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How to Install WordPress Themes

Mara Calvello
Mara Calvello  |  April 23, 2019

How do you get your WordPress site to convey the right message?

Choose the right theme.

That, of course, is easier than it sounds. Especially since a lot goes into the ins and outs of website building and factoring in the many web design elements to choose from can feel like a lot. And when you consider that 38 percent of visitors will stop engaging with a website if the content or layout is unattractive, you know you have to choose wisely.

Thankfully, WordPress takes a lot of these factors and makes them simple, including choosing the theme, or the design, of your website.

Whether you’re installing a WordPress theme for the first time, or just want to give your site a new look and feel, you may need help installing your WordPress theme. It’s simple to do and can make a big difference in how your visitors interact with your site. 

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Installing WordPress themes

Before you decide on a WordPress theme, it’s important to take into consideration the type of WordPress account your website is run on:

WordPress Themes by Plan

Essentially, if it’s run on WordPress.org, you can choose a free theme, a premium theme, or upload your own. If you have a free or personal WordPress.com site, you can only choose free themes. If you have a premium or business WordPress.com site, you can either choose a free or paid theme.

Tip: A Premium WordPress theme is one that you need to pay for to use. It offers more customization and more features.

Now that you know your options, let’s explain how to both install or upload a WordPress theme.

Install from the WordPress Theme Directory

There are many free and premium WordPress themes that you can take advantage of, and they’re easy to install. Once logged in, click on Themes under the Appearance tab, which will take you to the WordPress Theme Directory.

WordPress Themes

To add a new theme, click Add New at the top of the page.

Add new WordPress theme

If you need a specific type of theme, click over to Feature Filter at the top to select between various subjects, features, and layouts. Click Apply Filters to see themes that only fit this specific criteria.

Filter through WordPress themes

You can also browse by featured, popular, latest, and your favorite themes. While every theme listed in this directory has been thoroughly tested to make sure it doesn’t have any glitches, it’s still important that you take the time to make sure the theme has exactly what you’re looking for.

Tip: If you're new to WordPress and could use some advice, check out these WordPress tips to get you started!

To do so, hover over the theme you’re interested in and click Details & Preview to learn more.

View details and preview WordPress theme

This will allow you to read a description of the theme, scroll through reviews from other WordPress users, and see how various elements will look once you post a WordPress blog.

WordPress theme preview

When you’re satisfied you have found the right theme for your website, click Install at the top. Once installed, WordPress will give you two options. Choose Live Preview to see what your site will look like using this theme. You should always do this first to ensure everything appears the way you want before making the changes live on your website.

Once you’re pleased with the final look, click Activate to immediately change your theme.

Activate or preview WordPress theme

If you have more than one website on WordPress, you may find it difficult to manage all of them seamlessly. Check out WordPress site management software that allows you to access, monitor, update, and edit multiple sites in one dashboard.

Find the best WordPress Site Management software. Discover Now, Free →

Upload custom WordPress theme

If you want your WordPress website to have a theme that is entirely unique and not found in the directory, that’s easy too! Whether you have bought a premium theme from a different directory, a web designer's website, or a graphic designer, WordPress makes the process simple.

First, save the zip file onto your computer. Follow the same steps listed for the process above, but instead of clicking one of the ready-made themes after clicking Add New, choose Upload Theme from the top of the screen.

Click Upload Theme

Choose the file from your computer and click Install Now.

Install a custom WordPress theme

Once WordPress has completed installing your custom theme, you will be given the choice to either preview it live or activate it immediately. Again, you’ll want to preview the changes live before making any permanent changes to your website.

Change it up

No matter your reasoning for installing a WordPress theme, make sure it goes with the overall message behind the brand of your website. The right theme can do wonders for your WordPress site, so take your time when deciding. Also, it’s best to make sure the theme works for desktop, mobile, and tablet browsers and that it doesn’t create an increase in load speed.

There are a lot of themes to choose from, and thankfully, you can change your mind as often as you want.

Interested in doing more to your WordPress site? Learn how to embed a YouTube video and how to create a contact form! And, since everyone makes mistakes at some point, learn how to avoid these six WordPress mistakes.

Mara Calvello

Mara Calvello

Mara is a Senior Content Marketing Specialist at G2. In her spare time, she's typically at the gym polishing off a run, reading a book from her overcrowded bookshelf, or right in the middle of a Netflix binge. Obsessions include the Chicago Cubs, Harry Potter, and all of the Italian food imaginable. (she/her/hers)