Sometimes, it is useful to give a particular section or page of your blog a completely different look and feel from your regular blog theme. It is very easy to do in WordPress.
For example, over on PCMECH I wanted to have a sales page for our premium program. I wanted to make it long-form style and without the usual clutter of the main site theme. As I have stated in the past, when you are in selling mode on your site, you want to get your reader to read the offer and make a yes/no decision. Having a top and bottom menu and a full sidebar is a lot of distraction and a lot of potential ways out of your sales letter without them making a choice on your offer. The solution is to remove all the clutter.
My sales page at PCMech is set up as a page in WordPress. That page, though, uses a completely custom template just for that page. The “how” is actually pretty easy…
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Creating a Custom Page Template in WordPress
All WordPress themes have a file called page.php. This is your template file for all pages you have on your blog (remember, pages are distinctly different than posts). The page.php file is your default page template. To create a new one, just open that file in any text editor then “save as” a different file name. In my case, I named the template for my sales page signup_page.php.
Now, at the very top of this new file, you’re going to want a block of PHP code as follows:
Template Name: [your page name here]
Then, in WordPress, when you go to add or edit a page, scroll way down and you’ll see a setting for “Page Template”. You should see your new page template listed in the dropdown, using the name you entered above. To the right, you can see what my dropdown list looks like in my own WordPress admin panel. I have many different custom page templates in my system, all for different purposes.
Customizing Even Further
At this point, you would have a custom page template, but it would be an exact duplicate of your default page template. So, you would need to customize it. For example, if you want to get rid of the sidebar, just remove the the following line from your template:
<?php get_sidebar(); ?>
You can change any other HTML in this file that you want.
If you want to include different a different header, you would need to hack the code just a bit. By default, the get_header() and get_footer() functions include the default headers and footers for your theme. However, you can replace these with custom PHP includes to any file you want. For example, you could replace:
<?php get_header(); ?>
<?php include(“header_new.php”); ?>
This would include the file header_new.php from your theme as your header. You would, of course, need to create a file called header_new.php and alter the HTML to make that your new header file for that page.
You can do this same thing for your footer or even your sidebar if you want to include a different sidebar.
Wrapping It Up
The WordPress template system is insanely customizable once you know how to do it. Above is how I have gone about it for my sales page. I have a custom page set up, and it includes a custom header and custom footer (both with stripped down options). I left the sidebar out. In my case, I even put the HTML for the content of the page into the template itself. Inside of WordPress, the content field is blank. I just selected the custom page template, saved the page, and now my signup page works quite well.
Repeat the same basic process for any page of your blog that you want to have a custom appearance. It is so much easier than trying to pack complicated HTML into the editing field of WordPress.