Wondering how to install a WordPress theme yourself? It’s not as hard as you think. If you are new to WordPress, then worry not. We have made it a special point to make this guide as easy as possible.
We will show you a step-by-step guide to installing a WordPress theme and point you to some of the best WordPress themes and where to find them.
WordPress themes are an integral part of the WordPress experience. They deliver the visual appearance and functionality to your website. Your WordPress installation has several themes by default, but you can also install third-party themes. You can expect to find hundreds of WordPress themes designed to fit specific use cases.
Let’s get started.
Here’s a summary of what we have covered for you in this blog.
- Tutorials on how to install a WordPress theme in three different methods.
- Explaining what plugins you need to keep the theme’s functionality in order.
- The best sources to get free and paid WordPress themes for your website. The popular WordPress themes and which ones are the right fit for you.
- The important details on how to configure your WordPress theme.
- And how to get help regarding your theme.
What You Need To Know Before You Install A WordPress Theme
You can download themes anytime you want without activating them. Applying a new theme will alter the look of your current website, which may disturb your business.
For a running business such as an e-commerce website, you must establish a staging website to test and customize the new theme. You can also use maintenance mode through website builder plugins like Elementor to prevent visitors from witnessing your new changes or experiments as they come into effect.
Always back up your current WordPress website before making such changes. Another thing to note here is to note down any CSS and other theme-related settings, such as color codes and widget areas, in case you need to roll back to the previous theme.
3 Ways To Install a WordPress Theme
There are three methods you can go by to install a WordPress theme. The first is the easiest, but you would want to take a look at the other two methods, especially if you buy themes from third-party sources.
Method 1: How To Install a WordPress Theme Through the Theme Directory
In addition to some themes that come preinstalled with your WordPress installation, you can find and add new themes hosted by WordPress. The WordPress dashboard allows you to look up new themes and add them to your website. You can also download themes from WordPress.org.
Themes must be activated first for them to take over your website, so you can download any number of themes without interrupting the current one.
Follow these steps to install a WordPress theme:
- Log in to the WordPress dashboard of your website.
- From the left menu, hover over Appearance and click on Themes.
- Click on the Add New button next to the search bar.
- Now, you can either use the Popular and Latest tabs to see recommendations by WordPress, or you can use the search bar to look up themes. You can also search for themes using keywords, such as “e-commerce” or “magazine” based on the type of website you want to create or use the filter button to tick on the type of themes you want to look up.
- Select a theme, then click on the Install button.
- At this point, you have the theme downloaded in WordPress, but it’s not yet active. You can check out a live preview to see the look and feel of the theme or proceed to apply it to your website. Click on Activate if you want to apply the theme.
Method 2: How To Install a WordPress Theme by Using the Upload Method From WordPress Admin
The first method uses the WordPress library to find and add new themes; this method will allow you to install WordPress theme manually from any source. There are various marketplaces on the internet where you can find paid and free WordPress themes.
The themes are downloaded in .zip format. Hence, they must be uploaded to your WordPress via the admin dashboard.
We’ll show you where to get new themes in a while, but for now, let’s take a look at how to upload a WordPress theme. The file must be in .zip format.
For the following method, we are assuming that you have downloaded a theme. Here’s how to install WordPress theme from zip file:
- Open your WordPress admin dashboard. Hover over Appearance and go to Themes.
- Click on the Add New button at the top.
- Choose Upload Theme.
- Click on Choose File, navigate to the download directory and select the .zip file for upload.
- Wait for the installation to complete.
You can check out the theme by clicking on Live Preview or proceed to Activate the theme once the upload has finished. This theme and others you have added can be viewed anytime by going to Appearance > Themes.
Method 3: How To Install a WordPress Theme Using FTP
File Transfer Protocol is a file-sharing protocol for transferring files over the network. It works on a client-server model, meaning a server must act as a host and facilitate the transfer between users.
Your WordPress hosting might include FTP access for remote file transfer. Log in to your hosting provider, select the hosting for your website, and find the credentials for FTP access. You will need to create an FTP account if you have never done it before.
You can reach out to the hosting provider’s customer support to help you with the credentials. FTP grants you access to the WordPress installation, so customer support will ask you to verify your identity.
Although this can be a learning opportunity, consider that you will have access to the core files of your WordPress website. Deleting or altering files might cause the website to crash or change behavior. We recommend making a backup of any file you will replace or modify.
The second thing you need is an FTP software to connect to your website. We will use Filezilla for this guide. Download Filezilla Client from here.
Follow this tutorial once you have your FTP credentials and Filezilla ready:
- Open Filezilla. On the top-left corner, click on File, then Site Manager.
- Create FTP access by clicking on New site. Enter a name for this website.
- Now, you will need to enter the following information in the relevant text fields.
- Host: (enter the hostname for your website)
- Port: (enter the port number to connect to)
- User: (enter the username for your FTP access)
- Password: (enter the password for your FTP access)
- Select “SFTP – Secure File Transfer Protocol” as the protocol type.
- Now, click on Connect and wait for the connection to get established.
- You will now return to the home page, where you will see your WordPress website directory show up under Remote site.
- Navigate to wp-content > themes.
- You can either drag and drop the extracted theme folder or use the directory navigation on the left to find its location on your device. Right-click on the theme folder and select Upload. Make sure that you are in the theme folder on your remote site to ensure the theme folder gets uploaded correctly.
It will take a few seconds for the theme folder to upload. Open your WordPress admin dashboard, then go to Appearance > Themes. The uploaded theme should now be visible in your theme library.
Install Required Plugins for Important Theme Functionality
As we mentioned earlier, WordPress plugins provide additional functionality that can improve your website. Some themes will have dependencies in the form of plugins that need to be installed before it can work properly.
When you activate a theme that needs plugins, you will see a message in the WordPress dashboard. Simply click on Begin installing plugin, then click on Install under the plugin. You can install all required plugins in one go by checking all the boxes and selecting the install option from the drop-down menu. Click on Apply to begin the installation.
Plugins are powerful. Even if a theme does not require plugins to work, you can still add functionality to your website by looking up plugins the same way you can for themes from the WordPress dashboard.
A plugin like WordFence will add security to your website by blocking IP addresses after unsuccessful login attempts. RankMath will optimize the content and pages on your website for search engines.
The beauty of WordPress is that you don’t have to write code to add a particular functionality; there are plugins available at your disposal.
Where To Find WordPress Themes (Free And Paid)
Before we get into this part, read our advice on how to choose the right WordPress theme.
The open-source nature of WordPress means that a community of enthusiastic developers has created a marketplace for themes. You can find free and paid WordPress themes from various sources on the internet.
Pick a theme and take it for a test drive by launching a demo before you make the purchase. One important tip for picking a WordPress theme is customer support. The best WordPress themes will come with a lifetime of updates and at least one year of customer support. If the developer has a good reputation in the community, it’s a good place to start.
Once you have purchased a WordPress theme, you can download it anytime on your device. Use this guide’s second and third methods to import a WordPress theme.
Because it’s easy to distribute malware, always rely on trusted sources for themes. Cracked paid themes are available, but they are risky as they may be a honeypot for malware. Not to mention that downloading pirated themes is illegal and does not pay the developer who created it.
How to Configure Basic Settings About Your Theme
With a theme up and running, you can now configure some basic settings. You can set things like a static homepage, menus, widgets, footer, and color or add new pages and content to the website. Read our advice on how to customize WordPress themes.
This will be the start of the customization journey that will ultimately define how your website looks and functions.
Themes will have demo content that will be the first thing you see when you apply the theme. For multi-purpose themes, you can import demo websites that serve a specific niche. You can make small adjustments to the existing pages or delete the existing pages and build the website from scratch. On that note, you can add existing templates in the theme for pages. We’ll show you how to do that in a while.
How To Make Your WordPress Theme Look Like the Demo
WordPress developers will develop demos that highlight the theme’s functionality. Anytime you wish to buy a premium theme, you can check out a live preview. Some popular free WordPress themes also come with demos that you can import.
Here is an example of OceanWP. It is a popular freemium WordPress theme with several demos that can be imported.
Why would you want to do that? Because it saves you time. Getting a prebuilt demo that closely matches the vision for your website will save you from building everything from scratch.
There’s no one way to import a demo. Themes will have a different approach to their menus. Some themes will add an entry into the WordPress navigation menu, where it’s easy to find that option. If you can’t find the option, refer to the theme’s documentation.
Importing demos is different from using templates. The latter only applies to a particular page.
Switching Between WordPress Themes
The themes you add will remain in your library. You can activate only one theme at a time. However, you can change a WordPress theme at any time.
This will affect your existing theme, so proceed with caution. It’s always recommended to make a backup of the current WordPress installation.
Changing WordPress Themes via phpMyAdmin
All information on your website can be accessed via phpMyAdmin. It is a database manager that handles MySQL over the web. You can view and modify information stored on your websites, such as users, passwords, posts, comments, metadata, and more, through the phpMyAdmin client.
It can be used to change the active WordPress theme. But the theme needs to be preinstalled on the website. phpMyAdmin is a database management client where you can modify values to reflect changes on your website; it cannot be used like an FTP software to upload files.
Use the FTP method to upload a WordPress theme, then follow these steps to change WordPress themes via phpMyAdmin.
- Log in to your hosting account and get access to phpMyAdmin using your private credentials.
- Launch phpMyAdmin and log in to the database.
- Click on your database from the left menu, then click on wp_options.
- Find template and stylesheet entries under the option_name column.
- You can now see the active theme in the fields next to them under the option_value column. Click on both fields and change the name of the theme to the one you want to activate. Make sure you type the name correctly according to the theme’s folder.
That’s it! Exit phpMyAdmin and visit the website to see the changes. If the website shows an error, it is likely that you have not entered the correct name of the theme. Go back to fix that, then try again. You can also try clearing the WordPress cache from the dashboard.
Apply a Template To Individual Pages
Some themes have templates to choose from. It’s useful if you want a particular page to look like the theme’s demo. Let’s say you liked the design of one page but not the entire demo; you can create a new page and use the existing templates to import that look for that particular page. You might find that page in the templates.
Here’s how to apply a WordPress template:
- Open the WordPress admin dashboard.
- Go to Pages > Add New.
- You will see some options on the right side. Use the drop-down menu under Templates to select your desired template.
- Give the page a name, then click on Preview to see what the page looks like.
The page is not visible to your audience yet. Once changes to the page have been made, click on the Publish button to add it to the website. Alternatively, click on Save Draft to use the page for later.
Keep Themes Updated
The best WordPress themes get regular updates from their developers. The updates can add new features or fix known issues in the theme. They can also introduce performance optimizations that make the website run faster, such as faster load times for web pages. As a website owner, you should always keep the theme and all plugins updated.
If you downloaded the theme through the WordPress dashboard, you can check for new updates by going to Appearance > Themes.
Third-party themes will receive updates on the store that you bought it from. For example, if you bought a theme on Themeforest, you can download the latest version by logging in to your account, then uploading the latest file from the WordPress dashboard.
WordPress will ask to confirm if you want to overwrite the new version on the existing version.
How To Get Help With Your WordPress Theme
WordPress has a massive community that not only develops themes and plugins but actively engages in various topics of interest. Ran into an issue? Just ask the community for a solution.
WordPress.org also hosts a forum section where users can discuss WordPress-related issues. Whether you need help installing WordPress or have something more technical, you can create a topic and ask for help. You can also use the search function to look up similar topics to see if the question has already been answered.
Get Customer Support
Your new WordPress theme also comes with customer support from the developer.
The best WordPress themes will have at least one year of customer support, so you can ask the developer directly if you run into any issues. However, keep in mind that the developer’s help is limited to the scope of the theme. You may need to get professional help from a WordPress developer.
But before venturing out to find that help, refer to the theme’s documentation. The documentation should have all the functions of the theme listed and how to enable them. For example, documentation is the first place to look if you need to know how to set things like font style or enable member registration on the website.
Free themes don’t offer the same luxury. A quick Google search or looking up the issue on WordPress forums might return a resolution. Fortunately, the ubiquity of WordPress means that you will likely find help from existing forum threads online quickly.
Which Are the Most Popular WordPress Themes?
Now that you know how to add themes in WordPress, marketplaces are a good starting point for finding the most popular WordPress themes. Sort the themes by rating, and you will see which ones are popular in the community.
As you browse through, you will notice that the most popular WordPress themes are also the ones that are multi-purpose, meaning that they can be customized to fit more than one niche and have various components to match the expected functions.
Here’s a list of the most popular WordPress themes based on ratings from various marketplaces:
And as you would expect, all of these themes have demos ready for a tryout.
We say from experience that any website you choose must be mobile-friendly. It should have an equal focus on mobile devices and be responsive. Mobile devices have taken the attention of search engines away from desktop computers. If a theme does not perform well on mobiles, it might affect your ranking in search engines. Google has made it a key point for auditing a website’s indexed pages.
There are some key takeaways from this guide. Mainly, there are hundreds of WordPress themes, and the best theme is the one that fits your requirements.
You don’t have to pay for a multi-purpose theme if all you need to run is a simple personal blog. However, whatever your ambitions may be, you can always add more functionality to your website by investing in a paid theme.
For existing websites, applying a new theme will give your brand a much-needed overhaul. It keeps a brand interesting for customers. But before that, read this guide thoroughly and ensure that you make a backup of your current theme or set up staging to avoid interruption.
To recap, here’s what you need to keep in mind:
- Get familiar with your WordPress dashboard once you finish the initial setup.
- Free themes get you started, but paid themes offer the most customization and functionality.
- Check out popular WordPress themes on the marketplaces listed in this guide.
- Always download themes from reliable sources and avoid downloading cracked themes as they might contain malware.
- Read on helpful tips to speed up your website. The type of web hosting you buy also affects the performance of your website, especially during high traffic.
- Gain helpful insights from the WordPress community.
Knowing how to install a WordPress theme will just be the start of your WordPress experience. Your website has several components and functionality that will need attention once you have finalized a theme. For one, the website will need a sitemap that search engines can pick up, where plugins like RankMath can help.
- Check out the list of some of the most useful WordPress plugins.
- Learn how to use WordPress to its potential.
- Find the right WordPress hosting provider if you are just getting started.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Can I transfer my WordPress.com site to WordPress.org?
WordPress.com is a managed hosting provider, whereas WordPress.org is a self-managed solution. It is possible to move your website to the self-managed solution running another hosting provider of your choice.
- Can I monetize a free WordPress.com website?
Yes, you can. High-paying advertisers such as Adsense usually don’t approve free WordPress, but you can make money through affiliate marketing and driving traffic to your website.
- WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org – Which one is better for e-commerce?
WordPress.org offers the most customization and the flexibility to choose the most affordable web hosting provider. Moreover, you are not bound by WordPress.com’s terms and conditions for the content on your website.