Tech Tip: Why and How to Use an Alternate Header With Your WordPress Theme

Why would you want to use an alternate header in the first place? No, this is not so we can replicate the early 2000’s when sites had a different look on each page (think Myspace style). There’s a much more practical reason.
Let’s use an ecommerce site as an example. Considering it is ecommerce, we can assume the purpose of the site is to sell stuff.  An important part of selling is getting people to complete the checkout. If a potential customer abandons the cart, that is a lost sale. Simple stuff, right?
Well, a lot of ecommerce sites are very busy and have products and other advertisements featured throughout the checkout process. These are distracting and – while okay to feature in the shopping process – customers don’t want to see them anymore once they’ve selected their products and are ready to be done. You should be very specific about what you allow to show during the checkout process. A distraction can translate into a lost sale.
With that considered, I would use an alternate header to simplify the layout on checkout pages. I would remove anything that may not contribute to the likeliness of a customer successfully completing the process. I would remove the navigation, cart icons (since they’re already there), and any advertisements that were previously in the header. Sometimes the only thing you need to leave is your logo/branding. Then we get into a checkout process that feels cleaner and better streamlined.
The same clean-up should be applied to any sidebars, and the footer as well. The footer has a little more room for flexibility – such as including your values, guarantees, and security.
Now for some code – and this is a lot easier than you may think. Keep in mind that in most cases, the following changes should be made in a child theme, in a custom page template.
In a template file within a WordPress theme, you will see functions such as get_header, get_sidebar, and get_footer. These functions all work the same so we will focus on get_header, but it is applicable to all those functions. get_header(); by default will look for a file header.php. It will look in your current theme first, then a parent theme if one exists.
To add a custom header, copy the header.php file and name it ‘header-checkout.php’. Then in the custom page template, alter the ‘get_header()’ function to ‘get_header(‘checkout’)’. This will look for that file we just created instead of the default file.
It’s that easy. Take a stab at it and see if simplifying your header, footer, and sidebar in the checkout process helps boost your sales.

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