Once you’ve installed WordPress, you’re ready to jazz it up and make it your own. The easiest way to do this is with a theme.
WordPress comes with a theme system which enables you to “skin” your blog, making it easy for you to control the look and presentation of the content on your site.
A theme is actually a collection of files working together to create a unifying design for your blog. It changes the way the site is displayed without modifying the underlying software (your WordPress installation). Themes can include customized template files, image files, style sheets (a.k.a. CSS files), custom pages, as well as any necessary code (PHP files).
That’s about all the technical information you need to know. The important part to remember is this: You can completely change the look and feel of your site simply by changing your theme.
Two Types of WordPress Themes:
Free and Premium
1 Free WordPress Themes
Your WordPress installation comes with three free themes: the default “Twenty Fourteen” theme, as well as the previous default themes, “Twenty Thirteen” and “Twenty Twelve.”
WordPress has its own theme directory which includes many good themes that are available for free. You can access these free themes via your WordPress installation by clicking on the admin “Appearance” link on the left, and then “Themes.” Then click on the “New” button or do a search via the search box:
Free themes tend to be basic, offering far fewer features and customization options than…
2 Premium WordPress Themes
These are WordPress themes created by designers and developers that are available for sale. Most premium themes are available in the $25-$100 price range, and many wonderful themes can be found for around $50.
One advantage to using a premium WordPress theme is frequent updates (at least that’s the case with a good theme developer). This is important because WordPress itself is frequently updated, and themes can “break” (meaning: your site won’t work) if they aren’t compatible with the newer version of WordPress. Free themes tend to not be updated as frequently, as there isn’t much incentive to do so.
My favorite source for premium WordPress themes is ThemeForest. Launched in 2008, ThemeForest is an online digital marketplace selling themes and plugins for all of the major blogging platforms. It currently offers more than 1,000 premium WordPress themes for sale.
How to find a great premium WordPress theme at Themeforest:
Select a category that interests you — “Popular Items” or “Blog/Magazine” is a good place to start.
Sort by ratings or sales. This way, the top rated and most popular themes will display first. This will help you locate a solid theme from an established, reliable developer:
Click on a theme name for more information. Click on “Live Preview” to see it in action:
To ensure your theme will look good on mobile devices (e.g., smartphones and tablets), only consider themes that are labeled “Fully Responsive” or “Mobile Ready.”
Review the comments to make sure support is timely and there aren’t any serious issues.
When you find a theme you like, click on “Purchase”:
Create your Themeforest account, fund it via PayPal or credit card, and then complete your purchase.
Download your new theme and save to your computer.
Install your theme per the instructions below.
My Premium WordPress Theme Recommendation…
If you’re on a budget and you still want a site that looks great yet is easy to customize, I recommend the Striking Multiflex Responsive Theme. Striking is incredibly versatile and can be used to power any type of WordPress site — from the most basic personal blogs, to ecommerce stores and corporate web sites. In fact, that’s what I’m using for this site!
More than 17,000 people have purchased Striking at the ThemeForest store, and it has earned more than 2,000 five star reviews. The theme is frequently updated and support is outstanding. For $55, Striking Theme is a steal.
How to Change Your WordPress Theme
If you purchase a premium theme, it should come with installation instructions. Usually, it’s just a matter of doing the following:
In your WordPress admin, click on “Appearance”
Below that, click on “Themes”
Go to the top, click on the “Upload Theme” button
Click on the “Choose File” button
Locate the theme’s file on your computer
Hit the “Install Now” button
Activate your theme (see below)
You can easily switch between installed themes via the “Appearance” panel in your WordPress admin. Themes that you add to the theme directory will appear in your WordPress admin under “Themes” as additional selections.
A live preview of any theme can be seen by clicking “Live Preview.” To activate the theme click the “Activate” button. Your theme will then immediately become active.
Customize Your WordPress Theme
How and where you modify your theme’s settings depends in part on the theme you installed. One way to access some of the settings is to click on “Appearance” in your WordPress left admin panel, and then “Themes.” When the theme page loads, click on the “Customize” button that appears in the bottom right corner of your theme:
Premium themes will usually have a more advanced settings section which can be accessed via the left admin panel.
NOTE: For your own sake, please take the time to read your theme’s installation and configuration instructions. Spending a few minutes going through these directions early on can save you hours of frustration later. If your theme does not seem to be working properly, contact the theme author for assistance – but only if you’ve first read through the instructions.
Now let’s talk about how to add functions and features to your site with WordPress Plugins…