We saw how to customise a theme in the previous lesson and the difference it made to the website is amazing. That is nothing compared to installing a completely new theme. A new theme changes everything!
You can, and people do, spend a week or more looking at themes and trying to find the best one for their website. This is because it is such a vitally important part of the site.
It is how people see you and the right theme will help you attract visitors and keep them on your site. If people like what they see, they might be persuaded to buy your products or services.
There are thousands of themes for WordPress and this is one of the reasons why it is so popular for creating websites.
A theme changes the colours, the fonts, the images, the position of items of the screen, even the display of items on the page, hiding some and showing others. The theme your website uses is one of the most important features and it can make your website look great or awful.
One of the nice things about having a wordpress.com website is the ease with which you can experiment with different themes. You can explore them, try them, see the effects and customise them.
You can do all of this with a self-hosted WordPress installation, but wordpress.com is free. Experiment and learn how themes work before changing your paid website. You can even find the theme you want here and try it out before applying it to a self-hosted site.
View your website
Here is what the site currently looks like with the Twenty Sixteen theme.
Browse the theme gallery
Log into the WordPress admin interface by going to yoursite.wordpress.com/wp-admin
Click Appearance in the sidebar on the left.
Themes is the first sub-menu and so a screen full of theme thumbnail images is displayed.
At the top are links to show the most popular, trending themes, the newest, free ones and so on. Click Free and then explore the themes.
When the mouse hovers over a theme, two buttons appear. Activate applies the theme – don’t click it! Click Preview instead. You don’t want to activate a theme before you have even looked at it!
Preview and customise
The screen now looks exactly like in the previous lesson and you can see and experiment with the theme’s customisation options. A large preview window on the right shows exactly what your website will look if you choose to activate the theme.
Activate a theme
There is a Save & Activate at the top, but don’t click it until you are sure you want the theme. Look at the difference this theme would make to the test site. Here is the preview:
Wow! That is a huge difference. Click the cross icon in the top left corner to abandon this theme and preview another theme, and another.
Preview lots of themes and see how they change your site. Don’t activate the first one you find, keep looking because there are hundreds!
Here is another theme. See how it changes everything – the heading and menus are in a different place, the colours are different, there are different widgets on the page, and so on.
If you activate a theme and don’t like it, you can always return to the theme browser and select the theme you had before.
More work required
It is very easy to browse themes, preview them and activate them. However, a theme sometimes requires a lot of work to get it looking perfect.
For example, suppose one theme requires featured images that are 1200 pixels wide and yours are all 900 pixels wide. The theme will work, but the featured images might look fuzzy or cropped because they aren’t the right size. You might need to go through every article on your site and replace the featured image with one that is the right size.
A theme might use a special home page that requires a lot of customisation too.
Sometimes the theme thumbnail in the browser looks superb, but when applied to your site, it doesn’t look anything like it. It is because it has special requirements and it might take a day or even a week to customise and get it looking good.
Switching themes is easy, but difficult. Easy to switch, but difficult to get looking as good as the thumbnail promised. Try some and see.
This guide will continue to use the Twenty Sixteen theme because it is good for teaching WordPress. Switch back to it for the next lesson.
- Learn how to browse themes on the wordpress.org website
- Preview themes and see how they change your website
- Apply a new theme and give your site a makeover