Now that you got yourself a website with WordPress installed, it will install everything you choose in a matter of seconds and then you can get started creating your website. But hold on, what defines how my site will look like? What part of my website controls everything of the design? How will I be able to do anything about how I want my site to look like and what is a WordPress Theme?
In this tutorial I am going to show you how you can get control over the looks of your site and what you will need for that. You can create really great looking websites, while not spending a penny more on your site.
If you haven’t created a WordPress website yet, it is about time to do so right now!
What Is A WordPress Theme?
A WordPress theme is what defines how your site is going to look like and displayed to your visitor. A WordPress theme controls even how your site will look like on a mobile device such as a mobile phone or tab/pad, TV, car browser etc. Every format of display can be controlled through a theme.
A WordPress theme defines also where to display the menu, the logo, widget locations, your sidebar and your content and footer. It functions like a framework or window frame for the content. In place of the placeholders the content will be placed by WordPress’ own systems.
Themes come with a bunch of coded files that define where things on a programming level are placed, CSS files (that define font, color and size as well as position) and image files.
A good part of the functionality of your website can also be part of your theme. This makes that themes differ very much in what they offer. Free themes on the WordPress repository do often offer a premium or Pro version of their theme to add even more functionality that they limit on the free version.
Some themes use a framework theme and a child theme, but let’s keep it easy here, for most themes just have one.
If you are a programmer, you could produce your own themes manually, but most people would want to use one of the many freely available themes in the WordPress Theme Repository.
How To Change and Install a WordPress Theme
The themes section of WordPress can be found through going to Appearance – Themes within the WordPress Dashboard, like so:
The first screen you will come across is the installed themes section. The one that is activated will say activated on it and a button to customize it.
Changing a WordPress theme is as simple as adding a new theme and activating it. To add a new theme, click Add Theme in the themes page at the top or the empty theme box that reads add theme.
Now you will have a page showing the WordPress theme repository where all the free themes are. You can search on specific names of themes in the top right or you can use any of the category tabs on the top left. Otherwise, you can just browse as there are many many themes available – many thousands.
When you have found a theme you like you can click on it to see a Preview of the theme. It usually shows some basic dummy content to show you how it is going to look like on your site.
To really see how the theme is going to look like, you should just click on the install button. The theme is being installed and moments later you have two options:
- Activate and
- Live Preview
With Live Preview, you can see how the theme will look like using your own website’s content. You can even preview some setting changes here. When you are sure about the new theme you have chosen, you click on activate and the new theme will be activated for your site and visible to your visitors.
After activating your theme it is a good idea to do some customization to your theme. Often there are a lot of options such as colours and header images. You can upload your logo and change the way things are displayed on your site. Every theme has different positions for widgets and menu’s, so those need to be re-linked as well again.
How To Remove A Theme
When you installed a new theme, you might want to get rid of the old ugly theme you used before. To remove a theme in WordPress, you need to first make sure that the one you want to delete isn’t activated.
To remove a theme, you:
- go to Appearance – Themes.
- Click on details on the theme you want to remove
- Click on delete in the bottom right corner of theme details window
Customizing A Theme
You can customize a theme through the customize option behind an activated theme. The customize option is also available through Appearance – Customize.
There are a couple of things that are generally the same with every theme as to what you can change, while others are limited to what the theme allows you to edit.
The most common options to change are:
- site identity
- header image
- homepage settings
- site layout
- additional CSS
Site Identity, Menus, Widgets, Homepage Settings and Site Layout are actually things that are coming from WordPress General settings.
In that way Site Identity is about defining the name and tagline of your site as well as the little icon in the browser. The Menus are from Appearance – Menu’s but the reason they are linked here is that themes often have different ways of linking the menu’s to the different positions on the website. The same with widgets, which can be different from theme to theme.
Homepage settings has to do whether you display a blog roll as main page or have a static page showing on your front site.
The site layout is to define whether you want a sidebar next to your post display by default or not. Another general item is the additional CSS option. Here you have the option to modify the theme a bit on a CSS programming level. Of course this is not for everybody, but at least it is nice that the theme gives us the options to change things the way we want it to be displayed.
When you are changing to a new theme, be sure that you go through all the options of the customization editors so that you can be sure that everything is still working and displayed the way you want it.
How To Install A Premium Theme
For those that feel that the rather standard free themes don’t work there is the option to buy yourself a theme that does work for you and fits your website purpose. Premium themes need to be uploaded to your site as they usually come from a different source.
To add and install a premium theme, you still need to go to Appearance – Themes and then click on Add Theme. At the WordPress Free Themes Repository page, you click on Upload Theme.
Now you can browse on your local computer for the theme zip file that you acquired when you bought the theme and click upload.
The theme will be uploaded to your website and installed. Now all you need to do is activate it for your site and start customizing it like any other theme.
If you are a professional web designer you have even the option to create your own theme. WordPress has a template theme that you can use to build your own themes. Home made themes can be uploaded in the same way as with the premium themes I have just explained the method for.
In this tutorial I have explained what a WordPress theme is and how you can install, activate, customize and delete them. There are many free themes available through the WordPress free themes repository, but there are also premium themes available if you are not happy with them. If you are a developer, you can produce your own themes.
WordPress is a very versatile system for designing your website the way you want.
Have you gotten interested in creating your own WordPress business website? Start right now!