Themes are what give your WordPress website style. You can find your themes under the Appearance->Themes menu item in the admin sidebar. Most fresh installs come with 3 or 4 WordPress themes named Twenty Sixteen, Twenty Fifteen, etc. These themes are made by the developers at WordPress.org to get you started.
Few people keep the original themes on their website. One of the great things about WordPress is that it’s relatively easy to create and drop in new themes. For this reason, designers generally love WordPress.
If designers have any code experience, it’s relatively easy to take one of these themes and change it to look like they want it to look. We will discuss some of the things to watch for when doing this.
Developers and Programmers like WordPress because it’s easy to drop in different themes made by designers so that they don’t have to worry about the design aspects for their websites.
Everyone loves WordPress because it makes website development fast, easy and much more inexpensive. Self-contained themes are one of the main reasons WordPress is so popular.
You can find many free themes for WordPress at WordPress.org and other sites on the web. I generally advise against free themes because you aren’t guaranteed updates or fast service should you have a problem. You don’t have anyone to hold accountable should something go wrong. Since this is code that will go on your website and you aren’t sure what they may have hidden in the code, it’s almost as if you are inviting a hacker into your site.
However, if you are going to use a free theme at least get one that you find on WordPress.org. These themes have passed the WordPress.org team’s inspection at least initially before they are allowed to be listed on the site. This doesn’t mean you won’t get hacked or find a bug in these themes, it just means they are a little safer than finding the theme somewhere else on the web.
Keep in mind that once a theme has been accepted on WordPress.org, that doesn’t mean that updates to that theme are scrutinized as thoroughly thereafter. In other words, a hacker could make a great theme, have it inspected so that it’s uploaded to the WordPress.org site. Then once it’s accepted, change the theme with an update to add malicious code to the theme. Most won’t do this, but it could happen.
You generally get what you pay for. That goes for everything in life. The safest option is to buy a theme from a reputable source. In most cases, the theme authors will then support your theme should something go wrong.
If you go to the ‘Appearance’ section of your WordPress back end, and then click on ‘Themes’ in the admin sidebar, you will see the Themes you currently have available. The active theme will be marked as such.
To install a free WordPress theme from WordPress.org, you can click on the ‘Add New’ link at the top. A grid full of WordPress Free Themes will then be listed. You will see pages and pages of themes you can choose from.
Once you’ve chosen a theme, click on ‘Install’ on that theme. The theme will be installed. If you want the new theme to be the active theme, click on the ‘Activate’ button. This will publish the new theme to your site and anyone who visits your site will see the new theme instead of the old.
When you buy a premium theme, in most cases, you are also buying support for that theme. You will also likely get updates to that theme. This will help keep your site more secure. You may have to pay for the updates annually (I advise you do this to keep the latest security patches in place).
You can find premium themes at a lot of different places around the web. Our favorites are:
Elegant Themes - http://www.elegantthemes.com/affiliates/idevaffiliate.php?id=21971
Studio Press - http://shrsl.com/?~a5fh
Here is another popular theme seller:
Theme Forest - https://codecanyon.net/?ref=cindycullen
(Note, these are my affiliate links, so if you choose to buy a theme, they will send me a small commission. I appreciate you using these links should you decide to buy one of their themes. However, If you are using one of our trial websites, we will let you use one of our premium themes from Elegant Themes or Studio Press for as long as you stay on our hosting).
It is advised that you keep your themes updated each time your theme provider comes out with an update. This will keep your site secure. But, be warned, sometimes theme providers make major changes to the theme. These updates to the theme may cause undesired changes to your website. We recommend keeping a good backup of your website before you update the theme. Then you can reinstall the old site should the update cause problems.
Also, keep in mind that any customizations to the code in your theme could be overwritten should you update the theme. It’s best to use child themes if you make theme code customizations.
Install a Theme Downloaded from the Internet
To install a theme that has been downloaded from the internet, make sure your theme is in a .zip file. Then go to ‘Appearance->Themes’ in your WordPress backend. Click on ‘Add New’ at the top. Then click on ‘Upload Theme’ at the top.
Click on choose file and find your .zip theme file on your computer. Once you’ve found it, click ‘Install Now’. Your theme will upload and be installed on your website. Once finished, you should see the theme on your themes page. Clicking on ‘Activate’ will make that theme active, meaning it has been published to your site. Anyone coming to your site will now see the new theme.
Install a Theme Using FTP
If you choose to install your theme via FTP, you will need an FTP client such as FileZilla (http://filezilla.org) to upload the files. You will need to enter your ftp credentials that you receive from your web hosting provider. Once you have these entered correctly, you should connect to your hosting account and see your WordPress files.
If your theme files are zipped up into a .zip file, you will need to unzip the files. Once unzipped, navigate to the /wp-content/themes folder on your account and upload the files there. The files should be in a folder with your themes name. For instance, if your theme is named ‘Excellent’, the files should be located in this folder:
When the files are finished uploading, you should see a new theme in ‘Appearance->Themes’ in your WordPress back end. You can click on the ‘Activate’ button on that new theme to make the theme active so that it shows up when someone visits your site.
Note: If you choose to upload this way with your trial website that I provided, send me a private message and I will send you your ftp credentials for your trial site.
Switching Between Themes
If you have more than one theme in your themes section, you will be able to switch between themes. The currently active theme will be listed first and will be marked as ‘Active’. Each of the other themes will be an image which is usually a small screenshot of the theme homepage to give you a preview of the theme. Mousing over the theme will show you the ‘Activate’ and ‘Live Preview’ buttons. Clicking on the image will give you the theme details along with an ‘Activate’ button, ‘Preview’ button and a link to delete the theme.
When you ‘Activate’ the theme by clicking the ‘Activate’ button, it becomes the active theme and will show up first in the list of themes on the Themes page. Switching between themes is as simple as activating a new one.