How to Install a WordPress Theme: A Beginner’s Guide

How to Install a WordPress Theme, featured image

With so many free and premium WordPress themes available, choosing a new theme for your website can be a difficult and time-consuming decision. Luckily, installing a WordPress theme is the total opposite — a quick and easy process that enables you to install and activate a new theme on your website in a matter of minutes.

In this beginner’s guide, we will walk you through exactly how to install a WordPress theme. We provide step-by-step instructions on how to install both free and premium themes covering the following two methods:

  1. Uploading a theme via the WordPress admin theme search.
  2. Uploading a theme as a .zip file.

We will also share some advice on where to find WordPress themes and what factors to take into consideration when choosing one. Let’s get started…

Where to Find a WordPress Theme

There are thousands of free and premium WordPress themes available, and finding the right one for your project can take a while. So, where should you look?

Free WordPress Themes

WordPress.org theme directory

If you are on a budget then, fortunately, you can find a wide assortment of free themes in the WordPress repository. The themes listed within the repository have been through stringent checks, ensuring they are well-coded, safe, and secure.

On the downside, free WordPress themes are often lacking features you might want to use. However, as a workaround, you can install plugins to add the extra functionality that you need.

Premium WordPress Themes

Premium Themes

Premium themes can be purchased from theme shops, or often directly from the theme developers' websites. There are thousands of premium WordPress themes to choose from. So, whatever your industry or feature list is, you will be able to find a theme that is right for your business. Here are a few of our favorite theme shops and developers:

  • ThemeForest – This popular theme shop offers an extensive collection of WordPress themes.
  • Elegant Themes – A reputable theme developer, Elegant Themes has developed several WordPress themes, including its flagship theme Divi.
  • StudioPress – Another well-known theme developer, StudioPress sells both its own theme creations and a range of third-party WordPress themes.
  • aThemes – Last but not least, check out our beautiful free and premium themes here at aThemes.

So, now you know where to find WordPress themes. Let’s next look at some criteria for choosing the right theme for your project…

How to Choose a WordPress Theme

If you are opting for a free theme, then the good news is you can easily install and delete as many themes as necessary until you find the appropriate one. However, if you are looking to purchase a premium theme, consider the below factors before parting with your money:

  • Multipurpose vs. Built-for-PurposeMultipurpose themes usually come with multiple demos, a powerful page builder, and an extensive feature list, enabling you to create a unique website to your exact specifications. On the other hand, built-for-purpose themes have been designed for a specific industry, and will only contain the features and functionality necessary for that niche. If you are new to WordPress and have limited web design experience, we recommend choosing a built-for-purpose theme.
  • Features – Make a list of all the features your website will need and keep them in mind when browsing themes. Remember, less is more — too many unnecessary features will slow down your site.
  • Ratings and Reviews – As well as buying from a reputable theme developer or shop, it is always worth checking out a theme’s ratings and reviews. If the number of bad reviews is high, be cautious and do further research.
  • Support – Free themes come with limited support options, but you can expect more from a premium theme. Check out what support is on offer — at the very least, you want your new theme to come with easy-to-follow setup documentation. Many premium themes also offer email or live chat support, which can be especially helpful for anyone new to web design.

Once you have decided on a WordPress theme, it is time to install it on your website. So, let’s find out how to do that…

How to Install a WordPress Theme (via the Admin Theme Search)

If you want to install a free theme from the WordPress repository, then the easiest way to do so is to install it via the Admin Theme Search in your WordPress dashboard.

To get started, open your WordPress dashboard and click the Appearance > Themes menu in the left sidebar.

Appearance > Themes menu

On the Themes page, you will see the WordPress themes that are already installed on your site. Now, click on the Add New button, which you will find at the top of the page.

Add New button on Themes admin page

On the Add Themes admin page, you can view all the themes stored in the WordPress repository, without having to actually leave your site.

Add Themes

Themes are divided into categories, making them easier to browse. Categories include:

  • Featured
  • Popular
  • Latest
  • Favorites

If you have an idea of what features you would like your theme to include, you can use the Feature Filter search tool as well.

Feature Filter search tool

Feature Filter enables you to browse themes based on:

  • Subject (such as Blog, eCommerce, Portfolio, and others).
  • Features (such as Custom Colors, Footer Widgets, Full Width Template, and others).
  • Layout (such as Grid Layout, One Column, Two Columns, and others).

Simply select the features you would like in a theme, then click on the Apply Filters button. WordPress will then display a list of themes that incorporate your chosen features.

Feature Filter search results

However, if you have already decided on a WordPress theme for your website, you can just type the name of that theme into the search bar. For instance, on the image below, you can see we have searched for aThemes’ Sydney theme.

Sydney WordPress Theme by aThemes

Once WordPress has retrieved the theme, you can click the Preview button to view the theme in your site’s Customizer. If you are happy with your selection, click on Install > Activate to activate the theme.

Install the Sydney theme

Your theme has now been installed and activated, and you can begin to design your new website.

How to Install a WordPress Theme (by Uploading It as a .zip File)

The second method of installing a WordPress theme is to upload it to your website as a .zip file. This option is mainly used if you are installing a premium theme. However, you can upload free themes to your site in this way, too.

To get started, you will first need to download the theme you have purchased from a theme developer or marketplace as a .zip file. You can also download a theme from WordPress.org by opening the theme’s page and clicking on the Download button.

Sydney download from WordPress repo

After your theme has been uploaded, open your WordPress dashboard and select Appearance > Themes.

Appearance > Themes menu

Once the Themes page has opened, click the Add New button. On the next page, click the Upload Theme button that you can find right next to the title.

Upload Theme

Next, select Choose File and find the new theme’s .zip file on your local machine.

Upload Zip File

Then, click on Install Now.

Install Now

WordPress will now upload and install the theme for you. Once it has finished, click the Activate link.

Activate link

Your new theme has now been installed and activated on your WordPress website.

Active Theme

You can now start to customize your website via the live Customizer or the Theme Options panel.

How to Delete a WordPress Theme

WordPress themes are as easy to delete as they are to install. So, if you try out a theme but don't like it, you can quickly delete it and move onto another option. Let's find out more…

To delete a WordPress theme, open your WordPress dashboard and select Appearance > Themes.

Appearance > Themes menu

On the Themes page, scroll down until you find the theme you would like to delete. Hover over the theme image, and when the button appears, click on Theme Details.

Theme Details

A pop-up displaying the theme’s details will now appear. To delete the theme, click on the Delete button in the bottom right-hand corner of the pop-up.

Delete Theme pop-up

Note that you cannot delete an active theme. If you want to delete the theme you are currently using, select and activate another theme first. Once it has become inactive, you can then delete the unwanted theme.

Final Thoughts on How to Install a WordPress Theme

Installing a WordPress theme is a quick and easy process. Making a decision on which theme is the right one for your website is much harder, however. Take your time browsing the themes, and choose the one that is the best match with your needs, not the one that has the largest number of demos or features! Good luck!

Have you got any questions on how to install a WordPress theme? If so, please ask away in the comments below…

Megan Jones

Megan is a freelance writer who loves all things WordPress. She currently lives in Brighton UK with her partner and two small children. When she isn't online she likes walking by the sea, coffee, and traveling anywhere and everywhere. She is available for hire so check out her site jonesblogs.com.

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