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How to Install WordPress Theme: Tutorial for Beginners

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3 Ways to Install Your WordPress Themes

While customizing WordPress themes is a task that requires some expertise programming, installing themes can be quite easy, especially because there is more than only one way you can implement a new theme to your site or blog.

There are 3 different ways to install a new theme. All them, however, are about the same thing: adding themes to your own directory of themes on WordPress, so you can choose either one or other to activate. Installing and activating are two different things, while you can have a lot of different themes installed, you will activate only one every time.

This is specially useful if you are going to implement customizations, widgets, custom menus and any other kind of modification in the default template. You can implement each one of these customizations in each one of the templates you are considering, then you can check out which one better adapts to your needs and finally, activate the one you prefer.

Activating one theme will not delete or remove the others, so you can even have already set two or more themes to be activated on different times throughout the year – a template for the Valentine’s, one for Christmas’, Thanksgiving and so on. They can all be different variations of a same official layout you have chosen for your site or completely different templates. Once they are there on your server, you don’t have to ever remove them again even when they are not active.

Upon the activation of a theme, many themes will enable additional customizations tabs in your Dashboard, which is a great way to make the customization of the theme after the installation as convenient and fast as possible.

Preparing for Installation

Bear in mind when you get a new theme you get a completely brand new set of codes to implement this theme. Everybody adds custom settings to themes and surely your current theme has some modifications, you must not forget about them because you will have to prepare a migration of these additional codes to your new theme.

We don’t have to mention is always good to save a back up folder of the files of your current template, even if the files of the aforementioned one are stored in the server. This is the first thing you should do before you even start to look for new themes or installing and testing new ones.

Mistakes are always likely to happen under these circumstances: you are eager to test implementations in the new themes and you get that scenario where several code pages are opened for editing at the same time. All them look like the same and sloppy incidents are just waiting to happen.

Once you have backed up everything, we are ready to start installing a theme following one of the 3 different methods.

Method #1: The Standard Installation

Selecting a theme from the WordPress directory is the simplest way to install a theme. This process happens via the Administrative area of your WordPress site. The platform has a catalog of thousands of free themes available for instant download, as well as premium themes you will have to purchase (not all paid themes are available in the WordPress directory, though, and we will see further how to install the external ones).

Once you are there in the Administrative panel, do the following steps:

  • Click on the ‘Appearance’ option
  • Click on ‘Themes’
  • Click on ‘Add New’

You will see many different options to filter the available themes in the WordPress directory. You can either check out the tabs Popular Themes, Latest Themes, Featured Themes and the search option.

You can enter specific tags that would describe the kind of themes you are looking for in the search option, like ‘responsive’, ‘glossy’, ‘UI animation’. Just be careful to do not be too picky and demanding. Set some priorities and do a manual selection upon the results. Is quite likely you will not get too much results from way too different tags included in the same search attempt.

Once you have found an interesting theme, you have three different options to check the one you like the best: Install, Preview and Details.
The options speak for themselves, so you can preview the theme before installing it, as well as you can check the details to be sure there is not any element that would conflict with widgets and other codes you will still use with the new theme.

When the theme is already installed, this option will change to ‘Activate’. You should do that only after performing all the changes and additions in the source code, meanwhile you can edit and preview the results.

Method #2: Uploading A Theme to the Directory

If you got a theme that is not in the directory of WordPress you have the option to upload it to the server and it will be recognized by the WordPress platform. The theme will be stored on your own host but WordPress will create a path for it inside the platform and it will be available only for you.

To instruct you how to upload an external theme, we are going to work with the Schema theme developed by MyThemeShop.com. If you like the theme you can check it out and download it here. [link for the theme]

  • Follow the same steps of the previous method to get to the ‘Add New’ theme option
  • Alongside the options of selection and search we have seen before, you will see the ‘Upload’ button
  • Once you clicked it, a Desktop window will pop up so you can choose the “.zip” file with your theme. Select the “.zip” file as it is, not the uncompressed files. WordPress will store them appropriately and then enable the option ‘Activate’. Once again, you can first edit the code and preview it in the Editing mode before you activate the theme for real.

Most paid themes that are sold by other sites and developed by private developers will be available as a .zip file for download in their respecitve web sites. This is one of the two ways to get them installed, the other way is doing a direct upload of these files in the server using an SFTP client.

Method #3: SFTP Upload

If you already use a SFTP client to upload files to your host, this will be the easiest way to install a new theme. If you don’t know how to use a SFTP client and is interested in installing your themes with this method, you can check our article about Installing the WordPress platform where you will find instructions on how SFTP clients work and how to download and configure them.

We strongly suggest you take a look at these instructions because the SFTP upload is a very easy and fast way to manage your site and is specially helpful if you often customize themes and have to reupload and edit them often.

Once your client is already set and working connected to your host server, do the following.

  • Open the folder ‘themes’ in the path: /wp-content/themes/
  • Unzip our Schema theme file directly in this folder of the server, or alternatively unzip it in a folder of your OS and later copy and paste the files to the ‘themes’ folder in the server.
  • Check the Appearance section of the Administrator area of your site, the new theme will show up there. You can them preview it, edit and activate.

And that’s it buddies, no big secrets here. Are you in trouble with something? Let us know in the comments section what do you think about our guide.

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  • Hi there,

    I have downloaded a theme. But when I try
    to install it on my website on WordPress dashboard it gives error i.e. CSS file is missing, theme
    can not be uploaded.

    Any idea what is the problem. Waiting for
    your professional support.