How to Install a WordPress Theme

One of the first things a novice site builder needs to know is how to install a WordPress Theme. It sounds like a complicated procedure, but it’s anything but difficult.

You’ll know how to search, install, activate, and tweak a new theme with ease by the end of this short tutorial. There are a few areas to cover before we begin.

Swapping to a New Theme

This guide shows self-hosting WordPress beginners how to install a new theme. It doesn’t go into details for replacing existing themes on established sites and blogs. Below are a few tips on ways to prepare for template swaps if that’s something you need to do.

Some users are tired with their current WordPress theme and want a fresh look. That’s okay, as it’s something both amateur and professional site builders do all the time. The crucial thing is to do a full back up before you start. That includes the WP database, plugins, and theme files. This way, you can always restore the site if something doesn’t go to plan.

Prepare a comprehensive checklist

Below are 6 areas to consider when swapping templates and files:

  1. Learn about the new theme and supporting resources before you download it
  2. Make sure the new theme is mobile responsive
  3. Download only from a security-trusted website
  4. Make a list of all customisations, e.g., plugins, sliders, widgets, and shortcodes, etc.
  5. Put your site into maintenance mode during the swap
  6. Test the new theme cross-browser and on multiple devices

Don’t go by appearances alone

All themes have details about how they work, spec sheets, and the last update. You can also check their popularity by looking at the number of downloads, ratings, and user feedback. If you want to use specific plugins, make sure they’re compatible with the favoured template. Lastly, consider a theme framework if you plan to use a child theme.

Point to note: Another way to install new WordPress themes is to upload them via FTP. This tutorial focuses on using the Dashboard, but the FTP route is also straightforward.


How to Install a WP Theme for the First Time

There are many thousands to choose from, both free and premium (paid). That’s fantastic news, but it can be overwhelming. Let’s do a detailed search for the best themes.

Log in to your WordPress Dashboard as site Administrator.

From the side menu, choose Appearance è Themes.

Click the Add New button, left of the search themes box (top).

The Add Themes screen gives lots of options to help narrow down the search.

The quickest way to search for a theme is by type or name if you know it. Consider the following options if you’re unsure or are only window shopping:

  • Search WordPress’s featured themes
  • Search by the most popular
  • Search by the latest WordPress themes
  • Search for specific themes by name or functions
  • Search for theme templates with particular characteristics

The Feature Filter option is invaluable if you want to narrow the search down still further. It lets you select the site type by subject, various features, and even the template layout.

Click the Feature Filter link.

Now tick (check) whichever boxes appeal then click the Apply Filters button.

Think about what you want from a theme and try not to be click-happy. If you select too many filters, you’ll get the following error, ‘No themes found. Try a different search.’

Let’s choose a free theme for this example called Bootstrap Photography. With the mouse pointer hovering over the theme (right), options appear to view Details & Preview and Install.

Here’s a snapshot of the Bootstrap Photography details page with images and post content.

How a theme preview looks depends on the device and screen size you view it on. You can install a free theme from the top left button if you decide to use it. Let’s go ahead and choose this one.

Tip: you can also return to the Themes screen to Install and Activate new products.

Click the Install button.

The button reads Activate once the new theme is installed. Click Activate to finish the process.

You can also customise your new active theme right away.

Click the Customise button.

You’re now at the themes’ customisation settings page. The options available vary between templates, but the familiar layout in the left side column remains the same.

Here’s the top section of the Bootstrap Photography customisation page.

Click on each customisation item to view its options.

Click Publish to save any changes.

View the live site to see the new changes.

It’s just as easy to reverse any customisations if you’re not happy with the results.

How to Install and Activate Premium Themes

Installing and activating premium themes is a little different at the start of the process. That’s because you must download the files from the maker’s website in zipped format. 

Click the Add New button from the top of the Themes screen.

Next, click Upload Theme button.

Click Choose File and locate the zipped file from your device.

For this example, the uploaded premium theme file is Genesis.

Click Install Now.

The remaining process is the same as it is for free themes.

Want to Learn WordPress?

WordPress is an amazing platform for building any type of website.   It’s used by large corporations and small mom & pop sites.

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