Building a WordPress website doesn’t have to be difficult. But if you do it wrong, you can end up with a site that looks dilettante and boring. However, if you learn how to install a quality and professional WordPress theme, it can completely transform your website.
Whether you want to buy a WordPress theme or use a free WordPress theme, it’s up to you. But the chances are good, if you are willing to invest only a small amount in the topic, you will see much better results.
In this guide, you will learn where to find WordPress themes, how to upload them to your site, and how to install and customize a theme on WordPress.
Preparing your site for a WordPress theme
Before you can install a WordPress theme, you need a few basic things.
- A website hosted on a web hosting server.
- The current WordPress platform installed on your website
- Your registered domain points to the correct website
If you have a basic web hosting account, you might have to follow the manual steps above to install your own WordPress platform. However, many web hosts provide a one-click installation of WordPress for your website.
If you’re using WordPress.org instead of your web hosting account, you don’t need to worry about setting it up. WordPress is already installed and ready to install new themes!
When you are ready and logged into your WordPress admin panel, you are ready to install your WordPress theme.
Find your WordPress theme
You might not know this, but in fact, you can instantly install several free WordPress themes that come with a basic WordPress installation.
To see them, simply select “Appearance” on the left navigation bar and select “Themes”.
In this window, you can view a number of already installed themes that come with WordPress.
To switch to any of them, just hover your mouse over the topic and select “Activate”. If you don’t like any of this, you can select the “Add New Topic” box at the bottom of the list.
This will take you to a window where you can browse through many other free WordPress themes that you can download and use on your WordPress site.
If none of the of these looks good and you want to install your own theme, you will need to find it online. There are many websites offering premium WordPress themes that you can purchase. Some of the most popular are:
- WordPress.org (free themes)
- Theme Forest (Envato Market)
- Template Monster
There are also countless websites with custom theme designers that have a whole collection of WordPress themes created by a single design team.
Once you have found and purchased a theme, you can download it. Typically, theme files are downloaded as a ZIP file to your local computer. Once you have this file, you are ready to start installing your WordPress theme.
How to install a WordPress theme
Before you can install the theme, you need to prepare the files. Using Windows Explorer, navigate to the file you purchased and downloaded to your computer. Right-click the downloaded zip file and select Extract All.
This will extract all contained WordPress theme files to a different folder (wherever you extract the files). These extracted files will contain many additional folders and files. One of these files will be a ZIP file with the theme name in front of it.
This is the file you need to open in WordPress to install the theme. Go back to your WordPress admin page, select Appearance and select Themes. At the top of the theme window, select Add New.
Go back to your WordPress admin panel, select “Appearance” and “Themes”. Select Add New Topic.
At the top of the themes window (where you may have viewed the available free themes), select “Download Theme”.
This will open a new window where you can choose Select File. A file browser window will open, allowing you to navigate to where you downloaded and saved the purchased theme zip file.
Browse to the extracted files and select the zip file with the theme name.
Select the file and then click the “Open” button at the bottom of the window. This will take you back to the previous window in your WordPress admin panel.
Select “Install Now” to install the theme.
In this window, you will see how the theme files are unpacked and installed. When the process is complete, you will see a status update.
Activate your WordPress theme
After you have installed your theme in WordPress, when you return to the Themes window, you will see that it is listed as a new available theme block.
Hover over this block and click Activate. Your new theme is installed and activated!
Most premium themes, if purchased, usually come with customizations, documentation, and sometimes even tutorial videos that show you how to set up and use the theme.
When you select from the dashboard in the admin panel, you can see some of them under the theme tab (if your theme has one).
Even if you have activated the theme, you may need to activate the theme in the settings of the theme itself. This does not apply to all themes, but for some you will need to go to the settings for the Activate button and select it.
When you first install a theme, you expect your site to magically look the same as in the demo. Unfortunately, this rarely happens. Usually, you need to tweak a few settings for all of the theme’s components that made the demos look so good.
How to create your own WordPress theme
Luckily, you don’t need to know coding or anything too complicated for your theme to work properly.
In fact, many themes come with files that you can download to make the site look like the demo, with all the formatting and even most of the demo content.
You can do this by selecting Appearance and finding everything that says Import Demo.
You can select the demo you like and click the Import button to import all the files and configuration settings that made the demo look right.
After that, when you preview the site, it will change, but it may still not look quite right.
This is because most themes require active plugins When plugins are imported after installing a theme, they are usually imported inactive.
Fix this by selecting Plugins from the left navigation menu in your WordPress admin panel. From the submenu, select Installed Plugins.
In this window, you need to go to each plugin and select “Activate” under it.
When you’re done, take another look at your site preview. You will see that the site is now formatted the same as the demo you viewed.
All you have to do is start replacing the demo content with your own!
You can also further customize the theme by choosing Appearance from the left menu and choosing Customize from the submenu. The theme settings window will open with all available parameter configurations that have been programmed into it by the theme developers.
This is where you can customize things like the site logo, header and text formatting, home page layout, and more.
Usually, when you import a demo, all of these settings are changed for you to make the site look like the selected demo. If you haven’t imported the demo customization, you can manually customize the look and feel of the theme yourself.
No coding or additional WordPress knowledge is required to install a WordPress theme. All it takes is download and activate the theme, then take the time to learn how to customize the theme to your liking.