The success of your WordPress site highly depends on the theme you use. We have already explained the difference between free and paid WordPress themes and emphasized the importance of using a premium theme for your site. In this article let us explore more on how to install theme in WordPress site and manage it effectively.
Install Theme in WordPress Site
There are multiple ways to install a theme depending on whether you use free or paid version. Overall, it is necessary to understand the following theme management topics:
- Theme installation as part of hosting plan
- Installing theme from WordPress admin panel
- Installing theme using FTP
- Changing the active theme
- Updating theme
- Modifying theme files – Creating child theme
- Using multiple themes on single site
- Using block based themes
Remember, installing a theme will NOT change the theme of your site. You should activate the installed theme to make it live on your site.
Themes from Hosting Package
Many hosting companies like SiteGround offer white labelled themes as part of their hosting plans. Since WordPress will be installed when you purchase a plan, you can also a choose a starter templates from the hosting company to kick start your site without looking anywhere else. However, we do not recommend using templates that come from hosting companies for the following reasons.
- These themes will not work when you change the hosting company.
- They are highly restricted in terms of functionalities.
- Hosting company themselves do not support any conflicts that comes from their theme and other plugins on your site.
- Most of the themes are simple in nature and do not have SEO and optimization features.
Generally, the process works with a support plugin to choose your theme from a list. However, the process may vary based on the company and some companies also do not provide any themes at all. So, we will not cover this aspect much in this article.
Free Vs Premium Themes
When you complete your WordPress installation, the site will use the default twenty twenty (or the latest one from WordPress.org) theme. You have two options to choose an alternate theme:
- Search a free theme from WordPress theme repository
- Purchase a premium theme from third party vendors
Remember there is no such free thing in this world. The free themes available on the repository are mainly for showcasing purposes from the theme sellers. They will offer basic or limited version for free and ask you to upgrade for getting all the features. Some typical examples include footer link to theme’s owner, upgrade required for slider, etc. Generally these kinds of restrictions are not suitable for business websites though personal sites can be fine with them. But the important aspect of using free themes is the availability of support. The theme author may or may not support the free themes actively and you may be in trouble if the theme is conflicting with any other installed plugins. So it is safe to go for a premium theme from popular shops so that the support is assured.
Note: Remember some of the plugins are equally important like your theme and you can’t deactivate them. SEO and security plugins are good examples and removing them may change the behavior of the complete site. If your theme is conflicting with the important plugins on your site, you may end up in changing the theme instead of troubleshooting the plugin.
Theme Management Interface
Before proceeding further, it is necessary to understand the admin interface section for theme management. Navigate to “Appearance > Themes” menu in your WordPress admin panel. Here you will see all previously installed themes on your site.
The theme management section has the following options:
- Navigation menu to go to “Themes” section
- View the active theme name
- Option to customize the theme by going to live customizer
- Get the details of a theme (hover to view “Theme Details” button)
- Activating any of the installed theme
- Live preview any of the installed theme
- Add a new theme
- Navigation menu to go to theme file editor (the latest interface will show it as “Theme File Editor)
- Search box to search themes from the installed themes, if you have many installed on your site
- Updating to latest version
- Getting help on theme management
Note: The interface will change if you are using blocked based themes or premium version. For example, the “Appearance” section will have only “Themes” and “Editor” sub-menus if you are using the block based themes like Twenty-Twenty-Two.
The theme showing as “Active” is the one used on your site currently.
Installing Theme from Admin Panel
Once you have finalized a free theme or purchased a premium them the next step is to install it on your site. Go to “Appearance > Themes” section and click on the “Add New” button to go to the free WordPress theme repository.
WordPress theme repository is the place where you can find a free themes for your site. The section is classified into multiple groups like featured, popular and latest for easy filtering. Also use “Featured Filter” option to filter the themes based on layout, features and subject. Once you like any of the theme, select it and install on your site. All those themes installed on your site will show with an indication as “Installed”.
Uploading a WordPress Theme from Admin Panel
As mentioned, the above option will only work if the theme is available in free WordPress repository. If you have downloaded a premium or free theme outside WordPress repository, then click on the “Upload Theme” button when adding a theme. Upload the zipped theme folder and click on the “Install Now” button.
You will see the progress of theme installation is running on the status bar showing the percentage of completion. Once completed, the screen will show the details like below with options to live preview and activate the installed theme.
Click on the activate link to enable the theme as active theme for your site.
Installing Using FTP
For any reasons if you are not able to install a theme from admin panel then login to your FTP account. Navigate to “/wp-content/themes” folder and upload the unzipped theme folder. This will install the uploaded theme which can be seen under “Appearance > Themes” section from the admin panel.
Remember you need to use the ZIP file for uploading through admin panel while you should use the extracted theme folder for uploading through FTP.
Block Themes for WordPress
WordPress introduced Gutenberg blocks editor with the version 5.0. Now, the entire things are moving towards using block based editor in WordPress. As mentioned, the admin interface will change when you install a block based theme. You can use the full-site editor function for creating templates and reuse them on the site without any page builder plugins. All other functions of installing and managing block based themes remain same at this point of time.
Using Premium Theme Through Add-on Plugin
This is the latest business model followed by most of the WordPress theme developers. For example, you can download the free Astra and GeneratePress themes from WordPress theme repository. However, the premium version of these themes come as an add-on plugin which you can install through “Plugins > Add New > Upload Plugin”.
Using Multiple Themes on a Single Site
There are situation you would like to use different themes on your site. There is a plugin for supporting multiple themes on your single WordPress installation. But we never recommend to do this with the plugin.
First ensure all themes you use are having an appropriate license. Then install WordPress separately on subdirectories or subdomains and upload the required theme. In this manner, you can control each theme as a separate installation without mixing them up.
Generally the available updates are shown in the admin panel for all the themes you have installed from the repository. You can click on the “Update now” link to update theme to the latest version.
It is also possible to view and update the themes under “Dashboard > Updates” menu.
Some premium themes need a plugin or a new install every time for updating. For example, Envato authors offers an add-on plugin for connecting to your account for getting the latest updates. If you are using a pro add-on plugin, you need to update the free theme and premium plugin independently as and when the updates are available.
Note: WordPress also offers autoupdate feature for automatically updating the installed themes from free WordPress repository. You can enable auto-update for individual themes by going to “Appearance > Themes > Select a theme > Click enable auto-updates link”. However, we strongly recommend not enabling auto-update to avoid unforeseen errors after updates.
Modifying Theme Files
Practically it is very difficult to find a theme that will be fulfilling all your needs. Most of the time you will be ending up in modifying the core theme files like functions.php to get the required feature. All theme files can be modified under “Appearance > Theme File Editor” menu. Remember all changes you have done will be wiped off when you update the theme with new files.
- The file editor menu (blocks theme will have this menu under “Tools” section)
- Choose the theme
- Choose the file to edit
- Edit the content
- Click “Update File” button to save the changes
WordPress will also shown n warning message when you go to the theme editor section for the first time.
So the best way to modify your theme is to create a child theme and use the modified files separately without mixing them with the main theme’s files. Learn more on creating child theme and how to delete your WordPress theme.
Note: If you only want to add CSS, you can add under “Appearance > Customize > Additional CSS” section without the need of editing theme files or creating child theme. For block themes, you can manage this under “Themes > Editor” section as there will be no separate customizer.