WordPress for beginners – Install and customize themes
In the last part of our “WordPress for Beginners” series, we explained how to set up WordPress manually or via a 1-click installation. Once you have successfully set up WordPress, you have various options for website customization: You can install and customize plugins or themes. In this article you will learn how to use themes and what you need to consider when doing so.
A WordPress theme – what is that actually?
A WordPress theme is a type of design template that can be customized to suit individual needs. Before you decide on a theme, you should think about the structure of your website:
- How do I want to design the header area (drop-down menus, top menu above the logo)?
- How many sidebars do I need and where should they be (right or left)?
- Is a simple footer enough or should widgets be accommodated?
- What other features are important to me?
Tip: There are paid and free WordPress themes. These are available, for example, via the Internet. But be careful: Especially with free themes, there is a risk that the providers will integrate their own links or even viruses into the themes. Before installing a theme, make sure that the source the theme comes from is trustworthy. You must also ensure that the theme matches your WordPress version and that licensing must also be taken into account.
Install theme in WordPress
Themes with many and themes with few customization options
With WordPress themes, a basic distinction can be made between themes with many and themes with few customization options. The former offer the advantage that almost every element can be individualized. Again, the options of the simple themes remain nicely clear.
Install themes using the WordPress theme directory
Installing themes from the WordPress theme directory is very easy via the admin area of your website:
- Select Theme (on the left) and then Themes. Then go to the “Install Themes” tab at the top.
- You can search for a theme’s name or apply different filters to find the right theme.
- With “Preview” you can see the design in advance.
- Integrate the theme into your website by clicking on “Install now”. So that it is finally displayed, you still have to click on “Activate”.
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Install themes by uploading them to the admin area
If your theme does not come directly from the WordPress theme directory, most likely when you purchased the theme you received an archive containing the purchased theme. However, you can still upload the theme directly to the admin area: Select the archive under “Browse” and then click on “Upload”.
- The archive will be unpacked by WordPress and added to the other theme templates.
- You can now activate the theme on your website.
Install themes via FTP client
You can also install a theme by unzipping the respective archive and uploading it directly to the web space, i.e. to the appropriate directory structure. An FTP client is required. To do this, upload the complete theme folder to the directory under your domain followed by “/wp-content/themes/”. It is then displayed in the admin area and can be activated.
Themes using CSS files to adjust
The information responsible for the layout of a website is separated from the content in modern web design. The information is collected in so-called CSS files (“CSS” for Cascading Style Sheet). With WordPress, the themes have a file called “style.css”. This file determines, for example, the font size and type as well as the color of the headings. Changing the font size of the headings automatically affects your entire page.
The quick customization of the CSS file
You can change the CSS file directly from the dashboard. Namely under “Design” -> “Edit”. All you have to do is select the “style.css” and make the planned changes.
Danger: If you make the changes directly in the theme, they will be lost if the template is updated. So you have to save the changes and paste them again after a possible update. That can be very tedious! For this reason, this method is not particularly recommended.
WordPress themes in child theme to adjust
If you want to change the web design in various areas, you should outsource the adjustments to a so-called child theme if possible. In this way, all modifications are backed up, even in the case of an update. In the next post in the “WordPress for Beginners” series, you will learn how to create and edit a menu in WordPress.