How to install a WordPress Theme

by Martin Malden

A question that I see quite often is how to install a WordPress theme.

WordPress themes, particularly Premium Themes, are becoming increasingly sophisticated.

Themes like Thesis are more than just themes – they’re platforms that enable you to maximise the power of WordPress.

If you’re a serious blogger, but not a PHP wiz, you should really check out Premium themes as a way of achieving a unique look and unlocking the power of WordPress

So here’s how to install a theme:  

Finding a good theme:

There are thousands of great WordPress themes out there and one of the best ways to find what you’re looking for is to simply do a search on Google or Yahoo.

You can be quite specific with the search term you use. For example, you could do a search for ‘free wordpress music themes’, ‘wordpress magazine style themes’ or ‘wordpress business themes’ and you’ll be presented with pages and pages of results.

Searching on Google is a lot more effective than searching on the WordPress site, because the search function on the WordPress site is completely useless!

Installing your theme:

OK, so once you’ve found a good theme you’ll need to download it to your machine.

Before you do that, though, it may be helpful to make sure your folders are organised effectively.

How you do so is entirely up to you, but I arrange mine so that the folders on my server and the folders on my machine absolutely mirror each other.

I find this makes it easier to make sure I upload the right files to the right places!

This is easy to do if you installed WordPress manually:

After downloading the WordPress zip file, simply extract it into a folder on your machine with the same name as your domain.

After you’ve uploaded the files to your server to install WordPress, the file structure on your server will match that on your machine.

If you used a 1-click installation of WordPress you’ll need to create the folders on your machine manually, because you won’t have downloaded the zip file initially.

In this case it may just be easier to arrange your folders in any way that suits you – the most important point is that they’re organised!

So, assuming you’ve got your folders well organised, download your new theme.  It will be in a zip file.

Step 1: Unzip the files into the wp-content/themes folder on your machine.  The result will be a folder with the same name as the zip file (usually!), which contains the theme files.


Step 2: Upload the new theme folder to the wp-content/themes folder on your server

Step 3: Access your WordPress Admin Area, go to the Appearance>Themes screen and click on the image of the theme you’ve just uploaded.

Step 4: After clicking the theme you just uploaded you’ll see a preview screen, with ‘Activate THEME NAME on the right (1 below) and an ‘X’ on the left ( 2 below).

If you don’t like the theme click the ‘X’, otherwise click the ‘Activate THEME NAME’ link.

Step 5: Check your site to see that the new theme looks OK.  Note: if your new theme has a different number of sidebars (either more or less) from your old one you’ll need to re-organise any widgets you’ve used.

That’s it – you’re done!

Update: 27 September 2011

Installing WordPress themes that are in the WordPress themes repository has now been made a 1-click process – just click the ‘Add new’ button at the top of the Appearance > Themes screen, select the theme you want from the list that comes up and click ‘install’.

The process I described above still needs to be followed for any themes that are not in the WordPress repository and need to be downloaded to your machine.

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