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How to Install a WordPress Theme {Complete Step-by-Step Guide}

How to Install a WordPress Theme

If you’re new to the world’s most popular website builder, the good news is that learning how to install a WordPress theme is actually incredibly easy.

As you’ll discover in this comprehensive step-by-step guide, there are actually two ways to install a theme (three if you count FTP, which I’m not going to), both of which take no time at all and both of which are so straightforward that you should have no problem carrying out this simple-yet-essential task, even if you’re first time using WordPress.

Below, I’ll show you the easiest ways to install WordPress themes, but first, let’s talk about why we need a theme in the first place.

What Are WordPress Themes, and Why Do I Need to Install One?

What are WordPress Themes, and Why Do I Need to Install One

A WordPress theme is essentially a collection of files that control the look, feel, and, to some extent, the functionality of your blog or website.

This includes everything from your blog layout to the color and font of your desk, how your hyperlinks appear, and much more.

Why do you need one?

Simple:

WordPress may be the best platform for bloggers, and it may be the go-to platform of choice for some 455 million sites across the web, but its actual design looks pretty basic out of the box.

When you first load a new WordPress installation, you’ll be given the platform’s default theme, which is currency Twenty Twenty Two (WP launches a new default theme each year, named after the current year.)

As you’ll see in the image above and in this Twenty Twenty Two preview, the theme itself isn’t bad, but it’s pretty basic and probably doesn’t reflect the kind of style and branding you want to have for your blog or business.

Besides, if everybody used that theme, we’d have 455 million websites that all look identical, which doesn’t help anybody stand out from the crowd.

Fortunately, there are a staggering 31,000 WordPress themes out there to choose from, some of which you have to pay for but many of which are available free of charge.

Once installed, these themes give you the freedom to truly customize your site with a one-of-a-kind design that helps your site appeal to visitors and deliver optimum visitor experiences in a way that is truly unique to you.

If you haven’t yet chosen a theme, you might find it helpful to select one from my guide to the best WordPress blog themes.

If you already have your theme picked out and you’re ready to install it, let me show you how to do that.

How to Install a WordPress Theme? Step-by-Step Guide

I mentioned at the start of this guide that there are two ways to install a WordPress theme.

The truth is there are actually three:

  • Selecting a theme directly from the WordPress theme dashboard
  • Selecting a theme you download from a third party and uploading it via the dashboard
  • Selecting a third-party theme and uploading it via File Transfer Protocol (FTP).

The latter may technically be an option, but it’s also a more complicated and -if you ask me- pretty unnecessary one which involves connecting to your server via a desktop application, configuring your settings, and then uploading your files.

Since the other two options are far easier and less time-consuming, it’s these that we’re going to focus on today.

How to Install a WordPress Theme From the WordPress Directory?

1. Visit Your WordPress Themes Dashboard

Visit Your WordPress Themes Dashboard

Once you’re logged into your WordPress dashboard, select Appearance from the main menu on the left. Then, select Themes.

This brings up the main WordPress themes dashboard, which shows you any current themes you have installed and highlights which one is active on your site.

2. Select Add New

Select Add New

At the top of the page, you’ll find a button clearly labeled Add New in between the page title and the search bar.

Click that button to access the WordPress themes directory.

3. Select a Theme

Select a Theme

The theme directory should look similar to the screenshot above.

Here, you can browse through thousands of free-to-use themes to find the one you like.

You can also use the search filters at the top of the dashboard to narrow down your selection.

This lets you search by the most popular themes, the ones that have most recently been uploaded, and any you save to your personal collection of favorites.

Select a Theme review image

You can also click the Feature Filter button to find themes by subject or layout style or to find themes with specific features such as custom backgrounds, accessibility features, or sticky posts.

4. Preview Your Theme

Preview Your Theme

Once you’ve found a theme you like the look of, hover over it to bring up the “Details & Preview” box.

This will bring up a basic preview of the kind of styles used in the theme. Don’t worry if it looks nothing like how you’d want your finished website to look. Once installed, most themes allow you to import demo content, edit, and customize the theme to look just the way you want it to.

5. Install Your Theme

Install Your Theme

If you’re happy with your chosen theme, hover over it again to bring up the Install and Preview buttons at the bottom.

Click the Install button.

Install Your Theme review image

WordPress will show you that the theme is being installed, and after a few moments, you’ll be able to tell that the installation was successful because a green bar will appear with a tick mark and the word Installed next to it.

You’ll also notice that the Install button has been replaced with the “Activate” button, which brings us to our final step of the process.

6. Activate Your Theme

Activate Your Theme

Now that your WordPress theme is installed, all you need to do in order to use it is activate it.

Go ahead and click that Activate button I pointed out to you a moment ago.

Activate Your Theme customize

A moment later, you’ll notice that your theme is active and ready to be customized.

That’s all there is to it for installing a WordPress theme from the directory, but what if you want to pick a theme from a third-party developer?

That’s just as easy. Let me show you:

How to Install a WordPress Theme From a Third-Party Developer?

1. Choose Your Theme

Choose Your Theme

There are countless places to buy premium themes from third-party developers, but I recommend using a reputable marketplace such as ThemeForest, which is what I’ll be doing for the sake of this tutorial.

Other recommendations include MyThemeShop and StudioPress.

Choose Your Theme review image

You can use these marketplaces to search for and preview as many themes as you like until you find the most suitable one for your website.

2. Purchase Your Chosen Theme

Purchase Your Chosen Theme

Once you’ve found a theme you’re happy with, click the Add to Cart button and go through the checkout process.

This will present you with a download link. You can click this link to download your WordPress theme to your computer as a .zip file.

3. Head to Your WordPress Themes Dashboard

Head to Your WordPress Themes Dashboard

Just as you did in the WordPress directory tutorial earlier, log in to your main WordPress dashboard and select Appearance – Themes – Add New.

4. Upload Your Theme

Upload Your Theme

Once on the Add Themes page, click the Upload Theme button at the top.

This brings up the same basic file uploader that you’ve undoubtedly seen on countless sites before.

Upload Your Theme and add

Click the Choose File button and select the zip file you just downloaded.

5. Install Your Theme

Install Your Theme

Next, with your file selected, simply click the Install Now button and let WordPress do its thing.

6. Activate Your Theme

Activate Your Theme

Once WordPress confirms that your theme is installed, simply click the Activate button, and that’s it. You’ve successfully installed your WordPress theme.

A Final Piece of Advice About Installing WordPress Themes

By now, you’ve learned the two easiest ways to install a WordPress theme so that you can start customizing your site to make it one-of-a-kind.

If you’re anything like a lot of WordPress users, you may have even installed several different themes to try them out and see which one you like best.

If that’s the case, allow me to leave you with a final piece of friendly advice.

Once you install a theme, it remains installed on your site even if you later install and activate a different theme.

If you have too many themes installed on your site at any one time, that could significantly affect your site performance.

With that in mind, be sure to delete any themes you’re not using (especially if you know that you won’t use them again) in order to maintain the kind of fast loading speeds you need to deliver optimum user experiences.

And if you do that and your site still isn’t performing at its best? Check out my guide to the most essential WordPress plugins, which contains recommendations for tools to help improve the speed at which your site loads.

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