How to install WordPress theme: Once you’ve spent hours looking for your ideal WordPress theme, you need to move on to the next step: install your theme.
While this is usually sorted out fairly quickly by more seasoned WordPress users, it’s not that easy when you’re doing it for the first time. In any case, that’s what I was able to see thanks to the feedback from some of you by email.
This article is therefore intended to show you how to install a WordPress theme step by step (whether for a first implementation, or a change of theme).
Note that this does not apply to WordPress.com users, only users of the self-hosted version (WordPress.org).
Before getting to the heart of the matter, I’ll briefly go over the importance of choosing a good WordPress theme for your site.
In principle, if you put a site online, it is so that it is visited by as many people as possible (readers, prospects, fans, etc.), whatever its purpose.
In any case, the design of your site should not have the opposite effect. That is, scare away your visitors because they do not understand anything about your site.
We have all already left a site in less than 3 seconds because its appearance did not inspire our confidence.
And neither you nor I want that to be the case for your site, do you?
Note: While the design is important, there must also be something behind it. Brush up on the content as well. To take it a step further and build a professional WordPress site, check out this resource.
How to install WordPress theme: 5 things to do BEFORE changing your WordPress theme
If you are installing WordPress for the first time, you can skip to the next point. This only concerns people who want to change their WordPress theme.
There are indeed some precautions to take if your site already has a certain notoriety. The consequences of a change of theme should be minimal for visitors.
The impact is not the same when you install your first theme because there is little chance that your site will collect significant traffic.
Here are 5 recommendations to implement when changing the theme:
How to install WordPress theme: Make a backup
We cannot repeat it enough, having a backup system is IMPERATIVE for any site. A problem can happen anytime, and backing up your site is worth gold.
Whether you change the theme or not, install a backup system for your files and your database. It is vital.
I use ManageWP to back up the blog… every hour.
If you manage multiple sites, you might be interested in this latter tool.
In addition to its backup function (free or premium), it allows you to do all your updates at the same time (and with one click), clean spam, databases, carry out security checks, etc.
Finally, I can only advise you to take a look at this article presenting 7 free backup extensions (some allow you to send your backups to a remote storage space like Dropbox).
How to install WordPress theme: Create a maintenance page
Even if the procedure for changing the theme is not very long, you will need to configure the new theme.
If you have not tested the beast on another WordPress installation (test server or locally), it will take a little time to get started with this new theme. And as good as one can be, no one is immune to complications.
This is why a maintenance page will not be too much.
To help you set it up, we tested 10 dedicated extensions in this article.
How to install WordPress theme: Beware of the features of the old theme
Some themes offer features that may be lost when the new WordPress theme is activated.
You also have to think about shortcodes. If you use them to enhance the content of your site, you will have to copy them to the new theme so that they can still work.
Continue to inspect your defunct theme to make the transition as smooth as possible for your visitors.
How to install WordPress theme: Copy all additions made in functions.php
If you are a bit of a handyman, you have surely added a few lines of code in your functions.php file, obtained.
I’m not going to dwell on what can be done via this file, but be sure to duplicate the additions you want to keep in the functions.php file of your new theme.
How to install WordPress theme: Don’t forget the tracking code!
You have certainly inserted a tracking code to collect traffic statistics for your site ( Google Analytics, Clicky, or other). Be careful that the follow-up is not interrupted by the change of your theme.
If you manage this with a plugin like Monster Insights, you shouldn’t have a problem.
On the other hand, if you have integrated the tracking code manually in your theme, put a reminder on your screen to restore it as soon as possible.
How to install a WordPress theme
How to install WordPress theme: If you are installing your first theme or changing it, you must have your WordPress theme (free or premium) in .zip format.
The archive (I’m talking about the .zip file) usually contains the documentation, the PSD files, the license terms, AND the archive containing the theme.
So if your WordPress theme comes from Themeforest, you must unzip the downloaded archive to keep only the theme archive.
Note: You can now directly download the theme archive from Themeforest by clicking on ” Download ” then ” Installable WordPress file only ” from the download page.
Now that the archive of your theme is in your possession, you have two possibilities:
- Send your theme via WordPress
- Use FTP software: this is software that allows you to communicate with your server (eg: Filezilla, Cyberduck or Transmit ).
Let’s explore these two methods individually.
Install your theme via the administration of WordPress
This is the easiest way to install your WordPress theme. Follow the guide :
- Log in to WordPress and go to the Appearance> Themes menu.
- Click on the “Add” button
- Click on the “Upload a topic” button
- To find the archive of your theme and click on “Install”
Congratulations, your theme is installed but now STOOOOOOP!
Do not activate your theme.
You’re gonna tell me I’m breaking a hose. It should be good, the theme is installed, you just have to activate it to put it online, right?
Let me explain.
First, some of you may see a message like, “The archive could not be installed. This theme is missing the style.css file. “.
If this is the case, I invite you to re-read what I wrote a little above concerning Themeforest. Other stores may be in the same case.
Then, it also happens that the theme archive is too large to be sent directly from WordPress.
Two solutions are available to you:
- Either you increase the size of the files that WordPress can accept by using this trick.
- Either you send your theme via FTP by following the rest of this tutorial.
If you had no problem, I invite you to move on.
How to install WordPress theme: Install your theme via FTP
Sending your theme directly to your hosting is the second method to install a WordPress theme. For that, you have to go through an FTP software (remember, you had to use it to install WordPress).
Coda 2, my code editor acts as an FTP client but, for this tutorial, I will be using FileZilla software.
It’s okay if you don’t use FileZilla, all FTP software works pretty much the same, you should end up with the following screenshots:
- Unzip the archive of your theme
- Connect to your server
- Go to the “wp-content / themes” folder of your WordPress installation
- Drag and drop your theme folder into the “themes” folder
Wait for the transfer to complete and your theme will be installed.
How to install WordPress theme: What to do before activating your theme
Now, whatever method you use, your theme should be installed but it is not yet activated (your visitors still see your old theme).
I stopped you earlier because you must not forget to… create a child theme!
A child theme is a “sub-theme” of your WordPress theme on which you will be able to make all your modifications. Thanks to this, if your theme is updated, you will not lose anything.
It doesn’t take a long time to set up, so why go without?
Instead of rewriting how to create a child theme, I refer you to this article. It covers everything you need to know about child themes.
I conclude that your child theme is operational.
Do you have to activate your theme?
If your site is new and you don’t mind having it visited, go for it.
Go to Appearance> Themes and activate the child theme you just created.
Then go to the next point.
On the other hand, if you have a site that is visited regularly or that you want to keep private, do not activate your theme!
Don’t do this just yet.
I know you are impatient but remember that in the 5 things to do before changing the theme, I recommended creating a maintenance page. Now, you can turn it on.
Thus, people visiting your site will see a clean page telling them what is going on instead of falling on an unconfigured theme.
The goal is that there is a minimum of disruption.
Once maintenance mode is enabled, you can do the same with the child theme by going to Appearance> Themes.
However, take a look at your private browsing site to verify that everything is working as expected.
How to install WordPress theme: 3 things to do AFTER installing your WordPress theme
Your theme is installed!
However, you shouldn’t stop there. This theme must shine brightly for the first people who see it.
I’m sure you agree.
First of all, you need to:
1. Configure your WordPress theme
If you make a change of theme, you have to act quickly because your site must be in maintenance as little time as possible. Otherwise, you can take your time.
Go to the administration panel of your theme (if there is any) to configure it. Unfortunately, I can’t help you with that, it all depends on your project and the possibilities offered by your theme.
However, be aware that in many cases you can make adjustments through the Customizer via the Appearance > Customize menu of your administration interface.
2. Make any changes to the child theme
If you want to go beyond what your theme offers, you will have to get your hands dirty and touch the HTML, CSS, and maybe even PHP code of your theme.
Be sure to make the changes within the child theme and not on the original theme (also called parent theme).
For example, if you want to modify the structure of the footer of your theme, you will have to copy the footer.php file from the parent theme into the child theme, then make the changes in the latter.
3. Browse your site for display errors
When your theme is installed and configured, some display errors may still exist. We will therefore have to track them down one by one to correct them.
These errors can come from misconfigured extensions, widgets, page templates, or other things …
As several people pointed out in the comments, sometimes you need to regenerate the thumbnail images because the new theme uses different sized thumbnails. For this, you can use the Regenerate Thumbnails plugin.
Also, remember to consult your site with several browsers. To find out which ones to correct as a priority, take a look at your traffic statistics (by the way, don’t forget to give your Analytics tracking code).
Again, this may require some web development knowledge to get everything perfect.
Once you feel you’ve got something right, turn off maintenance mode, take a final owner tour, and let your new site be known to be up and running.
For website maintenance service contact us.