The previous page covered the various functions and features of the WordPress dashboard, and how each works. Here, we’ll be discussing how to change your blog’s theme as well as how to install a new one.
Your theme represents the template or skin of your blog. And it largely determines the look and feel of your blog (but not the functionality, which is left to plugins).
So, if you switch from one theme to another, you’ll notice a change in the way your blog looks, but not in the way it works.
Free themes vs. premium themes
When it comes to choosing a theme, you can choose either a free theme or a premium theme. Although you may want to go with free themes because they come at no cost, premium themes are usually better because they present three key advantages over free themes:
- Better design: Premium themes often have a better and more professional look. And they are usually better coded than free themes. As a result, they load faster and are more future-proof.
- More customization options: One of the common downsides of free themes is their limited customization options, which means you can make little or no changes to the default design, color, and font in most cases. However, premium themes allow you to make your desired changes to almost every aspect.
- Support: If you have any issues with your free theme, you may not get support timely enough — and that’s if you get it at all. However, premium themes are almost always supported, so you’ll have any issues attended to in a timely manner by the designer.
Now, bear in mind that the points raised are not absolute — there are very poor premium themes and there are very good free themes. But the exceptions are very few.
Should you go for a free theme or a premium theme?
Since you’re just getting started, I’d recommend you play around with a free theme for some time. It’s better to learn the ropes by fiddling with free themes than waste your money on a premium theme when you’re not yet sure what you’re doing.
Besides, you may find a free theme that suits your needs perfectly for the time being. And remember, I stated earlier that there are some very good free themes.
However, if you’re a stickler for near-perfection, then you can go for a premium theme. And of the many options available out there, the best premium themes I can recommend are the ones by Elegant Themes. And here are my reasons:
- Their themes are beautifully designed, and they look clean and professional.
- Their design team provides timely support, so you won’t get stuck at any point.
- Their price is the best you can get: you can gain access to 87 premium themes for just $69 (that’s not even enough to buy just one theme at many other places).
How to change your theme
To start with, bear in mind that your WordPress installation comes preinstalled with some “default” themes. These are themes officially designed by the WordPress.org team, so you can expect them to be well designed, excellently coded, and just adequate for a beginner like you.
Because WordPress releases a new official theme every year, the themes are named based on their release year: Twenty Fourteen, Twenty Thirteen, Twenty Twelve, and so on. You’ll find the three most recent ones pre-installed on your blog.
To find the default themes on your blog, just hover your cursor over “Appearance” in the sidebar (or click on it), and then choose “Themes” from the sub-menu. Most likely, the most recent theme will be applied to your blog by default. To change it, just click the “Activate” button on the theme to want to switch to.
If you’d rather preview the theme to see what it looks like before deciding whether to activate it, click the “Live Preview” button. This will bring up the theme customizer pane by the left (don’t worry about this for now) along with a preview of what your blog would look like with the new theme.
If you like what you see in the preview, just click the “Save and Activate” button and you’ll be taken back to the Themes page with a confirmation that your new theme has been activated.
Clicking on the “Visit site” link takes you to blog’s home page. This time, you can see what the new theme looks like without the theme customizer pane.
How to find new themes (free themes)
If you’re not satisfied with any of the default WordPress themes, then you’ll need to visit the WordPress.org Theme Directory, a large theme repository featuring over 2,500 free themes. There you’ll find many additional options to choose from.
However, not all the themes are fine. In fact, if you start searching, you’ll discover that many of those free themes are not attractive nor up to date. And one clear disadvantage of the large number of themes is that you’ll find it difficult finding the good ones in the pack.
With the above in mind, I have a carefully curated list of the best free WordPress themes you can choose from. This very short list features eight themes that I’ve found to be largely customizable, beautifully designed, and flexible. And here goes…
Of course, there are many other themes that meet all the criteria I used in selecting these few, but I’m recommending them here because I’ve used all of them — and I liked them. So, I guess, you’ll like them, too.
Warning: Download free themes only from WordPress.org!!
Only download and use free themes that are available in the WordPress.org Themes directory, which is the official repository for free WordPress themes.
Aside that downloading themes from this directory is easy and straightforward, you can be sure that any theme you download is free from any malicious codes that may cause harm to your blog. WordPress has security measures in place to ensure that themes containing such codes are either denied access to or removed from the official directory.
How to download and install a theme from WordPress.org
The whole process is very easy, and it’s the same for any theme you want to download and install from the WordPress themes directory. Just follow the steps below:
From your WordPress dashboard, navigate to Appearance > Themes from the sidebar. You’ll be taken to the Themes page (you should be familiar with it by now). Click on the “Add New” button at the top of the page.
You’ll be taken to the “Add Themes” page, where you’ll find a gallery of featured WordPress themes. Of course, you’re free to begin your search from here. Alternatively, you can use the other “Popular” and “Latest” links at the top of the page to start your search from the most popular and most recently released themes respectively.
But let us assume that you already planned to install Highwind, for example. To easily locate the Highwind theme (or any other one you want specifically), just enter its name into the “Search themes…” box in the top right corner.
Without you having to press enter or click a button, relevant results will be returned to you immediately. In this case, our desired theme is the only match for the search term:
Just hover over the theme and click the “Install” button.
The blog will then be uploaded automatically from the WordPress.org themes directory to your blog. Once the upload and installation is complete, you’ll see a confirmation screen presenting you with three options: Live Preview, Activate, and Return to Theme Installer.
The “Live Preview” and “Activate” links here work just as explained earlier. The “Return to Theme Installer” link takes you back to the Add Themes page.
Since you really want to use the theme on your blog, go ahead and click the “Activate” option. Upon doing that, you’ll be taken back to the Themes screen, complete with a confirmation that the new theme has been activated. And the new theme will now be added to the three default themes you had previously. This is how every new theme you install will be added to your themes gallery (of course, you can delete themes you don’t need — more on that later).
To see how your blog looks with the new theme, click the “Visit site” link.
And that’s all to installing a free theme from the WordPress.org themes directory. As stated earlier, the same process can be repeated for any theme you want to install and use for your blog.
I advise you to choose, install, and activate a theme that looks pleasing to you. But don’t waste too much time on your search. Once you find something that you feel you can work with, install it, activate it, and move on to other things.
And don’t bother about customizing your theme for now. Creating a successful blog involves a lot more important things than spending hours on customization. So, move on to those more important things and leave customization for now. Just be sure to choose a blog that looks fine by default.