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The WordPress Series: How to install a theme

The WordPress Series: How to install a theme


Installing a theme is something that everyone dealing with WordPress had to go through. In this article, we’ll take a look at what the different options are and which one to choose.

installing a wordpress theme

You’ve spent days looking for the perfect theme for your WordPress site and you finally found one (if you haven’t yet, we highly recommend visiting our article on how to choose a WordPress theme). You’re ready to kickstart your project - all you have to do now is install it. However, you’ve never done it before, so a little help would be appreciated. No worries - we’re here to do exactly that today!

Where to start with installing your WordPress theme?

For starters, you need to consider if you have a fresh WordPress installation or you’re changing an existing theme. If it’s the latter, creating a backup point would be a good idea.

The installation itself is pretty straightforward. You can proceed in three ways, so we'll take a look at all of them, in order to choose the most suitable for your case.

The first two are rather simple and it shouldn't take more than a couple of minutes, however, there are cases where the more complex option is to be used. This happens mostly if the theme is too big in size or due to other specific technicalities of the theme or your hosting.

How can you proceed? Basially, you have three options:

  • You can use the default WordPress theme search
  • You can upload the compressed file in your WordPress
  • You can upload the theme through FTP

Use the default WordPress theme search

This is the simplest method, though it can only be used with the free themes provided in the WordPress directory. Follow these steps:

  1. Go to the Admin Menu > choose Appearance -> choose Themes

wordpress theme menu

  1. At the top left corner you will see a button “Add New” - click on it

  2. From the directory that will load, choose the theme you like

All the themes are presented with thumbnails, which are designed to show you the general look of the respective theme.

The default category that will pop up is "Featured" but you can switch to the others from the top menu - there are tabs featuring the latest themes (by date), most popular (by download0 or favorite themes. The Favorite category is actually a personalized one, and themes there will appear only if you bookmark them from the WordPress repository on WordPress.org .

The last item on that menu is the Feature Filter, which, as you may have guessed, will allow you to filter the themes by specific aspects:

  • Layout – how many columns will the theme have (one, two), is the sidebar left or right etc.
  • Features – what kind of features must have - customizable elements, front-end editor etc.
  • Subject – topic of the theme such as blog, news, shop

Once you've selected your category (or filters) the available themes according to them will appear.

wordpress free themes

When you see a theme that grabs your attention. move your mouse over its window and a button will appear - “Details & Preview”. Click on it if you want to see the preview and some details such as rating and description. Keep in mind though that if you have no content on your site, the theme will likely not look as on the thumnail.

Once you've chosen your theme, all you have to do is click on the "Install" button you will see in the bottom right corner (when you position your mouse over the theme). If you've opened the Preview, an installation button will aslo appear at the top left corner.

install wordpress theme from repository

Now it will just take a few moments and your new theme is ready - voilà!

In order for the theme to be applied, you need to click on the "Activate" button that will be prompted. Keep in mind that if you skip this part, the theme will be there but you will keep seeing the old design.

If you somehow exited this window, the simplest way to find your freshly installed theme is to revisit the menu Appearance -> Themes. Go to your theme, move the mouse over it and click on “Activate” .

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Upload a compressed file directly e through WordPress

The second method is also quite simple, however, it's more suitable if you've purchased a theme (or gotten a free one that isn't available in the directory)>

This usually means that you have a file that you need to somehow upload in WordPress. The steps are quite similar:

  1. Go to the Appearance menu item > Themes
  2. Click on the button “Add New”
  3. A new option will appear “Upload Theme” (exactly where the Add New button was)

upload a wordpress theme

  1. Click on “Choose File”
  2. Select the .zip file from your computer
  3. Click on “Install Now”

It's very important that your theme is in .zip format - WordPress will not accept any other.

Wait for a few seconds for WordPress to install the theme. On a new page that will open, you should see a confirmation message. From the same page, you can preview the theme you just uploaded, activate it immediately or return to Themes Page.

Upload a theme via FTP

Just in case you don’t have access to the WordPress dashboard at the moment or you couldn’t install the new theme through WordPress admin for any other reason, there is a third method that can help you.

This one isn’t entirely beginner-friendly as you will have to know how to work with an FTP client. It also requires FTP credentials which many beginners don’t know where to find and how to use.

But if you received the FTP login information to your inbox, and you’re not entirely strange to File Transfer Protocol and working with files, installing a WordPress theme this way will take just a few moments.

Upload a WordPress theme via FTP So, instead of going through the user-friendly interface in WordPress like with the previous methods, you can add a theme directly to the themes folder of your WordPress installation:

Download and install free FileZilla or any other FTP client Open the application, and connect to your FTP server Navigate to WordPress folder (usually found in “www” or “public_html” folder) Open wp-content/themes folder Unzip your new theme there (you should end up having one new folder named after the theme) Log in to the WordPress admin dashboard Open Appearance -> Themes Find the new item, bring your cursor over and click the “Activate” button


When you decide to install a new WordPress theme, there are three methods you can use. While themes from the official WordPress directory can be quickly installed through the admin panel, you will have to upload the other ones manually.

Just in case you can’t install a theme through WordPress, use FTP access to transfer the files directly into the folder. As soon as you install a few WordPress themes and try them out, this will become your second nature.

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