Learn how to install WordPress Themes in three steps. These steps are downloading the theme, customizing the theme, and activating the theme.   I go into more in-depth details in this article.

How To Install WordPress Themes. Learn how to install WordPress Themes in three steps. These steps are downloading the theme, customizing the theme, and activating the theme. Click for more in-depth directions.

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Pick A WordPress Theme

Before you install a WordPress theme you have to choose a WordPress theme.   There are so many choices and options for WordPress themes.  And the offering and functionality improve every day.

If you are new to WordPress or creating websites, it can be difficult to know which one is right for your blog or website.  I recommend a paid theme because they usually offer more features.  A lot of them have good technical support.  And many include updates for the first six months or year.

For a more in-depth coverage of picking a WordPress Theme, see my How To Choose A WordPress Theme blog post.

Backup Your WordPress Site

It is important that you backup your WordPress site before making a major change like installing a new theme.  Any customizations you made to your current theme will usually be lost.  You won’t lose your post or pages.  But if you used your current theme’s styling, widgets, or post builders, those could be lost too.

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Now that you have a theme choice and have made a backup of your site, it is time to install your WordPress theme.

1. Download WordPress Theme

There are two main ways to download or acquire a WordPress theme.  If you are using a free theme, then you can often download and install WordPress theme within your WordPress Admin.  If you are purchasing a theme, then you will usually download the theme to your computer and then install it within your WordPress Admin.

How To Install WordPress Themes – Free Theme

For a free WordPress theme follow these steps to select your theme:

  1. Log into your WordPress Admin
  2. Select Appearance –> Themes.  This opens the Themes page.
  3. Select the “Upload” button.  This opens the Add Theme page.
  4. Select a theme.  You can scroll through the available themes.  You can also search for a theme.
  5. Once you find a theme you are interested in, use your mouse to hover over the theme.  Then select, “Details and Preview”.  This opens the Theme Preview page.
  6. If you like the theme, select the “Install” button.  Don’t worry, the theme isn’t active yet!
  7. Select the “X” to close the Theme Preview.  Do not select “Activate”.  This returns you to the Themes page where you will see that your theme is installed.
  8. Use your mouse to hover over the theme.  Select “Live Preview”.  This opens the Customizer page.
  9. Here you can make changes to the theme.  Depending on the theme you selected the options will be different.  See the next section, Customize WordPress Theme for more details.

How To Install WordPress Themes – Paid Theme

For a paid WordPress theme follow these steps.  I will be using ThemeForest but this method is similar to other theme marketplaces or a theme’s website.

  1. Go to ThemeForest. Make sure you are in the WordPress theme section.
  2. Select “Preview” to see a demo of the theme.
  3. Once you find a theme you like, select “Purchase”.
  4. Then select the “Add To Cart” and then “Check Out” buttons
  5. Enter your purchase information.
  6. Once the sale is complete, go to the “Downloads” page on the ThemeForest page.
  7. Select “Download” and then “Installable WordPress File Only”.  This will download the theme in a Zip file.  Remember where you saved this file.
  8. Log into your WordPress Admin
  9. Select Appearance –> Themes.  This opens the Themes page.
  10. Select the “Upload” button.  This opens the Add Theme page.
  11. Select “Choose File”.  Select the Zip file you downloaded from ThemeForest.
  12. Select “Install Now”.
  13. Select “Live Preview”.  This opens the Customizer page.
  14. Here you can make changes to the theme.  Depending on the theme you selected the options will be different.  See the next section, Customize WordPress Theme for more details.

2. Customize WordPress Theme

Before you actually active your theme so that it is visible on your website, you will need to customize it.  You can do some of the customizations in the WordPress Customizer.  For many free themes, this will be the main place to make styling and layout changes.

With more advanced free themes and most paid themes, there will be other sections added to your WordPress Admin once you install and activate the theme.

This is a “what came first, the chicken or the egg” problem.  Unfortunately, you can’t make those advanced theme specific changes unless you install the theme.  And once you install the theme, you lose the theme settings from your current theme.

This is one of the reasons it is very important to make a back up of your WordPress site.  If you install the theme and don’t like it, you can quickly revert to your old theme and settings.

Another way to get around this is to have a staging website.  You make a back up of your current site and then restore it to your staging site.  After you download and make changes to your theme, you can then make a back up of your staging site and restore it to your actual site.  This is a complex options so I won’t be covering it in this article.

I’m going to assume that this a new WordPress install and that you are installing your first theme.  If you are using BlueHost (see install wordpress theme), your site will have a “Coming Soon” page.  You can then make all your changes and launch when you are ready.

How to customize a WordPress theme will be different for each theme.  But there are generally three places in the WordPress admin where you will make customizations to your theme.

  1. Appearance –> Customizer.  This opens the Customize page.  Here you can make changes to your Active theme or a new theme.
  2. Appearance –> Widgets.  This opens the Widgets page.  Here you can make changes to your sidebars, footers, and more.  Some theme specific widgets options only become available after the them is active and live on your site.
  3. Theme-specific admin section.  Many themes have additional options that can be changed in a new section that is added to your WordPress admin.  Since each theme is different, you will need to check the theme specific documentation.  Unfortunately, this section only because available after you activate the theme.

3. Activate WordPress Theme

Once you have customized your WordPress theme, it times to Activate the theme so that it is visible.

  1. Log into your WordPress Admin
  2. Select Appearance –> Themes.  This opens the Themes page.
  3. Use your mouse to hover over the theme.  Select “Live Preview”
  4. Confirm that look of the theme.
  5. Select “Activate & Publish”.

Your theme is now installed, customized, and published!  Good job!

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Next Steps

As you have read in this article, there are several steps to getting a WordPress theme installed and customized for your site.

I have a video that demos How To Customize A WordPress theme for more information.  And you learn more about WordPress in my Learn WordPress article.


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How To Install WordPress Themes
How To Install WordPress Themes
How To Install WordPress Themes
By |2018-12-02T18:29:16-07:00May 7th, 2018|Website Design, WordPress|0 Comments

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