How To Install a New WordPress Theme
After you get your site up and running, you will want to explore new themes and install a new WordPress theme that matches what you want your site do.
But first you are probably asking, “Mike, what is a theme?”.
Good question. A theme simply refers to the design of your website, as well as, the things that your site is able to do.
Some themes help with E-Commerce. while others help you showcase your photography portfolio. Maybe you want a site that advertises your services with a photo gallery. There are also themes that will help you create and publish your own news or magazine style of site.
The possibilities are really endless these days as far as what a theme might offer you for WordPress. This is one of the main reasons we recommend using WordPress in the first place. For example, you don’t need to be an expert in online stores to setup your own E-Commerce site when you combine the power of Plugins with the design of the themes.
Currently, there are around 4000 themes on the WordPress.org site that are grouped into the following categories.
What to do before you install a new WordPress theme?
The good folks at wpbeginner have created a checklist of the 15 things you should do before you change your WordPress theme. Now, not all of these will apply to folks if they are just starting their site. A lot of the things on the checklist will apply to sites that have been up and running for a while.
However, there are some great takeaways from the article, such as:
- Make sure to test all functionality
- Test your site in different browsers
- Verify your loading time isn’t taking too long
A quick summary of those 3 key items is to basically navigate around your site and see how things such as menus and links to other pages work. While you’re testing those things, make sure the loading time of your site isn’t taking too long.
I added a new theme one time that I thought was super fancy, but it acted like a sloth stuck in mud. Looked cool, but provided a horrible user experience.
Also, while you are testing your site and all of its functionality, try viewing your site in different browsers to see what it looks like and how it acts.
Another big thing to remember is to test your site on your mobile device or tablet. Some themes look and run great on the desktop, but fall apart quickly when viewed on your cell phone. The majority are going to work great on both the desktop and mobile, but it is still safer to verify for yourself.
Ready to change my theme
Ok, now you are probably thinking “cool, I’ve got all that. Now how do I install a new WordPress theme?”.
Look on the left hand side of your WordPress Dashboard and click on Customize and then Change Themes.
More than likely you are going to notice a slew of Themes that are already installed. Some might come from your hosting provider. A few just come with the standard install of WordPress.
Either way, let’s ignore those for now and search for one that can help us create a cool online photo gallery.
Click on Add New on the Change Themes page.
This takes you to the Add Themes page where you can search for themes that are available online to download.
Note: If you download a theme from a 3rd party site, you can also Upload Theme on this page, which is basically just selecting the downloaded Zip file and letting WordPress install it for you.
For our example, let’s search for “photo gallery” and see what comes up.
These are the first 8 that show up when I search, but if you scroll through the list you will see there are quite a few to choose from. They each have their own unique style and design.
Narrow down your selection
To get a closer look and preview of a theme in the search results, hover your mouse over one of the themes and select the “Preview” button that becomes visible. On this page you will be able to interact with a very minimal version of the site, but it gives you an idea of the look and feel of the site you’re interested in.
On the left hand side of the “Preview” page will have a section with more details about the theme like who made it, the purpose of the theme, and the rating.
One thing I love about WordPress is the ratings and reviews you will see everywhere for Themes and Plugins. It gives you an idea of how others are liking the theme and if there are any issues in the current version.
Once you have picked the theme that interest you, select the blue “Install” button to add the theme to your WordPress installation.
Note: This doesn’t change your site just yet. It simply adds it to your WordPress install so it will become an option for you to use later on.
Remember how you first noticed you already had themes “installed“? That’s what the install button does here. Just because a theme is installed doesn’t mean you are using it yet. It just means it is available for you to use.
Theme is installed, now what?
Now that you have your potential new theme installed, let’s go back to the menu on the left and select the Customize > Change Themes link again.
You should see the one you downloaded in your list of Installed Themes. This is the fun part now.
Hover your mouse over the new theme you installed and select “Live Preview“.
For my example, I’m showing the Twenty Twenty theme because most new WordPress installs should have this theme already installed by default.
If you happen to have some blog posts and pages already written, you will see your data on the pages with the look and feel of the new theme. Don’t worry, you still haven’t changed anything yet. That won’t happen until you select the “Activate” button.
However, before you do that, just make sure you check out the article from wpbeginner to see if there is something you should do before you change your theme if your site isn’t brand spanking new.
Here is a screenshot of my “Live Preview“. You’ll notice the Activate & Publish button in the top left. Don’t click that button until you are comfortable and ready for your new theme to be activated.
You’ll also notice it is kind of drab and boring. Once you get more familiar with the WordPress ecosystem, you can start exploring the menus on the left to change things like colors, images, menus, etc.
If you are just starting out, it’s not going to hurt you to start playing with those things to see what it is they do. Once you get too far down the road, though, I do recommend that you start making back-ups of your site for safe keeping in case anything goofy happens and you need to restore a previous version of your site.
That’s it for now. As you can see, it is fairly easy to install a new WordPress theme. However, if you ever have any questions feel free to leave them below.
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Until next time, hustle on!