Changing the theme of your WordPress blog is designed to be quite easy. What you should do, is basically find a theme which you’d like to use, install, and activate it. Of course, there are a few pitfalls in the process, so make sure to read the section at the end of this post regarding needed maintenance.
Where to Find Free and Premium Themes?
As WordPress has a whole community of developers behind it, there’s literally an ocean of different themes to choose among. There are both free blog templates and “premium” ones, which you pay for. Of course, you can also hire a web designer to create a custom template for you. This option is though not recommended as some designers, on top of being too expensive, consciously limit your options and make you pay additionally for every small feature you request.
You can find free WordPress themes on various websites online, on WordPress.org, or directly from within of your WordPress blog by clicking on Appearance->Themes in your Admin Panel and then choosing Add New (a button at the top of the screen). In both latter cases you have the option to search for a specific theme, a specific set of features (by applying the Feature Filter), or to simply scroll through the available themes.
If a theme catches your eye, you can hover over it and choose whether you’d like to see some details about it or directly install it..
“Premium” WordPress themes are themes which are created with business use in mind, meaning that they live up to certain standards not only in respect to design, but clean code, SEO, regular and timely updates, and support.
Premium themes can be found many places online, including WordPress.com, and prices vary quite a lot depending on what you’re looking for. So far, the place where I’ve seen the best collection of themes is without a doubt Themeforest.net. Average prices there are around 55-65 USD for advanced themes – 10 to 40 USD lower than most market places online – and only around 14-20 USD for simple one-page templates. They provide a great description of the offered themes, a quality guarantee, and a rich customer review database to give you real insights about what it’s like to use the different themes.
How to Choose a Theme for my Blog?
The first thing you should evaluate is the design of the theme – how much work it would take to customize it in order to fit your preferred layout. There’re so many different options out there that it’s completely not worth it to spend weeks on customizing a theme’s look. In most cases you can find a template allowing you to use it directly “out of the box”.
The second thing to consider is functionality. Besides the absolute musts as responsiveness (mobile friendly design), high resolution, and glitch-free performance, you should make a list of all the functions you’ll need – such as cookie notice, contact forms, chat, video, audio, file upload, login, membership, compatibility with for example SEO plugins, team presentation, customer reviews, subscription, etc.
The reason why you should try to find a theme covering as many of your needs as possible, is that you’ll otherwise be forced to use multiple plugins. This is not recommended as plugins are not only additional expenses but also potential trouble makers. In theory, you could experience incompatibility issues with the very first plugin you install – and the chance for that happening grows considerably with every additional plugin.
The third necessary consideration is whether you’ll be able to handle the customization of the theme yourself or you’ll need support. If the latter’s the case, make sure that there’s offered enough support as part of the deal.
Last but not least, it’s always a good idea to find some reliable customer reviews to see what you’re going to be dealing with. Often, if there’re some issues with the theme’s functionality, you can see it in discussions or comments about it. Same applies if support is nonexistent or updates come late or never.
How to Install a WordPress Theme
There’re three different ways to install new WordPress themes:
- If you found a theme you like from within your WordPress blog, via the search as described above, you should simply click on the Install button available on hover over the theme image in the library or on the page with details and preview.
- If you downloaded a theme from WordPress.org or somewhere else on the web, you should try installing it via the installation tool in your WordPress Admin Panel. You can find it under Appearance->Themes->Add New->Upload Themes. Click on Browse to find the .zip archive, which the theme came packed in. Click on Install Now after you’ve found the file. The theme should now be available in your Themes library.
- Some themes downloaded from the web cannot be uploaded via the mentioned installation tool as they’re too big. They must be installed by uploading the files directly into the root directory of your domain on the server. You do that by following this procedure:
- Configure a FTP client
- Unzip the theme files down to the folder in which you can find the css folder among other folders and loose files.
- Find your domain’s root directory on the server, usually called public_html. Navigate to the wp_content folder in it, open it and find the subfolder called Themes. It’s here you should upload the whole folder containing the files and folders mentioned above.
- When the transfer is successfully executed, your theme should be available in your Themes library in WordPress Admin panel.
Now you should find the newly installed theme in Appearance->Themes->Add New. Activate the theme to change the design of your blog instantly.
What to be on the Lookout For
- When you click on Activate theme, the design of your live blog changes. Make therefore sure that the layout of the blog is as it should be. It happens almost always when changing themes – especially if you’ve implemented some more intricate design elements – that text, titles, and media get all messed up and need to be adjusted to fit the new template.
- If you’ve been using some plugins or codes which were integrated in your previous theme, you can often end up with visible pieces of code on those places where for example widgets or special elements were located. Make sure to remove them everywhere on your blog pages and posts – and see whether you won’t need to find alternatives in order to keep the desired functionality.
- You normally end up using one WordPress theme and a set of plugins. After changing to a new theme you should carefully check for incompatibility issues. If you detect problems as wrong design of pages or posts, not functioning widgets, broken links, slow loading of pages, or getting errors when trying to access certain pages, you should check which one(s) of your plugins is behind the issue and find alternative solutions.
- Free WordPress themes can be fantastic and truly meet your needs in terms of flexibility or functionality. Be aware though that not all of them are regularly or timely updated. This presents you not only with a security issue but also with possible compatibility issues in the future when WordPress or a plugin you’re using gets updated. Also, with free themes you’re in many cases on your own, meaning that you can’t rely on the author for support if you bump into problems. As you aren’t a paying customer, the author has no obligation to help you. If he does, it’s a bonus for you. Last but not least, whether developers’ standards for quality have been met, is a question of luck.