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Beginner's Guide to WordPress Themes

Beginner’s Guide to WordPress Themes

WordPress Themes allow you to completely modify the appearance of your website. Choosing a theme for your website can be the most exciting part of the building process.

What are WordPress Themes?

In WordPress, a theme is a collection of templates and stylesheets used to define the appearance and display of a WordPress powered website.

WordPress themes includes all of the things that you typically associate with web design. From color selection to headers, footers, and sidebar positioning. Through its stylesheet, a WordPress theme controls everything related to typography — including font face, font style, margins and indentation, and line spacing.

In other words, a WordPress themes change how your website looks on the front-end, what the visitor will see when they visit your website.

Why use a WordPress Theme?

WordPress works without a theme but the only way to see or preview a page or post is by using an installed theme.

Your theme is the face of your WordPress website, the theme plays an important role in how users as well as search engines perceive it. If your website has valuable content but your theme makes the content hard to read, hard to find, or generally inaccessible in any way, or your website is slow to load and unattractive. You are more likely to lose that visitor from ever coming back to view your website.

Wait, there are more than one type of Themes?

In the world of WordPress there are a few different themes. You have the default themes, premium themes, child themes, framework themes, and starter themes.

We will explain the difference of each theme.

Default themes:

WordPress comes with a default theme to display the front-end of the website. It is the first theme that you see when you first install WordPress. The default WordPress theme is used to showcase the features of WordPress, so it is usually feature rich and can be used to create most basic websites.

Premium themes:

By its most simple definition, a premium WordPress theme costs money. If it is not free, it is premium. A premium theme is usually built by professional web designers, with the specific aim of catering to a market who is willing to pay more for a better product. There are five main principles that make up a premium theme – quality, functionality, security, updates, and support.

Child themes:

A child theme in WordPress is a sub theme that inherits all the functionality, features, and style of its parent theme. Child themes are a safe way to modify a WordPress theme without making any changes to the parent theme files. When the parent theme gets updated, changes made in the child theme are preserved and applied on the updated version as well. Child themes are the safest and best way to make changes to an existing theme. Rather than modifying theme files directly you can simply override them with the templates in the child theme.

Framework themes:

Framework themes often refers to a code library that is used to facilitate development of a theme. They offer a set of standards for theme developers to use in creating their own themes. They are a set of functions and/or features created to support development. Framework themes rely on the mechanism of parent and child themes. A framework theme is a fully functional theme, but its purpose is to serve as a basis for a child theme. The child theme will take advantage of the functions and features of the framework theme to adapt it and create something unique.

Framework examples: Codestar Framework | Genesis Framework

Starter themes:

A WordPress starter theme is a blank theme with minimum design, and a basic or absolutely no layout. These themes usually come with the most used templates in a WordPress theme. Starter themes have code to display posts, archive pages, single posts, comments, but with minimum or no styling at all. Starter themes allow the theme developer to quickly start adding their own styles and build a totally new theme.

Starter examples: Astra | Underscores | Sage

How to Find WordPress Themes?

There are thousands of pre-developed themes available for you for WordPress. However, be careful to choose where you download the themes for your website. Keep in mind that if you install and activate a new theme, it will change how your website looks and functions.

There are a few places where you can get WordPress themes. You can find WordPress themes depending on whether you want free or premium (paid) themes.

The official WordPress themes directory (https://wordpress.org/themes/) is a safe place to find free themes.

Here are two marketplaces that provide premium themes; Code Canyon (https://codecanyon.net/) and MOJO Marketplace (https://www.mojomarketplace.com/).

Free vs. Premium WordPress Themes

With free themes, you can install and use the themes without paying anything, though sometimes certain features are locked unless you pay money. Please keep in mind that free themes are offered as they are, with no warranties, and no promise of support. The theme author can stop working on a theme at any time.

However, most good themes offer limited free support for their themes through the official WordPress support forums. Simply visit the theme page and click on the support tab to post your question.

If you feel you will be needing support, and regular updates, then premium themes would be a better choice.

With premium themes, you will have to pay a one-time fee or subscribe to a membership. Premium themes offer more features than the free themes and are usually higher quality (coded better) and compatible with a greater number of other WordPress plugins and themes.

There are thousands of free themes and there is a good chance you can find a free theme offering the same functionality as a paid theme, but the most valuable feature of a premium theme is support and future updates.

Many marketplaces sell premium themes, but you can also find companies and individuals who retail themes on their own website. There are tons of free and premium themes available, waiting to be discovered.

How to install a WordPress Theme

WordPress themes will allow you to change how your website looks on the front-end, what the visitor will see when they visit your website. In this part, we will show you the three methods of installing WordPress themes.

How to install a free WordPress Theme from the WordPress.org directory

The first thing you will need to do is login to your WordPress admin area.

Next, go to the Appearance >> Themes page and click on the Add New Button.

On the next screen, you will have the ability to select from: Featured WordPress themes, Popular WordPress themes, Latest WordPress themes or Favorites WordPress themes.

Clicking on the ‘Feature Filter’ button will allow you to sort themes based on features.

For instance, you can sort themes by subject, specific features, and layout.

Based on your search, you will see a list of themes that meet your criteria.

In our example, we searched for the popular Astra theme.

When you see the theme that you want to install, simply bring your mouse on top of the image, which will reveal the install button, preview button, and details button.

Go ahead and click on the ‘Install‘ button.

WordPress will now install your theme and show you a success message along with ‘Active’ or ‘Live preview’ buttons.

Click on the ‘Activate‘ button, and you have successfully installed and activated your WordPress theme.

Themes can vary so some themes, may add additional settings options that you may need to configure.

Your theme may ask you to install the recommended plugins, download demo data, or review settings.

You can follow the onscreen instructions or click on the customize button to start setting up your theme.

How to Install a paid WordPress Theme manually

The first method that we covered only allows you to install free themes that are available in the WordPress.org themes directory.

However, if you want to install a premium WordPress theme from companies like Elegant Themes or StudioPress.

Even if you want to install a custom theme, you will need to install the theme using the upload method from your WordPress admin area.

Start by downloading the .zip file of the theme that you purchased from a marketplace or a commercial theme shop.

Next, go to Appearance >> Themes page in WordPress admin area and click on the ‘Add New‘ button at the top.

Here will take you to the add new theme page showing featured free themes.

Since you already have the theme you want to install, click on the ‘Upload Theme’ button at the top.

You will be prompted to choose the .zip file that you downloaded earlier.

Select the file and click ‘Install Now’.

Once your theme is installed, you will see a success message along with the link to activate and preview the theme.

Click on the ‘Activate’ link, and you have successfully installed and activated your WordPress theme.

Themes can vary so some themes, may add additional settings options that you may need to configure either through the theme customizer or through a separate options panel.

Installing a WordPress Theme using FTP

First you will need to setup FileZilla with your hosting connection information.

Next, you will need to download the theme zip file to your computer.

After that, you need to unzip the file on your local hard drive.

Create a new folder with the themes name on your computer.

We downloaded the popular Divi premium theme.

Now that you have the theme files, you are ready to upload them to your website.

You will need to connect to your website / WordPress hosing account using an FTP client like FileZilla.

Open the FTP client on your computer and connect to your website using the login credentials provided by your web host. Once connected, you need to go to the /wp-content/themes/ folder on your website. Upload the folder you extracted from the zip file to the /wp-content/themes/ folder on your web server.

After uploading the files, you need to visit the WordPress admin area of your website and click on Appearance >> Themes in the admin menu. You will see your theme was successfully installed on the themes page, but you will need to click on the Activate button before you can use the theme on your website.


In WordPress, a theme is a collection of templates and stylesheets used to define the appearance and display of a WordPress powered website.

There are thousands of pre-developed themes available for your WordPress website. You can find WordPress themes depending on whether you want free or premium themes.

If you absolutely cannot find a theme to fit your needs you can always write your own.

Writing your own WordPress theme is not that difficult if you are a web designer with basic CSS, HTML, and PHP skills.

The only thing you will need, coupled with your CSS, HTML, and PHP skills, is some direction, some resources, a little information on how WordPress Theme Hierarchy, and most importantly a great design.