Beginners Guide: How to Install a WordPress Theme

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Install WordPress Theme

For WordPress websites, developers have covered a lot of ground and have created endless parade of beautiful themes for every niche you can think of: Multipurpose, magazine, eCommerce, portfolio, forums, directories, real estate, events, and more… you name it, and you can be sure to find free or premium (or freemium) themes with special functions built in or bundled just for your specific needs.

Anyone can install and customize the look, feel, and even function of their WordPress website’s front end, thanks to (almost) universally available, apparently countless, highly versatile, and awesome themes. In this post, I’ll walk you through different ways of WordPress theme installation based on their source. For instance, when your theme is:

Install From the Theme Repository

This is probably the most simplest method to install a WordPress theme for your site. This method only works if you are trying to install a theme that is available in WordPress.org official theme repository (free themes only). If you installing for a personal blog or looking for free themes, WordPress theme repository is a good starting point.

  1. You need to log in to your WordPress admin account. Once you reach the dashboard, click on Appearance > Themes. Then click the Add New button on the top.
  2. This brings you to a page showing all the themes form different developers. You can sort them by Popular, Featured, or Latest basis. You can also do a search by name, and use the advanced search filter to be specific about features.
  3. Once you have found the theme of your choice, you can preview theme demo before installing by clicking Preview button.
  4. When you ready, just click Install button to start the installation process. This will automatically download the theme and install it to your WordPress installation.
  5. Once installation is completed, you will notice an “Installation successful” message with three links at the bottom. You can live preview the theme (with your website’s current widget and posted content). If you like how it looks, click on Activate to keep the changes.

Install From External Source

In this method, you need to download your themes before installing it to your site. You can download free or premium themes from trusted theme providers. There are some of the renewed theme providers including iThemes, ElegantThemes, ThemeForest, StudioPress, etc. This method will work only for self hosted WordPress sites and is not applicable for WordPress.org users.

Note, If a theme is premium, do not look around for its “free/cracked” versions on the net. The cracked version of theme may work on your site but they can have hidden scripts or virus that can slow down your website.

When your theme is not from the official WordPress theme repository, you can install on your WordPress installation using two methods; Upload via WordPress Admin Dashboard or via FTP account.

Upload via WordPress Admin Dashboard

  • You have to download the theme file (.zip compressed) from the source/developer website first. Once you have that, go to your WordPress Admin Dashboard, and click on Appearance > Themes.
  • Click Add New and on the screen that follows, click Upload Theme button at the top.

Upload Theme to WordPress

  • This brings you to a file upload screen. Choose the theme file you downloaded (.zip compressed – do not extract it) and click ‘Install Now’.
  • WordPress then begins the installation of your theme. Once it’s done, you’ll receive an ‘Installation successful’ message with three links at the bottom.

Preview WordPress Theme Installation

  • Click on Live Preview to test the theme appearance with your current widgets and posts and/or simply click Activate to keep the changes.
  • Then you can go to the Customizer or theme control panel (if your theme has it) to make any style changes or customizations in the theme.

Upload Theme via FTP

This step is more technical than the first method. But it’s always good to learn about manual installation via FTP in case you have file restrictions on your website placed by server.

  • Download compressed zip theme file from the (trusted!) source to your computer.
  • Unzip the file and extract the components in a new folder on your device. Name this folder after your theme. We will upload this folder to your WordPress installation directory.
  • Open your FTP client and go to the WordPress website you downloaded the theme for. If you don’t have FTP login credentials, create an FTP user from your domain account cPanel. If you don’t have access, contact directly your web host.
  • Once on the right website’s directory, go to path: /wp-content/themes/ and move your unzipped theme folder here. Save and exit.

Now go back to your WordPress admin, Appearance > Themes and check to ensure that the theme you just uploaded has appeared here. If it has, the installation was successful. You can now activate the theme (hover over theme name) to apply it.

Wrapping up

That was fun and easy, yeah?

Another professional tip: Before installing themes, run them through the tests on Themecheck.org. to make sure they’re as good as advertised.

Tracey Jones

Tracey Jones is a complete professional with years of experience in the web development field. Currently, she is associated with HireWPGeeks Ltd, a reliable company which provides PSD to WordPress theme conversion service to our global clients. Instead of these, she loves to share her innovative thoughts with others on the web.

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  • Very informative and step by step guide with pictures. Thank you for your hard work.

  • Iwap

    Good tip.

  • Amy Brown

    How can I create a child theme for twentyten WordPress theme?

  • Valeri Levinski

    Very helpful article! Thanks, Lucy.

  • Ashley Lewis

    Great article and pretty insightful that you covered the basic theme installation steps.