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Choosing And Installing Themes


In this lesson you will learn how there are close to 3000 free themes in the official WordPress.org directory and at least as many in the commercial space. This lesson will give you the tools needed to thoroughly evaluate themes and choose the most appropriate for your site(s).


After completing this lesson, you will be able to:

  • Recognize the enormity of themes available to the consumer.
  • Outline where to find themes; as well as highlighting the best place to start looking.
  • Explain what to look for and consider in a good theme.
  • Describe how to evaluate a theme.
  • Demonstrate how to install a theme.

Prerequisite Skills

You will be better equipped to work through this lesson if you have:


  • WordPress site to practice installing themes

Screening Questions

  • Do you publish a WordPress site at this moment? (Preferred answer: yes)
  • Which theme are you currently using? (Preferred answer: anything but “I don’t know”)
  • Are you satisfied with the theme you are currently using?
  • How many other themes have you tried?

Teacher Notes

  • The last two screening questions do not have preferred answers. They are there to condition the students for the material you will be showing.
  • The lesson should alternate between short lectures and live demos. You, as the teacher, need a working local WordPress installation for the demos.
  • Students should not be working on their site during lectures and demos. Questions from students will be very specific to their case, so it is better to plan a period where the students can test things on their own site and you are able to answer their questions individually.
  • Use these questions in your end-of-class summary.

Hands-on Walkthrough


You are using WordPress, a content management system (CMS). Your content is completely separated from its presentation. This means that the look and feel of your site can change completely just by using a different theme, while your content will remain the same.

Themes do a lot more than defining how your site looks, though. They can choose to hide or show some of your content or metadata, enable and disable WordPress features, and provide you with locations in the design where you can insert widgets and menus. They can even enable features that are specific to them.

Where to find Themes?

WordPress themes are everywhere. If you were to do a Google search for “WordPress Theme” you would find over 71,200,000 results! Keep in mind though that not all themes are created equal.

If you are going to download a WordPress theme, please make sure it is from a reputable place. Sometimes websites advertising free WordPress themes are really distributing themes with malicious code or themes that have not been tested or are not well supported.

If you are searching for a free WordPress theme, it is wise to start with the WordPress Theme Directory. All of these themes have been reviewed by a team of WordPress developers and tested against the latest coding standards.

If you are interested in purchasing a commercial WordPress theme, take a look at the list of commercially supported GPL themes. While details vary by company, most of the themes offer additional support that is not always available in the WordPress Theme Directory.

What to consider when choosing a theme?

Before you even start to look at themes, it is important to have a solid idea of the purpose and audience for your site. Will your site function primarily as a personal blog for friends and family to read? Does your site focus on sharing articles and content, like a magazine or newspaper would? Or, are you looking to build a site for your business that showcases information about your staff and your services or products?

You will also need to consider the kinds of content you will have for your site. Will photography be a main focus? If so, you may want to choose a theme that has large featured image areas. Will your site just focus on written content? If so, choose one with striking typography and a smaller emphasis on images.

One important note: you should select a theme based on how it displays your content and not for specific features. You can always add specific features such as restaurant menus, calendars, contact forms and photo galleries via plugins.

How to evaluate a theme?

Once you have you have your list of theme requirements, you will want to narrow down the possible themes. If you are reviewing themes in the Theme Directory, you can use feature filter option and select the features that are important to you.

Take a look at what can be customized in each theme. Many themes come with additional color palletes, font choices and custom widget areas. These are all things that can be adjusted using the WordPress Customizer.

Once you have selected a theme, you can see the number of times the theme has been downloaded, the theme rating and visit the support forum for that theme.


Installing the Chosen Theme

  1. Log in to the WordPress Administration Panels.
  2. Select the “Appearance” panel, then “Themes“.
  3. Select “Add New”.
  4. To install a theme from the Theme Directory, either use the “Search” or “Filter” options to locate a theme you would like to use. Click on the “Preview” link to preview the theme or the “Install Now” link to upload the theme to your blog,
  5. To install a theme that you have previously downloaded to your machine, use the “Upload” link in the top links row to upload a zipped copy of a theme.

Activate Your Theme

Once your theme is installed, you will need to activate it to make it visible on your website. To select a Theme for your site:

  1. Log in to the WordPress Administration Panels.
  2. Select the “Appearance” panel, then “Themes“.
  3. From the themes panel, roll over the theme thumbnail image for the theme you are interested in to see options for that theme.
  4. You can view more information about any theme by clicking “Theme Details”.
  5. A live preview of any theme (using your blog’s content) can be seen by clicking “Live Preview”.
  6. To activate the theme click the “Activate” button.


Where are some suggested places to locate themes? (You may choose more than one)

  1. Commercial WordPress Theme Shops
  2. A Google Search for Free WordPress Themes
  3. WordPress Theme Directory
  4. Your Local Office Supply Store

Answer: 1. Commercial WordPress Theme Shops or 2. WordPress Theme Directory

Additional Resources

Using Themes