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WordPress Learning Guide – How-to Install Themes

Nadiia Zavalko
By | 2017-08-04T12:57:25+00:00 May 23, 2017|WordPress|

Following our last WordPress Learning Guide article, to build your own WordPress blog, where we have covered how to install WordPress on various platforms, we will this time cover and describe different themes for WordPress and you will find a description of the features and capabilities of the themes. But firstly let’s talk about the basic principles. You’ve installed WordPress, but the standard Twenty Eleven theme seems too simple and boring and you want to give your site an original look. So, how do you install a new theme?

First, we’ll figure out what a “theme” is in the context of WordPress. The WordPress theme is the shell of the site, its appearance. From a technical point of view, it’s a set of .php files and .css markup styles that define the structure, placement, and coloring of the elements on the site.

  1. Installing a Theme
  2. Adding new Theme
  3. Installation via Console
  4. Installation via FTP client
  5. 9 tips and hints for choosing a new WordPress theme
  6. Learn the reliability and security of your WordPress theme
  7. Checking the speed of loading themes in WordPress
  8. Free Themes vs. Premium Themes

Installing a Theme

It is important to note that when you change the theme, the content of the site does not change. Changes will be applied only to the appearance. Here is an example, this is how the standard theme Twenty Seventeen looks like on a test site:

WordPress Learning Guide - Twenty Seventeen WordPress theme

And this is how the same site looks with a wonderful theme Parallax One

WordPress Learning Guide - Parallax One WordPress Theme

Before you install a new theme on the site, you need to download it. On the Internet, you can easily find thousands of different themes for WordPress, premium and free. Just type a query “WordPress themes” to search, and you will see the huge result’ number.

There are couple ways to install the WordPress theme on the site: through the Console of Site Management or through FTP client or using Add New button, which has available themes to download. Let’s briefly check out those options.

Adding new Theme

You can download Themes directly to your site by using the Add New Themes option in the Appearance sub-menu. Go to Appearance → Themes and select “Add New”.

WordPress Learning Guide - Add New Theme

Either use the Search or Filter options to find a theme you would like to use.

WordPress Learning Guide - Searching WordPress Themes

Click on the Preview link to preview the theme or the “Install Now” button to upload the theme to your site:

WordPress Learning Guide - Adding WordPress Theme

Installing via Console

To download a theme to the site through the Console, it must be downloaded and saved locally in .zip format. The theme loader, which is built into WordPress accepts only this format.
Go to the Console and then go to the Appearance → Themes menu. This menu displays all currently installed themes on the site. Click “Add New”.

WordPress Learning Guide - Appearance Theme

Then click “Upload Theme”

Now specify the path to the downloaded topic in the .zip format and click “Install Now”.
The theme will be set, and as next step just click “Activate”.

Once theme fully installed feel free to Customize it according to your own needs:

After you have performed needed changes, don’t forget to save & publish them.


Installation via FTP client

This method assumes that you have a login and password for the FTP access to the site. We need any FTP client, there are a lot of clients for Windows, Mac OS, Linux. As an example, we’ll use an excellent built-in FTP in Total Commander.
To connect to our site, where we want to download a new topic, you need to do the following.
Open the menu “Net → FTP Connect..”, then click on the “New Connection…” button and specify need parameters, after that connect:

Once the connection is established, you will see the file structure of your site. We are interested in the /wp-content/themes directory. We see that it contains default theme folders: “twentyfifteen”, “twentyseventeen”, “twentysixteen”. All you need to do is put our new theme folder next to the folder “twentyfifteen”. The difference from the first method is that you need to upload not a .zip archive with a theme, but a folder from the zip archive. So unpack the downloaded archive with the theme and just drag the folder next to “twentyfifteen”. The result should be like this:

There’s only left to go to the WordPress Console and activate a new theme from the Appearance → Themes menu according to the instructions described in the first part of the lesson.
Now you know how to install themes for a site on WordPress. The first method is easier and more understandable for beginners because all actions are performed directly through the Console. But the advantage of the second is that you can edit individual theme files directly through an FTP client. This is convenient if you need to correct a specific parameter directly on the site without having to reload the entire theme.


9 tips and hints for choosing a new WordPress theme

Choosing a theme for your WordPress site can be a real headache. There are thousands of them, and it seems that you are already lost forever in this labyrinth of variations.
So, when choosing a theme:

1. Consider that the theme demo is a puzzle
When considering a WordPress theme demo, imagine a huge puzzle, especially when you look at the start page. Pay attention to division into sections, and visualize them with your content. Imagine if this page structure suits you, or is there something more suitable?

2. Imagine how your content fits in
Do not pay too much attention to the content of the demo version. Imagine how your content will look, whether it’s text or another type of content. Does the subject present your content correctly, and how will your users react by visiting your site? Try to view your page as an ordinary visitor who just visited your site and saw it for the first time.

3. Concentrate on the theme, not on its title
Many themes have received a name from the occupied niche. There are themes that are created specifically for lawyers, realtors, churches, beauty salons, etc. But that does not mean that you can not use them. Of course, in these topics, there will be some special functions for a particular sphere, but most likely, they will also suit you. Try to be creative.

4. Go deep in the demo
In most demos, you can not see the backend or settings. But you will definitely be shown several options for color solutions, page layouts, and other parameters. In addition, you can learn a lot from the navigation bar of a specific theme. Imagine that you are an examiner, and the student has brought you to defend specific theme, try to find all its flaws.

5. Look at the function of the theme
All themes have a description, and often there are the functions of the theme (for example, adaptive design). Read carefully and make the right choice. Do not choose a theme without built-in adaptive design. On the other hand, a lot of built-in sliders for pictures and galleries – should not be the reason for the decision in favor of this topic. All this is elementary delivered by separate free plug-ins.

6. Read the technical documentation
Usually, you can not get the documentation before the purchase, which is logical. If you manage to get this topic anywhere for free, it will be fair that only official buyers will get access to the documentation. But if they share it with you, or you are going to use a free theme, be sure to carefully review the documentation. You may have questions that can only be answered there.

7. Ask questions before purchasing
If you have questions about the theme, do not hesitate to write to support or developers. They want to sell their product, so they will do everything to satisfy you. On the sites for premium themes, for example, ThemeForest, there is always the contact information of the developers so ask your questions and be sure while choosing.

8. Check reviews from other users
It is not always useful to google reviews about the theme, as you do not know the person who wrote it personally. But sometimes, when reading reviews, you can finally make a decision. But do not forget that everyone has a different experience, and you can find angry reviews about the theme with 99.9% positive comments. And this is enough to shake your confidence. Try to be objective when studying comments.

9. Ask people you trust
If someone used a theme or installed it on client sites, ask for an opinion about it. This will be the best help. This information will be much more valuable than other responses from unknown people from Google, it will help a lot when making a decision.
That’s all. 9 tips for you. And if you just start looking for a theme, then good luck to you!


Learn the reliability and security of your WordPress theme is a service that provides validation for the themes for the site on WordPress or Joomla. Visitors can upload themes and templates, and the resource itself analyzes the files and tests the reliability and quality of the code. This site shows the quality of the theme and gives some recommendations.

The site shows an evaluation of previously proven themes, both free and premium.

On, there is an icon next to each topic that shows its rating and refers to a report with comments. Authors of posts or sites that distribute themes or templates can install icons on their websites.

The resource for testing uses a special plug-in Theme Check to conduct the assessment of the themes. This plugin helps developers of WordPress themes make sure that their development meets the latest standards.

The site can be very useful for those who are looking for free themes for WordPress, while there are many premium ones as well. There’s a choice for sorting themes by “Newer first” or by “Higher scores first”.


Checking the speed of loading themes in WordPress with WP Speedster

It’s not a secret to anyone that the speed of loading a site directly affects its ranking in search results. Therefore, it makes sense to optimize and speed up its work as much as possible. Especially now, when almost everyone uses a mobile Internet, the user will not wait long for the page to load and the user will leave it. So your site should be pretty fast and responsive.

So, let’s have a closer look at at the WP Speedster tool and the free Themes Speed Test plug-in for testing the speed of WordPress themes loading.

WP Speedster has its own site, where the loading speed of more than 2500 themes from the WordPress directory was tested using the Google PageSpeed tool. The loading time of the home page of each theme is tested on the PC and mobile device. It is recorded on the service and entered into the database together with the assessment of the theme.

The starting page of the site contains already tested themes with the best loading rates: common ratings (for desktops and mobile), top estimates of home pages, and pages of records.

Each theme has its own separate page with a detailed description, tags, previews and links for download. Also on the page, you will find individual speed tests, such as the full size of resources, the size of HTML, CSS, Javascript, etc.

Also in the WordPress directory, there is a free plug-in that tests the loading speed of the pages of the tested themes.

The plugin menu contains available themes with the specified percentage of the loading speed if they are in the directory.


Free Themes vs. Premium Themes

The official WordPress Theme Repository has hundreds of free WordPress themes, which you can use and modify if needed. On a market there are many Premium WordPress Theme providers, selling themes with a lot of options and support.

Choosing a free WordPress theme

A common myth among new WordPress users is that free themes are probably low-quality themes. Many believe that due to the growing industry of WordPress based solutions, theme developers are not developing free WordPress themes anymore. However, this is not true. In fact, free WordPress themes listed in WordPress repository, go through a strong review process. Many other developers distribute their themes for free to get free linkbacks, develop a portfolio, build a reputation, and to get some more paid work. So a free theme is not a low-quality theme. Let’s make a pros and cons list:

Price – Totally free.
Freedom –Free to use, build, modify and redistribute.
Community support – Free support is available from WordPress Community members on official forums, WordPress Codex, and IRC. Support can be provided by some developers on their own websites or forums.
Backward compatibility – Due to the strong review process most free WordPress Themes use latest functions and hooks which will remain compatible with core WordPress for at least a couple of years and sometimes even longer than that. Even if they get deprecated they will still be supported for next few releases.
Easy upgrades – WordPress automatically checks for upgrades of themes downloaded from WordPress Theme repository and notifies you as soon as a new version is available.
Compatible with Plugins – Since support is provided for these themes through official forums, usually when a plugin doesn’t work with any of these themes; it gets reported and resolved quickly.

No warranties– Free WordPress theme comes with no obligation or warranty of any kind.
Limited support options – Sometimes you would need answers to resolve things quickly and you cannot force the community to answer your questions.
Updates are not regular – Even though providing updates for a free theme is easier but you will not see many themes issuing updates regularly.
No instant patches – If there is a bug in theme, a quick fix will not be sent to you via update system.

Choosing a premium WordPress theme

Premium WordPress themes actually provide solutions that the Open Source community cannot provide without charging money. The advantages and disadvantages of choosing a Premium WordPress theme are:

Price – paying for it gives you the assurance that you can make demands because you are a customer now.
Support options – The official developers available for you to respond to your requests any time.
Feature add – Most developers when developing a premium theme, are aware of the fact that they need to provide features that are not available elsewhere. Therefore, you get a unique feature in the theme and makes things a lot easier for you.
Variety – Premium themes always come in a variety of different style and type of websites.
Less exposed –In general they are less exposed and your visitors would find your design reasonably special.

Price – Not everyone can afford or is willing to pay.
Compliance – A premium theme may not be as standard compliance as free themes on official repository.
Difficult to configure – A user with basic knowledge of theme development, HTML, PHP, CSS will find premium themes difficult to modify.
Overly Efficient – In the race to build feature rich themes, developers could add a lot of functionality that you will probably never use.

When choosing a WordPress theme you should think more on the website’s needs, goals you want to achieve, your budget and own capabilities of managing things. Ideally, you should be looking for a theme that:
+ Provides the features and functionality you need.
+ A theme that is easy to configure and customize.
+ It is regularly updated and is properly maintained by developers.
+ Comes with support options or qualified documentation.


In the next article on our WordPress learning guide, we will publish a comparison between best themes, so you can get a clear picture on the features and other capabilities of each theme. Stay tuned.

About the Author:

Nadiia Zavalko
Nadiia is a vibrant web-developer, supportive QA, writer who enjoys diving in the IT