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How to Install a WordPress Theme

Wondering how to install a WordPress theme?

There are literally thousands of WordPress themes available on WordPress, with free and paid options. There are also plenty of third party options available too, so you may want to try a few out on your website before deciding which one to use.

This beginner’s guide will show you how to install a WordPress theme with detailed step-by-step instructions. We’ll show you multiple ways in which you can install a WordPress theme so you can find the best method that works for you.

Table of Contents

Before You Begin Installing a WordPress Theme

Installing a WordPress theme isn’t difficult, but once you activate a new theme, your website will look and function differently than it did before.

If you’re changing your existing theme, you’ll need to consider a few things before you get started:

  • Note down any additional code that you’ve added to your current theme
  • Write down your current theme’s load time
  • Make a note of your widgets
  • Copy your Google Analytics tracking code
  • Backup your files
  • Test all existing functionality
If you’re install a theme on a new website, you won’t have to worry about the checklist above. When you’re ready, let’s proceed onto the next step.

Helpful WordPress Resources

If you’re new to WordPress or you’re finding the whole process a little overwhelming, check out our helpful WordPress guides to ensure you don’t get stuck:

Install Using WordPress Admin Themes

You can find plenty of free themes from the WordPress.org theme directory. To locate this, go to Appearance > Themes > Add New.

wordpress themes add new

Here you can filter through featured, popular, and latest themes. You can search for a specific WordPress theme if you have one in mind, or select the ‘Feature Filter’ which will allow you to sort themes based on certain features.

Depending on your search criteria, there will be a list of themes that match your requirements. When you find the theme you want to install, simply hover your mouse on top of the image and click install.

I recommend selecting ‘Preview’ on a theme before installing it so you know what it looks like and how it will work. Clicking preview won’t install the theme, so it’s a good chance to have a play around to make sure the WordPress theme fits your needs.

installing a theme on wordpress

Once your theme is installed, you’ll need to activate it. Click on the ‘Activate’ button from the ‘Add Themes’ menu. Now you’ve activated your new WordPress theme!

Some themes recommend certain plugins for it to function correctly, or for you to be able to customize specific aspects of the WordPress theme. Check any requirements beforehand so you can install the correct plugins.

Install a WordPress Theme Using Upload Method

The first method allows you to install themes from the WordPress.org theme directory. If you want to install a theme from a third party website, you will need to follow this method. The same applies if you want to install a custom theme.

Here are some of our recommendations for the best WordPress theme companies:

Once you’ve got a theme in mind, you’ll need to download the .zip file from the theme marketplace you purchased the theme from.

Now go to Appearance > Themes and click Add New at the top. You’ll see the ‘Upload Theme’ button at the top which you’ll need to click to proceed.

You’ll be asked to choose the zip file you downloaded earlier. Select the file from the location you saved it in and click ‘Install Now’.

Once your theme is installed, you’ll get a message to confirm the theme has been installed successfull. You’ll also be able to activate and preview the theme. Again, I recommend previewing the theme to make sure you’re happy with how your website will look.

Note: Installing a custom theme is a feature only available on WordPress.org. This is a self-hosted version of WordPress, so if you’re not aware of the differences between them, see our article on WordPress.com vs WordPress.org.

Installing a WordPress Theme Using FTP

If you don’t want to use either of the methods above, you can install your WordPress theme using FTP. I would recommend this method for more advanced users rather than beginners, but if you want to expand your knowledge, feel free to give it a try.

You’ll need to download the theme’s zip file onto your computer like you did in method two. Once the zip file has downloaded, unpack it to a new folder. This should create a new folder with the theme’s name on your computer.

Next you will need to connect your website using an FTP client. Once you’re connected, go to /wp-conten/themes where you’ll be able to see folders for any themes currently installed on your website.

Select the unzipped theme folder from your computer and directly upload it to your website in the folder mentioned above.

Once you’ve done this, you can go back to the admin area in WordPress and navigate to Appearance > Themes.

You should be able to see your newly uploaded theme. As you did before, click the activate button when you hover over the theme’s image.

WordPress Themes FAQs

You can only use one theme at a time, but you can install as many themes as you want to. Only an active WordPress theme will display on your website, so when you activate a theme, it will deactivate the previous one.

A child theme is a sub-theme. It takes all of the functionality, features, and styling from the parent theme. You will have to install the parent and child theme on your website, then activate the child theme for it to work.

There are so many good WordPress themes out there, it’s hard to pick just one. It also really depends on your requirements. For example, one theme may be better than another for eCommerce purposes, whereas another could be better for a blog.

Some themes can affect your website’s performance, depending on how well the theme has been coded, additional functionality, and required plugins. To ensure your website has the best possible chance, you should first find a decent WordPress web host that offers reliability and good performance.

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