Choosing and Installing a WordPress Theme

April 10, 2019

When it comes to choosing a WordPress theme for your website, the process can seem pretty overwhelming. There are hundreds of thousands of WordPress themes, all offering a varying degree of features and support, both free and premium. Here I outline what you should be looking for when choosing a WordPress theme, and then how to install it!

Before Choosing a WordPress Theme

Before anything else, you should decide what your budget is for a theme. Yes, for WordPress themes, “free” is a budget! If you have a simple site, like a blog, a free theme is completely usable. Even for small business sites, a free theme is perfectly acceptable. If you have some experience with HTML / CSS or you aren’t afraid to learn and play around with it, it will give you all the basics you need. Browse websites like JustFreeThemes and aThemes for some ideas. If you have a monetary budget, your website is more complex or you have medium to large businesses, you might consider a premium theme. Premium themes don’t cost an arm and a leg either: there are plenty of excellent premium themes under $20. Have a look through sites like Themeforest and Colorlib for ideas.

Choosing a WordPress Theme

It can be difficult to picture how the theme will look with your content, so it’s important to look at features over layout.

Start by writing down some must-have features and some nice-to-have features so you know what you’re looking for. Visit websites of your competitors and your idols to see what you like about their sites.

Top Tip: By “inspecting” the code of your favourite websites, you may be able to figure out if they’re on WordPress and even what theme they’re using. If they’ve had their site completely custom built this may not work, but it’s worth a shot! Right click on any page on the website and select inspect. Open the head tag by toggling the arrow and look for a file path that includes /wp-content/ or /wp-includes/ -- basically anything with “wp”. This is a WordPress website! Type ctrl+f to open a search function within the code. Type in “themes” and hit enter until you find the file path[themename]. Now you can do a Google search to find that theme!

Some features to consider:

  • Minimalist design
  • Portfolio functions
  • Background image
  • Header and footer menu
  • Social icons in the header
  • Scrolling banner
  • Custom icons
  • Number counter
  • “Go to top” button
  • eCommerce compatibility
  • Sidebar
  • Instagram widget
  • Page builder included

Also remember that a lot of the above can be added to any theme through the use of a plugin, in particular, social icons and scrolling banners.

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When choosing a theme (and your plugins) definitely read the reviews, and the support forum. See what issues other people have raised (if any) and take into account how this might affect you. Keep an eye on how helpful and responsive the theme designers' support team is - buying a premium theme should buy you premium support to help troubleshoot any issues. Check compatibility with the latest version of WordPress, as well as when the theme was last updated. This is not only important for security reasons, but indicates the web developers who created the theme are still active and maintaining their product.

Finally, and this is a recent addition to my theme and plugin checklist: Google the theme / plugin name or the theme / plugin developers name alongside Wordfence. Wordfence is the leading plugin for WordPress security, and they actively research and report upon vulnerabilities found in themes and plugins. With the recent pipdig controversy, I think we can all agree this is a safe and logical step.

Installing a WordPress Theme

Now that you’ve chosen your theme, installing it is the easy part. Wherever you’ve found your theme and whether it’s free or not, you’ll be able to download a zip file containing the theme. Once you have this file, navigate to the WordPress dashboard.

  • Hover over Appearance in the left sidebar menu
  • Click on Themes
  • Click Add New
  • Browse to the zip file on your computer and upload
  • Once the theme has been installed, click on Live Preview to view how it looks with your content
  • Make required adjustments by clicking through the customise menu
  • Click Save and Publish when you’re done!

I hope you enjoy your new theme and it has everything you were hoping for! Let me know if this guide helped you at all.

Laura x

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Laura F Gosney
Hey, I'm Laura
I’m a Soulful Brand and Website Designer specialising in creating beautiful, personality-driven brands that showcase how remarkable you truly are.

For more than 5 years, I’ve worked with innovative e-commerce founders, passionate service-based businesses, and inspiring creatives to capture the remarkable soul of their work and transform that into a brand and website they can feel proud of.
Find out how I can help
I acknowledge the First Nations people as the Traditional Owners of the land on which I live and work, i.e. Meanjin, Brisbane. Sovereignty was never ceded.
Copyright © 2023 Laura F Gosney ABN: 88 413 183 164

Words by Brit Stevens
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