Think of a theme as a layer that sits over the core WordPress framework – it creates the design and manages some of the functionality. To use a baking analogy – it’s the icing on the cake.
There are thousands of themes to choose from. Some are amazing and beautiful, and some are terrible.
Installing a WordPress theme is really easy – you don’t need any technical knowledge or other software. Changing themes can sometimes cause problems due to the use of different settings in the two themes: menus in different places, image sizes, column widths.
Types of WordPress Theme
There are two types of theme – free and premium.
Free themes are available from lots of different places, including the Free WordPress Themes directory. The directory is accessible through the WordPress admin area or here. Premium themes are available from third parties and usually come with a reasonable price tag.
There are also free and premium themes designed for certain types of site; such as affiliate sites, AdSense sites and even adult sites.
Which is best, a free or premium theme?
Free themes are fine for a personal site, however, if you are using WordPress for a business site I think a premium theme is a wise investment. If you decide to go for a free theme, be sure to only use themes from trusted sites…
Siobhan McKeown wrote a post on WPMU about the free WordPress themes she found on unofficial sites after downloading and reviewing the top 10 results on Google for the phrase free wordpress themes. Out of the 10 themes tested, only one was safe and the other nine contained bits of code that may harm your site by sneakily linking to web properties you wouldn’t usually link to or be associated with, or leaving it open to hackers.
There are two ways to add themes to WordPress that don’t need any other software. One is by downloading a theme from the free themes directory and the second is by uploading a zip file from your computer.
How to install a WordPress theme from the free themes directory
Navigate to Appearance > Themes and click on the Install Themes tab
In a brand new installation you will see this:
At the top of the page there are a few links that take you to some of the best themes (in the Featured section), new additions (in the Newest section) and recently updated themes (in the Recently Updated section). At this stage ignore the Upload link.
If you prefer, you can search the free themes directory by adding keywords into the box, or ticking the buttons next to the features you want.
Go ahead and play with it – see what you can find…
When you find a theme you like, click on the image or Preview link to see what it looks like with content. When you find one you like, click on Install. A small window appears on-screen which has information about the theme; the author, version number and name.
If you still want to go ahead, click on Install Now.
You will see something like this:
Clicking the Preview link lets you see what the theme looks like on your site with your content. The Activate links activates the theme, and if you want to change your mind at this stage, click on Return to Theme Installer to continue the search.
When you activate a theme, what you see on the next screen depends entirely on the chosen theme and the way it is set-up.
How to install a WordPress theme from your computer
Navigate to Appearance > Themes > Install Themes > Upload
**Zip files only**
Click on Choose File and navigate to the folder on your computer where you are storing the zipped file. When you find the file, click on Install Now.
You will see a message like this:
Clicking the Preview link lets you see what the theme looks like on your site with your content. The Activate links activates the theme. Return to Themes page takes you back to the theme management page.
That’s how to install a WordPress theme.