented:
>> Does WordPress categorize the bloggy themes from non-bloggy ones?  

If you are theme shopping on wordpress.org/extend/themes then no, not really.  The closest you can get is to some filtering:

http://wordpress.org/extend/themes/tag-filter/

which works pretty well to narrow down the list.  Ultimately with free themes you are just going to install and test to see if works okay out of the box and then go from there.

The other options are to get a premium theme from a known and respected developer.  Stuff like WooThemes (they have free ones too) or Elegant Themes are a lot nicer than most of the free stuff, have tons more options to fiddle with, and also tend to have nifty functions and widgets bundled into the theme.  From there, the next step up is to use a theme framework like Genesis and develop your own child themes that take advantage of the hooks and features the framework provides.  You can even develop your own themes without a ton of effort:

http://www.experts-exchange.com/Web_Development/Blogs/WordPress/A_4431-Create-Your-Own-Wordpress-Theme.html

>> I suppose what I should do is first find a theme that fits as closely as possible to what it is I'm looking for in terms of structure, and
>> worry about the graphic design later (which I'm sure is as easy as changing the color settings in Photoshop and saving).

Yes on the former (do shopping by structure, not design per se) but customizing will involve editing the styles.css file for the theme to change colors and replace background images with ones you upload. It's still fairly simple to do provided the theme is developed well and adheres to best practices for both WordPress and generic web design.
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Sam CohenConsultant to Digital/DeveloperCommented:
Your theme should have "Page templates" selections on each new page you create.
For example:
If you create a new Page named "Home", on the right-hand  side, change the theme to Home page template.

Usually some themes already have page templates for you. Sort of like:
Contact Template
Home Template
Portifolio Template
etc.

Choose which one best suit the type of page.
If you want to create a custom one, simply create a page template by follow the instruction s here:
http://codex.wordpress.org/Pages#Creating_Your_Own_Page_Templates

Also don't forget to change your Reading section
Settings>Reading

screenshot: http://content.screencast.com/users/samcjo/folders/Jing/media/8bdc7385-9482-4d82-b6a4-fe81a8f79067/00000357.png

Cheers!
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epichero22Author Commented:
Thanks guys, it's a long journey, but you just need to take it one step at a time.
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