Themes give WordPress sites style and structure, and help non-designers pull off legit-looking sites.
But: Even the best themes can have home page designs that flat. out. don’t. work.
Whether we’re talking tired design, or content areas that don’t fit actual content needs, bad home page design is often the reason behind theme changes or complete site redesign.
Are those extreme measures always necessary?
We don’t think so.
Especially not since WordPress 5.0 and its Gutenberg editor update.
It’s always been the case that you could designate any page in your site as the home page. With the old “Classic” editor, though, if you didn’t know how to build with HTML (and didn’t want to explode load times with a page builder plugin), you were SOL on home page design.
Since December of 2018, however, WordPress has included a tool that brings layout options to everyone:
Gutenberg – a.k.a. the block editor.
With Gutenberg and a little design savvy, you can pull off your own home page redesign. No coding required.
Love your theme, hate your home page? You’re in luck!
The best themes have simple page styles and layouts. They stand the test of time far better than designs that include more complex styles or graphic elements. With a good theme, often only the home page needs freshening to breathe new life into the whole site.
Before Gutenberg, the pain of a theme change and setting everything up all over again made many of us inclined to stick with the most miserable of home page designs ’til change was way overdue.
Now, with the Gutenberg editor, you don’t have to use your theme’s home page template. You can break out of the confines of the theme and put whatever you want, wherever you want.
If you have a good theme, there’s no need trash your whole site.
Which themes are worth keeping?
The best themes are minimalistic, well-thought-out masterpieces of code + design. They set the overall look and feel of your site, helping you deliver consistent style from page to page, with no extra work.
If your theme does this for your site, keep it!
We love Genesis themes (we rely on them for our site as well as for designing clients’ sites). Their clean design doesn’t clash with content. Plus, they’re great on page speed.
Even Genesis themes, though, are someone else’s design.
The reason pre-designed home pages never fit
We appreciate great design as much as anyone, and it’s fun to browse through the WordPress theme repository looking at different theme designs.
But…we’ve worked with WordPress themes enough to know that the only time pre-designed home pages work perfectly is when they hold fake demo content. Not ours. Or yours.
That’s because the theme’s home page template forces your content into someone else’s boxes, styles and layouts. It’s about like trying to wear a shoe that doesn’t fit, because it’s red.
Hello Gutenberg – buh-bye conformity
Thankfully, since about December of 2018, Gutenberg has been an option for people who want a home page redesign without a whole-theme do-over.
With Gutenberg and a little imagination, your home page can be whatever you want. We’ll use our site as an example.
Here’s our theme, straight out of the box. Nice. Clean. Kinda minimal.
But – does not line up with the content we need to show on our home page.
Not surprisingly, the stock theme looks nothing like the home page we decided worked best for us.
We loved the overall style of the theme we chose. But its home page content areas were designed for a business that was totally not us.
Probably not any other business, either.
Even though we code, we are so busy helping other people that it’s hard to find time for custom coding for ourselves. So before Gutenberg we’d just throw our stuff into a Genesis theme’s widgety boxes and hope for the best.
Thanks to Gutenberg, we no longer have to choose between ill-fitting home page templates or spending hours on custom design. Every site we’ve designed for the past year+ was built using the method below.
Gutenberg home page makeover basics
- Add a new page. Name it Home, or something else that makes sense to you, and save it as a draft.
- Using basic Gutenberg blocks, create a layout on the new page that works for your content.
- Use specialized blocks to bring in important home page content types (e.g., latest blog posts or your Services pages).
- Since you’re not working on your live home page, take your time. Play around. No pressure.
- When you’re ready, click Publish.
- To set the new home page as your live home page, adjust Reading Settings/”Your homepage displays” as shown in the image below, then click Save Changes.
Voilà! A brand new home page – without changing your whole theme and setting up widgets and plugins all over again.
Design challenged? Or not the DIY type?
We love redesigning home pages to work for our clients, their visitors and their goals. Get in touch and tell us what you wish your home page could do for you – we’ll help if it seems a good fit for us both. Turnaround times and pricing depend on your specific setup, needs and complexity.