I love how you’re trying to take control of all of the parts of your website. In particular, I think it’s a great idea to improve the usability of particular pages (both for yourself as well as for others) based on how you’re using the pages. I think more people should be considering this as an option.
Certainly having multiple WordPress installs can be a headache, though it will obviously work. I know some IndieWeb tech related to syndicating to various silos and using services like Brid.gy for backfeed will be hard to do when using more than two domains and targeting a single silo presence, so it’s not only a maintenance tax, but you might not have the flexibility you’d like if you syndicate content in multiple locations.
Another option is to use the same WordPress install to run multiple websites, which is also a possibility. Or you could also run a multi-site installation and go that route. This at least would cut down on needing to maintain and update multiple sites one at a time.
Possibly the best option, however, is to know that you can custom theme any and every page generated within your website. This isn’t done quite as often as it may take a bit more upfront development work and knowledge of how WordPress works internally as well as how to tweak your theme. The easiest thing to do is to create custom templates for each of the particular pages you want to change. When WordPress tries to build a page it relies on a nested hierarchy of templates potentially available within your theme. It starts at the top and stops when it finds one available and then uses that template. By targeting the particular page you’re making (by a variety of means) you can have direct control over what your page will look like. The nice part is if you’ve got templates from other themes, you can use those as a guide and include their CSS files to get the exact look and feel you want.
Now that you know it exists as an option, there are a huge variety of resources on the web that you can consult to begin tinkering. Below are a few potentially useful ones:
- A Detailed Guide To A Custom WordPress Page Templates
- Creating Custom Page Templates in WordPress
- How to Create a Custom Page in WordPress
- Page Templates (documentation from WordPress Developer)
- Taxonomy Templates (documentation from WordPress Developer)
I suspect even for those without a development background, one could do a bit of reading followed by some judicious cutting and pasting to get some reasonable results. I’m far from an expert in this area myself, but I was recently able to create a sort of landing page template for my podcast recently by creating a custom page that displays when the archive page for my ‘podcast’ category is rendered. Essentially I copied the archive template from my theme, added a bit of detail about the podcast just above the part where it renders the reverse chronological order of the category posts (I did this in simple raw HTML, without any ‘real’ coding), gave the file a new name
category-podcast.php so it would trigger when
/category/podcast/ is the URL, put it into my child theme (so it wouldn’t be overwritten if I update my theme), and voila–a landing page for the podcast!
If you’re not much of a developer/tinkerer, you could likely ask your departmental, divisional, or institutional web developer, someone at a local WordPress meetup or maybe a Homebrew Website Club to help you out a bit. I think once you’ve done it once with even some simple changes like I did on one page, you’ll have the gist of it and the sky is the limit for every other page on your site.