What is a WordPress theme?
What are the types of WordPress themes?
The primary differentiator for WordPress themes is free or paid. There are great reasons for choosing to use a free theme or to pay for one with more premium options.
Free themes are available in the WordPress repository. They tend to have less options for customization within the WordPress dashboard. However, all themes can be modified using code and editing the theme files directly. Free themes are a great option for setting up a new site when you haven’t yet established exactly what you need in terms of style and functionality.
Premium theme features and cost vary widely depending on the one you select. Many premium themes include a lot of options for customizing the look and feel directly from the admin dashboard. Some even provide more advanced page builders on top of the core WordPress editor.
Other premium themes get their value from the benefits they provide in terms of structure, accessibility, design, etc. My favorite premium themes are actually child themes which use the Genesis Framework. A theme framework adds an extra layer of functionality.
Depending on your experience with WordPress and the features you need in a theme, hiring a designer and/or developer to create a custom theme may be the best choice. A WordPress developer can usually create a theme that is tailored perfectly to your brand. Also, a well-developed theme will add less bloat to your WordPress website and will therefore be more accessible and SEO friendly.
How do I select a WordPress theme?
There are many things to consider when selecting a theme for your WordPress website. It is important to look beyond the style of a theme and consider the following items.
The very first thing you must do when choosing a theme for your WordPress website is to consider the goals you have for your website. A blog focused website has very different needs compared to an e-commerce website. Consider your immediate needs and goals as well as your longer term plans for your website.
Once you have established your goals, you can dive into the features available with various themes. In addition to meeting your needs and goals, you should consider what kind of interface you need in order to successfully get your website up and running. If you are an experienced developer you will need less in terms of a user interface than a WordPress beginner. Ideally you will not select a theme that adds more than you need to the website, but it can be difficult to find the perfect fit.
Whether you are selecting a free theme from the WordPress repository or you are looking into purchasing a premium theme, you should spend some time reading reviews. It is important to note the experiences of other users. What did they like or dislike about the theme you are considering? Will their issues potentially be an issue for you?
Although there are many great free themes available, you may find that a premium theme is worth the investment. As with most things, you get what you pay for. Therefore it may be necessary to pay for a theme in order to get the quality that you need.
How do I manage my WordPress themes?
To view the themes you have already installed on your WordPress website, click “Appearance” in the left panel of your dashboard. Here you will see all of the themes you have installed. Clicking on a theme screenshot will give you additional information about that theme and allow you to activate, preview, or delete the theme.
How do I install a new WordPress theme?
The method for installing a theme largely depends on the type of theme you are using. Free themes are typically added directly from the repository whereas premium and custom themes are often uploaded.
Add from Repository
To add a theme from the WordPress repository, click “Appearance” in the left panel of the dashboard. Next, click the “Add New” button near the top left of the Themes screen. Here you can search all of the themes available in the repository and select the right one for you. When you have selected the theme that works for you, click the “Install” button and activate the theme.
To upload a theme that you have purchased or acquired elsewhere, click “Appearance” in the left panel of the dashboard. Next click the “Add New” button near the top left of the screen followed by the “Upload Theme” button located in the same place. Find your zipped theme folder on your computer and click “Install Now” then activate the theme.
How do I modify a WordPress theme?
Customizing a theme from the dashboard varies with each theme. Typically the settings are found within the “Appearance” section of the menu and/or are added as a new menu section with the theme name as the heading. Premium themes should come with a user manual providing walkthroughs for setting up the site.
Regardless of the type of theme, you should be able to make some changes using the following tools.
The customizer can be found by hovering over “Appearance” in the left panel of the dashboard then selecting “Customize.” The great thing about the customizer is that all of the settings are located in a panel on the left side of the screen while your site is displayed on the right side. This allows you to see the changes you’re making to the site in real time.
Your theme may add sections and/or settings to the customizer, but I’m going to focus on the standard settings.
The site identity section of the WordPress customizer is typically where you will add your logo and favicon. (A favicon is the little icon you see beside the page title in your browser tab.) Additionally you can set the site title and tagline here.
Like menus, widgets have their own page for editing, but can also be managed here in the customizer.
This is my favorite and most used part of the customizer. The Additional CSS section allows you to add custom CSS snippets to the site. The CSS added here occurs last in the cascade and therefore overrides most other styles. Additionally, this CSS markup tends to not get caught in WordPress caching systems.
The Theme Editor can be accessed by hovering over “Appearance” in the left panel of the dashboard then selecting “Theme Editor.” The Theme Editor gives you access to all of the theme files directly from the WordPress dashboard. Making changes to the theme code should be done cautiously, but this is a quick and easy way to access theme files without setting up FTP, etc.
When it comes to modifying theme files, I use FTP and a text editor 99% of the time. A text editor is typically more user friendly than the native theme editor, but does require more set up. If you are an experienced developer you will already have your development environment set up and will feel most comfortable taking this approach. The method for connecting to your WordPress installation and theme varies depending on your FTP client and your web host.
WordPress themes provide the look and feel for your site through various theme files. Some themes even add functionality to your website beyond styling. There is a large repository of free WordPress themes available, but it may be worth paying for a premium or custom theme. All themes offer at least some customization options from the WordPress dashboard.