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How to Add a WordPress Theme: A Step-by-Step Guide

How To Add a WordPress theme is a common question among beginners. WordPress is one of the most popular content management systems worldwide, known for its flexibility and ease of use. Its extensive library of themes allows users to customize their websites’ appearance and functionality without writing any code. Learn how to add a WordPress theme with our step-by-step guide

Themes provide a variety of features that enable you to personalize your site’s look and feel. You need to install a theme on your site to take advantage of these features. While installing a WordPress theme is straightforward, the more challenging part is selecting the right theme for your website.

In this guide, we will explain what a WordPress theme is, what to look for in a theme, and how to add a WordPress theme using several methods.

What is a WordPress Theme?

A WordPress theme is a collection of interconnected files—style sheets, templates, images, and code—that shape your site’s front-end visual appearance. Themes allow you to control your website’s design elements like colors, page layout, fonts, and widget locations.

Themes are essential to WordPress; with one, your site is fully functional. Therefore, WordPress includes a default theme you can customize or replace with a new one.

Only one theme can be active on a WordPress site at a time.

Developers and designers create WordPress themes to help users build websites without any coding. There are numerous free and premium themes available for installation. Once installed, you can customize a theme’s appearance and functionality to represent your brand best.

It’s important to distinguish between themes and templates: a template defines the layout of a single page, while a theme encompasses various templates.

In short, a theme determines your site’s visuals and design. You can tweak and modify a WordPress theme to make your website look exactly as you want, aiding in building your brand’s visual recognition and consistency.

How to Choose the Right WordPress Theme

How can you determine which WordPress theme is best for you? Here are some helpful tips:

#1. Decide Between a Free or Premium WordPress Theme

The debate between free and premium WordPress themes has been ongoing. Deciding whether to save money with a free theme or invest in a premium one can be challenging. Here’s a breakdown of the pros and cons of each option:

Pros of Using a Free WordPress Theme

Free WordPress themes offer several advantages:

– They are free to use, so if you decide to change your theme, you won’t lose any money.

– Free themes in the WordPress Repository are officially approved after a strict review process.

– They are compatible with all the free plugins available at

However, free themes also have some disadvantages:

– They typically have a limited feature set.

– Many people use them, making it hard to create a unique website.

– There is usually little to no prompt support if issues arise.

– Free themes found outside the WordPress Repository may be poorly coded, making your site vulnerable to attacks.

Pros of Using a Premium WordPress Theme

Premium themes also come with their own set of benefits:

– You get support for handling bugs, technical issues, and customization.

– They receive frequent updates, enhancing security and features.

– The feature sets vary widely, allowing you to design your site exactly how you want.

– If purchased from a trusted marketplace, company, or developer, premium themes are kept up-to-date with the latest versions of WordPress, HTML, CSS, and PHP.

However, premium themes come at a cost. Some require a yearly payment, while others need a one-time payment. If you later decide to change your theme, the money spent is non-refundable.

#2. Suitable Design for Your Brand

Your theme should align with your brand and attract your target audience. If you’re unsure which theme fits your business, look at the themes your competitors use. Tools like IsITWP can help you determine if a site is built with WordPress and identify the themes and plugins it employs.

#3. Light and Easy to Customize

Choose a theme that is lightweight and easy to customize your wordpress website, ensuring a smoother site-building experience. Avoid themes with too many features that could slow down your website or overwhelm visitors. Ensure the theme offers control over layout, color schemes, fonts, and widgets. Themes with page builders are particularly beneficial as they offer drag-and-drop capabilities. Select a theme that adapts to your brand’s style without unnecessary complexity.

#4. Responsiveness

A responsive theme ensures your site looks good on all screen sizes, providing a consistent appearance across devices. Therefore, choose a theme that effectively displays your content and features on any device.

#5. SEO-Friendly

Search engines need to crawl and index your WordPress posts and pages. A poorly coded theme can make your site slow or unresponsive, affecting your search rankings. A well-coded theme enhances site speed, contributing to better SEO and user experience.

#6. Regular Updates

Opt for a theme that receives regular updates to keep up with WordPress’s changes. Regular updates fix bugs and vulnerabilities, ensuring compatibility with the latest WordPress core and plugins.

#7. Compatibility

Ensure your chosen theme is compatible with all major browsers like Safari, Google Chrome, and Mozilla Firefox. This compatibility ensures your website looks consistent across different browsers.

#8. Support

Premium themes often include support services, allowing you to contact the theme’s development team for assistance with any issues you encounter. This support can be invaluable in maintaining your website.

How to Install a WordPress Theme

There are several ways to install a WordPress theme on your website: via the theme directory, the upload method, or using file transfer protocol (FTP). The theme directory and upload methods are simpler and more user-friendly. However, for larger themes, custom themes, or when the WordPress dashboard is not accessible, installing via FTP is recommended.

Method 1: Install a Free Theme from the WordPress Theme Directory

The simplest way to install a theme is through the WordPress Theme Directory. These themes are sourced from the WordPress repository and are free to download. They all comply with WordPress Coding Standards.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to installing a free WordPress theme from the directory:

STEP 1: Log into Your WordPress Dashboard

a screenshot of wordpress dashboard

First, log into your WordPress Dashboard, which is the administrative area where you can manage content, plugins, and themes.

STEP 2: Navigate to the Theme Directory

a screenshort of navigating themes from the wordpress dashboard

Once logged in, go to Appearance > Themes from the left sidebar of your Dashboard. This section displays all the default themes that come with WordPress, along with any previously installed themes.

STEP 3: Add a New Theme

To add a new theme, click the Add New button at the top of the screen.

STEP 4: Select a Theme

a screenshot of a wordpress theme

Clicking Add New will open a screen displaying the most popular themes. Browse through these options to find one that appeals to you.

If you have specific features in mind, use the Feature Filter at the top of the page. This tool allows you to select the subject of your website, the features you want, and your preferred layout. You can specify the industry your website is in, choose particular features, and decide on the layout (e.g., number of columns, sidebar position).

If you already know the name of the theme you want, type it into the search bar on the right side of the screen. WordPress will display the theme and its variations.

Hover over a theme to see the Preview button, which lets you check out the theme in action and decide how you might customize it.

STEP 5: Install the Theme

When you find a theme you like, click the Install button on the theme’s thumbnail. Wait for WordPress to download the theme. Once the installation is complete, you’ll see a confirmation message.

You can then preview the theme’s features by clicking on the Live Preview button.

STEP 6: Activate the Theme

The final step is to activate your new theme. Click the Activate button, and WordPress will replace your current theme with the new one.

Method 2: How to Install a WordPress Theme using the Upload Method

If you’ve decided to invest in a premium theme, such as Divi by Elegant Themes, you’ll need to upload it to your WordPress site. One method is using the Upload Theme button in your WordPress Dashboard. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

Step 1: Get the Theme Archive (Zip) File

First, download the zip file of your purchased premium theme from its vendor. This zip file contains all the necessary files and folders for the theme. Save this file to your computer.

Step 2: Log into WordPress and Go to the Theme Section

Log into your WordPress Dashboard. Navigate to the Appearance > Themes section.

Step 3: Add New

In the Themes section, click on the Add New button to start the installation process.

Step 4: Upload the Installation File

Click the Upload Theme button to open the file upload dialog box. Click the Choose File button and browse your computer for the zip file. Once selected, click the Install Now button to upload and install the theme.

Step 5: Activate Your New Theme

After the installation is complete, WordPress will show a confirmation message. Click the Activate button to set your WordPress site to use the new theme.

Method 3: Installing WordPress Themes Using FTP 

In this section, we’ll guide you through installing a WordPress theme using FTP (File Transfer Protocol). FTP is a standard network protocol used for transferring files between a client and server on a computer network. 

This method allows you to upload files between your local computer and your website’s server. Note that this approach carries some risk of deleting or modifying critical files, potentially bringing your site offline, so it’s recommended for advanced users only

Step 1: Secure FTP/SFTP Credentials 

First, you need your FTP or SFTP credentials to connect FileZilla to your site’s servers. These credentials can typically be found in your web hosting account. If you can’t locate them, contact your hosting provider for assistance. 

You will need your username, password, and port information. 

Step 2: Enter Credentials into FileZilla 

Once you have your FTP/SFTP credentials, open FileZilla. Enter the following information: 

– Host: Your site’s IP address, prefixed with “sftp://” (e.g., sftp://123.456.78.90)

– Username

– Password

– Port

Click “Quickconnect” to connect FileZilla to your site’s servers. 

Step 3: Upload WordPress Theme Files 

After connecting to your FTP, you can begin uploading your WordPress theme files. The left panel in FileZilla displays your local computer files, while the right panel shows your site’s server files. 

1. In the right panel, navigate to the Themes folder within your site’s directory.

2. In the left panel, locate the zip file of the WordPress theme you want to install.

3. Right-click on the theme file and select Upload.

Once the upload is complete (this can take some time depending on the file size), the theme files will appear in the right panel under the “Themes” folder. 

Step 4: Activate the Theme in WordPress 

Log into your WordPress dashboard and go to Appearance > Themes. Your newly uploaded theme will be listed and ready for activation. Click “Activate” to start using the theme on your website. 

This method allows for manual theme installation via FTP, giving you greater control over the process, though it is best suited for users comfortable with advanced file management.


Adding a new theme to your WordPress site is a straightforward and efficient approach to changing its appearance and functionality. Whether you choose a free theme from the WordPress repository or a premium theme, following the steps above will help you complete the installation and customization process with ease. Always back up your site before making any big changes, and enjoy the process of experimenting with the diverse range of themes available to create a unique and compelling online presence.


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