How to Install a Theme

Choosing a theme for your website is a little like decorating your house. You want to be sure that the design is right for your space and the layout compliments your lifestyle, or in this case, blog style. Choose and install a theme and pick your colours, layout and fonts so your blog really feels like home.

So once you’ve finally made your choice, how do you install a theme?

Install a Theme from the WordPress Repository

There are thousands of free theme choices in the WordPress repository. To install a theme from the repository, sign into your WordPress dashboard. From the sidebar menu, select Appearance and then Themes. Click the Add New button on the top of the screen. From here, you can search the themes by name from the search box or filter on themes with the features you are looking for. There are themes for blogs, shops, photography, news, portfolios and so much more. Choose from grid layouts, sidebars, columns and features such as customizable colours, headers, and menus.

In our example, we will install the Twenty Seventeen basic WordPress theme.

Preview and Install

From the Add Theme page, you can preview the theme to see how it will look. Hover your mouse over the theme to see the Preview button. After previewing you can either click the X in the top left corner to exit the preview or click the Install button, just to the right of the X.

Install WordPress Theme


After the theme is installed, make it active by clicking the Activate button.

Installed Themes

If you now return to the Appearance menu and select Theme, you will find both your new theme which is activated and your old theme which is installed but not activated. If you are sure that you will not be reverting back to the old theme, there is no reason to keep it installed. Click on the old theme to open the popup window and choose Delete which appears in red at the bottom right corner. If you want to revert back to your original theme, simply click on the Activate button.

Install a Theme from a Zip File

Premium themes are available to purchase from many sources including my own favourite ThemeForest and range in price from just a few dollars to a hundred dollars or more, depending on the features. I initially resisted purchasing themes but soon realized that premium themes come with a ton of features for less than the price of a movie night or a dinner out and are well worth the investment.

Theme Forest Banner

Once you’ve purchased your theme, you will be directed to download a zip file containing the code for your theme. In this example, we will install the Motive Magazine Theme I purchased from ThemeForest on the Envato Market which I am using on my genealogy blog Out of My Tree Genealogy News.

Sometimes this zip file will contain other files such as your license or registration code or PSD files you can use in PhotoShop to mock up your website design. Download the zip file and remember where you saved it. I normally save both the install file and the license file in my downloads folder inside a folder named for the plugin so I can easily find it if I need to reinstall it later.

Backup Tip
Always backup your downloads folder with whatever backup solution you choose. I backup my downloads folder locally on my external drive and in the cloud using the Mozy Backup solution.

Find the Install File

If your downloaded zip file contains additional files, you will want to extract the contents and look for the install zip file that is located within, or download the installable WordPress file separately. If you try to install the full zip file you downloaded without locating the install zip file inside, you will get an error message, perhaps saying the theme is missing the style.css stylesheet. For more details, visit the ThemeForest help section.

Install a Theme from a zip file

One the theme is installed, activate it from the dashboard.

Customize and Configure the Theme

However you installed the theme, after activating it, customize your new theme by clicking the Customize button from the theme page. You can return to the customize settings at any time from the dashboard by going to Appearance and Customize.

With some themes, particularly premium themes, there will also be a new option in your dashboard menu to configure the options of the theme. This may be a new menu option or it may be under Appearance as a sub menu.

Customization and configuration are theme specific but watch for a rundown on common options in an upcoming post.


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