You’ve got WordPress installed, now you need to select a WordPress theme to install.
But how to do that?
In this post, we will discuss:
- What is a WordPress theme
- How to select a WordPress theme
- Where to look for WordPress themes
- How to install a WordPress theme
What is a WordPress theme?
According to the WordPress codex, a WordPress theme is:
a collection of files that work together to produce a graphical interface with an underlying unifying design for a weblog. These files are called template files. A Theme modifies the way the site is displayed, without modifying the underlying software.
Basically, the theme controls the look, feel, and sometimes the functionality of your site.
WordPress has grown to the point where there are now themes for just about everything, from a standard blog to an online shop. There even are themes that let you build your own social network.
How to select a WordPress theme
Selecting a WordPress theme can be tricky.
That is especially true for anyone new to WordPress/
Some things to check when selecting a WordPress theme include:
Does the theme meet your needs?
Obviously, you need to select a theme that will be able to do everything you want it to.
Some people think that all the themes have the same functionality, but that isn’t true.
It also isn’t that easy to just add some advanced functionality to a theme.
I would suggest picking something that will work for you “out of the box.”
Don’t buy a theme thinking you can easily add a functionality that isn’t there. At least not unless you plan to spend a lot to hire someone or if you know how to do it yourself.
Things you might need includes ecommerce capability, a contact form, a slider, animations, various post formats, the ability to add stuff to the header like contact info and social icons, widgets in the sidebar or footer, and a ton more.
Does the theme use a page builder?
A lot of themes, particularly multipurpose themes, are now using page builders.
Visual Composer is the most popular of these, and it is pretty easy to use.
The page builder allows you to make really advanced layouts and add special features without having to code it all yourself.
Some other page builders are Divi Builder, Beaver Builder, PageLines, Headway, Upfront, and Elementor.
What other major plugins does the theme work with?
If you plan to ever sell something on your site, you probably want WooCommerce (the most popular ecommerce solution for WordPress).
You also might want to see if the theme is compatible with a major contact form plugin, like NinjaForms or Contact Form 7.
If you want to turn your site into a social media site or forum, you’ll want bbPress and BuddyPress compatibility.
As previously mentioned, you probably want Visual Composer compatibility.
Will you be able to grow using this theme?
You really want to select a theme that will work for you for years to come.
That means you want something that can serve multiple purposes and has advanced functionalities. Maybe you don’t need those things yet, but you might in 2-3 years.
If you are set on starting small and will then change to something more advanced, pick something really simple.
How difficult will it be to switch away from this theme?
If your theme uses a page builder, it can be difficult to switch to a new theme that uses a different page builder or one that doesn’t use a builder at all.
For that reason, I’d suggest picking something that you will stick with for a long time.
I’d also suggest using Visual Composer, as that is the most popular page builder and a lot of themes use it. Using it will make it so you can switch to other Visual Composer based themes easily.
Is the theme author reputable?
You might want to consider the theme author when selecting a theme to purchase.
You probably want an author that has been around for awhile and has lots of good reviews.
Scan those reviews to see if they provide good customer support.
I would suggest not going with an author you don’t know anything about.
Likewise, you might want to pick a popular theme instead of a brand new one, as the established themes usually have a lot of support and are built out more than the new ones.
When was the theme last updated?
Having your theme be compatible with the recent WordPress and major plugin updates is crucial. Make sure you buy something that is up to date.
How often do they update the theme?
You also want to make sure the theme author frequently updates their theme. A few times a year is probably a good target.
Having a frequently updated theme means the author is committed to making sure the theme works well all the time and they probably are adding more and more features and fixing bugs.
Where to look for WordPress themes
Probably the top 3 places to look for themes are:
The WordPress site has a section where they post free themes. A lot of these are garbage (especially the older ones) but there are a few hidden gems.
Many also are lite versions of themes that also have a more advanced pro version. Those people want to get you hooked on their theme and then turn you into paying customers.
If you are new to WordPress, you might want to select a WordPress theme from here first and try it out for awhile before buying a premium theme.
The biggest theme marketplace is ThemeForest.
They have thousands of premium (paid) WordPress themes.
StudioPress are the makers of the Genesis Framework.
They sell themes that run on Genesis. That includes both themes that they made themselves and 3rd Party themes.
How to install a WordPress theme
There are really two ways to install a WordPress theme.
Via WordPress.org through dashboard search
If you want to use a theme from WordPress.org, you can install with one click through the WordPress dashboard.
Just go to dashboard > appearance > themes and click “add new” from the top right.
Now search for a theme, then hit the install button.
Upload a theme file
The other way to install a WordPress theme is by uploading it.
That would be how you would install any premium theme.
After downloading the files for the theme, you probably need to unzip the file to be able to access the plain zipped theme file and perhaps a zipped child theme file.
Next, go to Dashboard > Appearance > Themes and hit “add new” from the top right. Then select “upload theme” from the top right corner on the next screen.
Now select your files. They will upload and then you hit activate.
For a premium theme, you probably also want to follow the instructions that came with the theme, such as downloading necessary plugins and importing demo content.
Need help selecting or installing a WordPress theme?
Still not sure how to select a WordPress theme or unsure which one to choose?
If you’d like any help with selecting or installing a theme, please don’t be afraid to get in touch via my contact page.