Understanding and Using WordPress Themes

What is a WordPress Theme?

A WordPress Theme is a collection of files that controls the look and feel and layout of a WordPress website.

WordPress themes are totally separate from the site content, and can be changed without affecting the site content

However changing a theme will affect how that content is displayed.

Default WordPress Themes

WordPress comes with several default themes. These themes are version dependent.

I recommend that anyone new to WordPress should stay with the default theme while you find you way around.

You can customise the default themes and other themes by adding new header(logo) images.

Changing Themes

Click the Appearance link on the left side and it should open up the page below with the current theme appearing first, and any other installed themes appearing as well.

manage wordpress-themes

Click the Install themes tab this will take you to a search page where you can search for a theme by a variety of criteria like colour,number of columns etc.

install wordpress themes

Here I’ve clicked the feature themes link and it shows a page of popular themes with a description and each having two links – An install link which will install the theme on your site and a preview link where you can see a demonstration of the theme.


Click Install to install the theme.

You will get an install confirmation page like the one below if it was successful


You should notice three links on the bottom of the confirmation page.

They let you preview the theme with your site content- you should do this before you activate it.

You can also activate the theme which means that it is now live on your site.

You can also return to the installer page, which lets you return to the manage themes page, where you can view the available themes.

If you have problems with the new theme you can quickly return to the old theme by going back to the manage themes page, and activating the old theme.

Flexible Themes

Many new themes are designed to be flexible so that you can change the design by clicking a few check boxes.

So, for example, if you don’t want a top menu you can disable it with a checkbox.

They are also designed to be more search engine friendly and many include basic SEO.

If yours does include SEO settings I recommend not using them unless you are committed to the theme.

Generally using a plugin like the All in One SEO plugin is preferred, as you can change themes, and not lose your settings. See WordPress SEO Basics

Responsive Theme

This is a very important consideration as the number of visitors to websites using smart phones and tablets  is increasing.

A responsive theme adjusts itself to the screen size that is being used by the visitor to view the page.

Tip -You can see how your site looks like on different size screens by viewing the page in your web browser on your PC and then adjusting the Window size.

Child Themes

Child themes were introduced in WordPress 3.0 ( I think) and are the recommended way of making your own changes to a theme. (theme customisation).

They allow you to make changes to a theme without having to edit the main theme files.

This means that you can safely upgrade the theme and not lose your changes.

Theme Locations and Storage

WordPress Themes are stored in the themes folder under the content directory as shown in the screen shoot below:


If you need to manually install a theme you copy the theme folder into the themes directory, and it will be automatically be detected by WordPress. See Using FTP to copy files.

Common Questions and Answers

Q- Are premium or paid themes better than free themes?

A- No not always, but premium themes will probably be kept up to date, whereas free ones might just be left to gather dust. However many free themes are regularly updated especially ones that come with premium options.

Q- The Theme lets me control SEO settings should I use them?

A- Some themes let you do SEO related things like configure titles, noindex pages etc. I don’t recommend you use them because you will encounter problems if you change themes at a later date. Instead use a plugin like the ALL in one SEO or Yoast SEO plugin.

Q- Are themes automatically updated?

A- No you need to do this yourself see-Updating WordPress- Themes and Plugins

Q- Is it easy to change Themes?

A- Yes but you will may need to make some changes to the settings e.g. menus.

Q- What WordPress Theme is that?

A- If you visit a site and like the theme you can find out what theme they are using by looking at the HTML source code by right clicking anywhere on the page to get the view source code option.view-web page-page-source




Now scan the page for the word themes you should find reference to the current theme in links to style sheets and JavaScript files in the top part of the page as shown below:


If it is a free or commercial theme then you can locate it using a Google search.

Related Articles and Resources:

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