This guide is another in the Inside WordPress series and will show you how to install a WordPress theme. While this is a relatively simple task it is one of fundamental importance to WordPress and is often overlooked. As such it is a potential cause of problems to beginners, and not being able to successfully install themes will prevent you from customising your weblog and taking it beyond the default style.
The installation process can be broken down into
- Download & unzip the theme file
- Upload the theme to your website
- Activate the theme
We’ll look at each step in turn.
Download & Unzip the theme file
WordPress themes are usually distributed as zip files. A zip file is a special file that allows you to store and compress many files together, resulting in a single file that is small and fast to download. Downloading a theme consists of clicking the download link from the appropriate website and allowing the browser to store the file somewhere on your computer:
Once downloaded the file needs to be unzipped, a term that refers to the de-compressing and restoring to normal of a zip file. Depending what kind of computer you are using this is either a very simple stage, or one that requires additional software. Recent versions of Windows will already understand zip files, as will OS X. If they don’t then you will need to download and install something like 7-Zip, Winzip, or StuffIt.
When ready, unzip the theme:
Upload the theme to your website
Currently you have the theme on your computer, but you’ll need to move it to your website before it can be activated. There are a variety of ways of doing this, and here we will use FTP. Before
you continue you should have access to your FTP username and password. These are the same details provided to you by your web host, and the ones which give you access to your site directory.
Before you begin you will need an FTP client. For Windows you can use FileZilla, for Mac OS X you can use Cyberduck. Once you have the FTP software installed you should start it and open a new connection. Enter your FTP address, followed by your username and password:
After a few moments (if the address, username, and password are correct) you will be connected to your website and will see a directory listing.
Navigate through this directory to where WordPress is installed. The exact location of this will change depending on your web host, but typically it will be inside a directory called
Navigate through WordPress to where the plugins are located:
Now you can upload the theme. Be aware that you need to upload the theme directory as well as all files. Certain unzip applications will create a surrounding directory for you, which should not be uploaded. For example:
Correct (bold shows directory to be uploaded)
Activate the theme
This is the simplest stage. First you’ll need to login to your WordPress administration panel:
From your dashboard go to the themes section:
You will be presented with a list of theme. Locate the theme you uploaded in the list of available themes and click on it. Simple!