How to install a WordPress theme

How to install a WordPress theme


When you set up a WordPress website for the first time, the first priority is getting the theme sorted. After all, until you get the window dressing on, you can’t doll the site up with all the bells and whistles such as plugins. Assuming you’ve found your theme already, how do you then install the WordPress theme? It’s easier than you think, and we’re here today to walk you through it.

Read more: What is WordPress, and should you use it?


To install a WordPress theme, you can either install it directly through the WordPress backend on your domain, or download the zip file from the WordPress theme directory. Both are just as easy and just as fast.


How to install a WordPress theme from the Themes tab

Both theme installation methods are just as easy, but if you’re already rummaging around in the WordPress backend on your website, you may as well install the theme from there (assuming it’s in the WordPress directory).

Go to Appearance–>Themes.

install wordpress theme

You will see the currently installed theme on the page. To install a new one, click Add New at the top.

wordpress theme add new

If you know the theme’s name, you can type it into the search engine, and it will come up. But it must be in the WordPress themes directory for it to appear. Third-party themes do not appear here. If you are still unsure what theme you want, you can use the Feature Filter to specify what you’re looking for.

wordpress theme search

The feature filter breaks down the themes by subject, features, and layout. Tick the ones you need, click Apply Filters, and the page results will give you matching results.

wordpress theme filter

Once you have found the theme you want, mouse over it, and some options appear. If you are sure you definitely want the theme, you can go straight ahead and click the Install button. However, if you want to make one final check, click Preview.

wordpress theme select

Preview gives you a look at what your page will look like, without the theme actually being installed. However, the theme features will not be activated, so you’re really just looking at a rather bare-bones page. Once you’ve decided you want it, click Install.

wordpress theme live preview

To actually activate the theme, and have it show on your website, now click Activate.

wordpress theme activate

If you now click out of this page and go back to the themes page, you’ll see the new theme in first place. The older theme will be deactivated and sitting rather lonesome at the back. I recommend you keep it, though, because if your primary theme fails, it will need a theme to fall back on. You can now visit your site to check if the theme is installed properly.

wordpress theme installed

How to manually upload and install a WordPress theme themes

If you downloaded a theme directly from the WordPress theme directory, or you bought a paid theme from a third-party developer, you will end up with a zip file on your computer. You now need to upload it to your WordPress backend. Do not unzip the folder and extract the files!

Go to Appearance–>Themes, and click Add New at the top.

wordpress theme add new
wordpress upload theme

Click Choose file and navigate to the location on your hard drive where the zip file is located, and choose it. Alternatively, you can use your mouse to drag and drop the zip file onto the Choose file button. Both work just as well.

wordpress theme choose file

When you see the theme name appear in the box, click Install Now.

wordpress theme selected

WordPress will now tell you that the zip file is being unpacked and the files installed. When it has been successfully done, you will see a success message and a link to either live preview the theme or activate it. Choose one. Until you activate the theme, it will not appear on your site.

wordpress theme zip file installed

How to delete a theme in WordPress

As well as the active primary theme, you should have a secondary theme as a backup in case the first one fails for any reason. Sometimes, a bug in an update can cause the theme to crash, and if you don’t have a backup, your whole site will be one big hot mess.

Anything over two themes should ideally be deleted, in the interests of site speed. To delete a theme, make sure it is not the currently active theme. Once the theme you want to delete has been deactivated, mouse over it and click the thumbnail picture.

wordpress themes list

In the bottom right-hand corner, you will see a Delete button. Click it, and you will be asked to confirm. Once you do so, the theme is gone.

wordpress theme delete


That all depends on the purpose of your site. If you’re making a small personal website as a hobby, paying a lot of money for a theme may not be worth it. However, if you are running a business and chasing sales, having a paid theme may pay off in the long term.

The clue is in the name. A one-page theme is a theme with only one page. People use these to advertise themselves online, or for product landing pages.

Yes, each year, WordPress brings out a new default free theme named after the year it was released. You can, of course, delete this theme and install another one if you wish.

A responsive WordPress theme is one that works well, no matter what type of screen the site is viewed on. Whether on a desktop computer, a tablet, or a mobile device, a responsive site will detect the device type being used and always position the page elements correctly. You should always aim for a responsive theme.


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