Once you’ve set up your website hosting and installed WordPress you’re basically ready to start blogging! But, unless you choose a theme for your website, it’ll look rather basic and won’t stand out from the crowd. Enter WordPress themes!
What Are WordPress Themes?
First of all, let’s go over what a WordPress Theme actually is. The theme is responsible for the look and feel of your website or blog. It mostly rules over the design of your website, but many themes can also impact the functionality. But mostly, it’s the design: it’s how it looks.
A theme consists of template files and code. CSS dictates the layout and design. You may or may not know what all this means, and you don’t need to – that is the beauty of WordPress! WordPress comes with a basic, minimalist theme included, but you’ll probably want to choose your own to make your website unique.
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Premium vs. Free Themes
There are both free and paid themes available and it’s fine to use either. If you’re on a budget, free themes can be a great way to get started. You can download and go, focusing on building up your content base and readership until you have enough money to spend on a paid theme.
In fact, if you’re brand new to WordPress it may be a good idea to mess around with some free themes just to give you an idea of how they work. Some really useful free themes can be found by searching via your WordPress Dashboard. Simply click on Appearance >> Themes >> Add New. Then you’ll see a little search box and below that some search criteria such as colours and column number as well as other features.
(Be aware that with most free themes you cannot remove information or links that go back to the creator. This is why they are free, it’s advertisement for the designer. Honour this and don’t try to change it.)
Premium Paid Themes:
When you’re ready, paid themes can bring a number of extra features to the table. Some of them have extra functionality that means you can easily customize the design of your website without having to mess with code. This is really useful, as it means your site won’t look exactly the same as another blogger’s site (which can be one of the drawbacks of popular free themes). I personally use a paid theme called Flatsome and it makes it super easy to edit the design without coding.
Some good sources of themes include:
- StudioPress* (home of Genesis theme which I have used and love)
- Envato Market* (I currently use a theme called Flatsome from there)
- Elegant Themes* (many people love the Divi theme)
- Creative Market* (you can also sometimes get free themes here)
Finding a Theme With the Right Features
The kind of theme you choose depends on what you’re using it for. You may just be starting out and happy to go with the colour schemes and fonts provided by the theme. However, if you’ve worked on your brand and have specific colours and fonts in mind, you’ll need to find a theme that lets you edit these things (unless you know a bit about coding and can do it yourself).
Think about how you want the theme to showcase the mood of your brand. For example, if you’re a photographer then you’ll probably want to find a theme that supports big portfolio image pages. If you’re a creative arty blogger then you may want something colourful and quirky. For some idea, try searching for “your niche/ profession + WordPress theme” into Google and see what comes up, or browse other people’s blogs for inspiration.
You’ll also need to think about any specific features that are essential for you. All themes should now be “responsive”, which means they display properly on mobile devices as well as desktop. This is crucial to your SEO, so make sure you confirm that any potential themes provide this. If you want to be able to sell products directly from your site then you’ll need a site that supports the eCommerce software you’ll use (my site uses Flatsome* because it supports the free shopping cart system WooCommerce). Or you may be using some other plugin or software that you need to make sure your WordPress theme supports.
You also want to find a theme that is updated regularly, because WordPress is constantly being updated and this can, unfortunately, break old themes. You’ll find that most paid themes come with regular updates, and many free themes do too. As long as you buy or download from a reputable source, you should find that they have good support and updates included (though you’ll sometimes have to pay after the first year to extend your access to updates and support – which is fair enough given that designers need to keep working on those themes).
A Note About Perfectionism…
Many people stall at the stage of choosing a theme for their blog because they are looking for perfection from the beginning. I’ve been there – I have taken months at a time to get everything looking “just right”. Unfortunately, those months of searching could have been spent on writing great content and actually growing my business!
So, while I do think you should put effort into finding a nice design, remember that this is just the theme you’re starting with. If you’re starting a brand new blog then the chances are that not many people are going to see it in those early stages. You can and will change your design with time. You don’t need to do everything at once, you can improve things as you go!
How to Install a Theme on WordPress
Installing your new theme is easy. Here are the basic steps:
- Login to your WordPress dashboard
- Head to Appearance >> Themes
- Click “Add New”
- Option 1: If you’re using a free theme from the WordPress directory, search for it.
Option 2: If you’ve acquired a free or paid theme on an external website, they will have given you a theme zip file to upload. You’ll need to click “Upload Theme” at this stage to upload the file.
- After you select or upload your theme, you can click “Live Preview” to see how it looks, or click “Activate” to make it live on your website.
- If you run into any trouble, refer to the theme documentation, or click here to check the official WordPress documentation.
IMPORTANT NOTE – always remember to backup before making big changes to your website!
Don’t forget, you can change your theme in future if you need to. The important thing is that you choose a theme now so you can get started really building and growing your new blog!
Remember, if you want more help getting your blog set up without spinning your wheels then I actually have a FREE 1 week course to get you set up the right way…Click here to sign up to my FREE 1 week blog course... & get your blog set up the right way
*Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are ‘affiliate links.’ This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.