The first thing you need to know about how to install WordPress themes is that it is easy. Like many things in WordPress, you don’t need to be a coder or have a great amount of technical expertise.
With WordPress thriving from on-going open-source development (expect software updates about 1-2 times a month), installing a theme has gotten continuously easy over the years as user experience has improved. It is now to a point where installing most themes is hastle-free.
That is not to say that there aren’t different ways to do it.
WordPress admin easy theme install
Hover over Appearance, click on Themes (or simply click on Appearance).
Click on the Add New button at the top of the installed themes page.
WordPress will load the WordPress.org theme marketplace within your self-hosted website.
Search/browse themes. Also, take advantage of the Featured, Popular, Latest filters and the Feature Filter tool to trim down the searches.
Select a theme to learn more and preview, or skip this step.
Click Install (from preview or directly from marketplace).
WordPress will download the theme files from WordPress.org and upload them to your server.
The path above is the most likely path where your theme will be downloaded/uploaded to in your server and WordPress installation. The “install-root” is the folder/directory where your WordPress files are. This could be the root of a domain (www.company.com/), or a path within a domain (www.company.com/mywebsite/). It’s important to know the root of your WordPress website as it relates to your server.
When and if you are ready to activate the theme (it will become live on the front-end), click activate.
Once activated, visit your site and check out the new look. How does it look?
Tip: It’s always a good idea to not have your website accessible to the public when activating/deactivating various themes as you decide on the look and feel of the website. This fun-with-themes is best done behind the scenes using something like a Coming Soon plugin, or done in a local environment where you can develop off-line sites and staging environments.
From WordPress.org and manual upload
The WordPress.org marketplace can be accessed from within your self-hosted website, so the need to go to WordPress.org itself for themes has largely lessened. However, it is still good practice to go to the official theme landing page on WordPress.org because it provides a lot more information about the theme and developer.
You may also like knowing that you have downloaded a particular theme’s actual files onto your computer or other storage device (rather than only having them on the server).
Either way, the first thing to do is visit WordPress.org > Themes.
You’ll notice that it looks very similar to how the marketplace looks when viewing from within our website’s back-end admin (as shown earlier).
The same thing as earlier applies here (search and filter themes), and once you’re ready to try one, click on download. Make sure to know where your browser places downloads by default, or know where you’ve saving the .zip file.
Tip: WordPress.org’s theme preview functionality is great, but it is not a great portrayal of what the theme can actually look like or achieve. Your best bet is to head to the developer’s website and look for a demo of the theme that contains dummy content. Any good developer or company should have a demo of their theme.
Back on your site’s admin, hover over Appearance, click on Themes (or simply click on Appearance).
Click on the Add New button at the top of the installed themes page.
Click on the Upload Theme button at the top of the marketplace page.
Then either drag and drop the theme’s .zip file (do not unzip) from where the file is saved, or select it by clicking Choose File.
Once the file is chosen, click on Install Now.
WordPress will unzip and upload the theme files to your server. You’ll then have the option to start a Live Preview session within your admin, activate your theme (it will change your site), or simply return to the installed themes page.
From other third-party sources and manual upload
Installing and buying a WordPress theme from a third-party source such as Themeforest.com or TemplateMonster.com is essentially the same as downloading it from WordPress.org. The only difference is that if it is a premium theme and purchase, you pay for the theme’s .zip file. You’ll usually be emailed the .zip file or are given access to a customer portal where you can download the premium .zip file from the developer’s website or marketplace.
Here is an example from Themeforest.com. Don’t forget! WordPress is popular, so many commercial third-party sources have whole categories just for WordPress themes.
The search, filter and demo process all applies to third-party sources or commercial themes.
The only difference is the payment for commercial themes.
Once you have the .zip file, the same steps as above apply!
Tip: If you’re looking to buy a WordPress premium theme, expect to spend between $20 – $80. Anything above $80 is questionable for just one theme. Actually, many theme development companies sell “memberships” that allow you to download all of their themes for usually less than $100/year, and it usually comes with customer support. Free WordPress ‘light’ themes also offer pro versions for an upgrade. The upgrade will usually let you do more customizations for your site without having to dig into as much CSS or PHP. These freemium theme upgrades can be anywhere from $5 and above.
Uploading a theme’s files via FTP (File Transfer Protocol)
Uploading a WordPress theme via your FTP connection is the same as uploading it via the WordPress admin, at the end of the day. They will both result in the theme’s files on your server and the theme ready to activate in the admin.
The most notable difference is that when uploading to your server at install-root/wp-content/themes path, you must upload the unzipped folder that contains all of the theme’s files.
The theme folder will look something like the below and contain a series of template, styling and functionality files.
In this case, we wouldn’t upload these individual theme files into the /themes folder of our WordPress installation. We would upload the unzipped folder that contains these files (mh-edition-lite).
Once the folder (and its files) are uploaded, the theme folder will just be one of many other themes that you could have installed on your WordPress website. You can then activate the theme from the admin as usual.
Installing via cPanel (control panel)
Installing via the cPanel (or whichever web hosting management software your web host provides), is similar to FTP, with the main difference being that you upload the theme’s unzipped folder via a web interface.
To access your server and WordPress files, you’ll look for something like the below in your control panel.
This is another great way to familiarize yourself with the WordPress folder structure, along with other files that belong to your server.
Closing how to install WordPress themes
What’s your favorite way to install a WordPress theme?
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