How to Use WordPress Themes? An Essential Guide

Ever wondered how to use WordPress themes? Are they really that important to your website?

How would you be able to use a custom theme as opposed to the themes offered by WordPress?  

Moreover, what is WordPress? 

WordPress is a content management system that allows you to create and control your own website. It could be a personal blogging website or a business one. 

Either way, how you present your content goes a long way in attracting customers. Presentation matters.

Finding the right WordPress theme could be the key to higher traffic for your website.

In this article, you will learn how to use WordPress themes to build a website.

What are WordPress Themes?

A WordPress theme is basically the layout of your blog. It’s a unified design which consists of all the colours, graphics, and text presented on your website.

In the past, to apply a theme to your website, you had to do all the coding yourself. Besides the fact that this used to take hours, maybe even days, for anyone not familiar with coding, it also didn’t give a clean enough finishing for anyone needing a nice professional look for their website.

Nowadays, it’s as easy as just searching and choosing the theme you like the most.

You can either use a custom theme or you can choose one of the themes offered on WordPress. A theme only changes how your website is displayed without changing the software behind it.

Your theme consists of a series of files called ‘Templates’ that build your website. Some templates are consistent on all pages (e.g. header and footer) while others are only used under certain conditions.

For example, if you write about news and entertainment, you can customize these two pages to have different layouts. You can also assign different functions to the links on each page. 

A theme can also include customized template files, images (.jpg, .png, .gif), style sheets (.css), custom pages, and any code files (.php).

Templates consist of XHTML as well as a CSS Style Sheet. XHTML is used for the design and structure of the page while the CSS Style Sheet is used for its presentation.

WordPress Page Structure

A normal WordPress webpage should be structured as follows:

  • Header: The top part which, aside from containing the <head> </head> tags in the HTML, should also include the main navigation menu and logo/name of the company/blog.
  • Content: The middle part which includes everything posted on your blog and, unlike the Header and Footer, should be editable in the HTML. It should contain all the posts published to your website.
  • Footer: The bottom part. Usually contains copyright information and disclaimers as well as some navigation links.

This article will guide you through how to use WordPress themes and some of the things you can do to improve your chosen theme.

How to Use WordPress Themes

Adding or changing a theme is very simple. Usually, Theme Developers provide instructions on how to install their themes, especially because every theme is different in its functionality and options provided. Therefore, some themes might need more steps than the installation instructions provided here.

If any part of your theme doesn’t seem to be working, contact the theme author for help.

There are multiple techniques detailing how to use WordPress themes on your website. You might prefer using one over the other but the will all give you the same result; a brand new theme to show off your website.

Here are some simple step-by-step guides that will help you with your installation process.

How to Use WordPress Themes Using Administration Panels

If you want to choose a theme besides the ones you already have installed, click on the Add New Themes option in the Appearance sub-menu to upload themes directly to your blog.

  1.  Login to the WordPress Administration Panels.
  2.  Click on Appearance, then Themes.
  3.  Click on Add New.
  4.  Use Search or Filter to choose a theme you like.
  5.  You can preview the theme by clicking on the Preview button or you can start using it directly by clicking on Install Now.
  6.  If you already have a zipped theme you want to use on your computer, just click on the Upload link on the top row.
  7.  Click on Live Preview to check it out first or just directly click on Activate.

When you’re installing a zipped theme you have on your computer, make sure to only select the theme itself from the file. If you upload the whole folder, you’ll get an error as the folder usually includes not only the theme but also the theme documentation.

How to Use WordPress Themes Using cPanel

In some cases, the theme developer offers the cPanel control panel.

  1.  Download the .zip theme file to your computer.
  2.  Open the cPanel File Manager and find your Themes folder. 
  3.  Click on Upload Files and upload the .zip file you saved.
  4.  Select the name of the .zip file in the cPanel, then click on “Extract File Contents” located in the panel on the right to decompress your .zip file.
  5.  Proceed with the the same instructions as the one in Selecting an Active Theme (see below) to select a new theme.

How to Use WordPress Themes Manually (FTP)

To manually add a new theme to your WordPress, follow these steps:

  1.  Download the Theme Archive and extract all files, except the directory structure. Follow the guidelines provided by the Theme Developer.
  2.  Use an FTP Client to access your host web server, then create a directory to save your theme in the wp-content/theme directory provided by WordPress.
  3.  Upload the Theme files to the new directory on your host server.
  4.  Proceed with the the same instructions as the one in Selecting an Active Theme (see below) to select a new theme.

Selecting an Active Theme

If you want to choose from one of the themes already installed, just follow these steps:

  1.  Login to the WordPress Administration Panels.
  2.  Click on Appearance, then Themes.
  3.  To see the options of the theme you’re interested in, hover over the Theme thumbnail image from the Themes panel.
  4.  To learn more about any theme, click on Theme Details.
  5.  Click on Live Preview to check how the theme looks like with your content.
  6.  Select the Activate button.

Depending on the theme, you can also customize it a bit more to your taste.

Look for the Customize button in the Appearance panel. You can assign a tagline, change colors, put header and background images, and change the menu location, just to name a few. 

In some themes, you can also click on Widget in the Appearance panel to assign you widgets purposes such as putting a calendar, a search form, a comment section, or just simple text.


Make sure than you can successfully preview your theme. If, after you press the Live Preview button, the page appears blank, do not activate the theme as it might not work properly.

Unlike, websites don’t allow the use of custom themes nor installing plug-ins. You would have to choose from the themes available to you.

If you’re not sure whether to go with or, this complete guide will give you all the information you need to choose.

Considering that this is the age of technology and more people are using their phones for everything online, it would be advisable to choose a theme that is easily adjustable to computer, mobile, and tablet screens.

Check out the official WordPress Theme Directory which houses the entire collection of inspected and free to use WordPress themes. 

There are also themes that you would have to pay for to use which usually provide you with more flexibility in their options. They have better customer service and you can use them to customize your website more.

If you decide to buy a theme, make sure that it works with WordPress. After purchasing it, download all files and documentation for it.

You can also choose to add extra features to your website on WordPress by using plugins. However, some plugins can only be used with certain themes to work with their features.

Filteration Options

You can filter through the themes using the Featured option, as well as the Popular, and the Latest. The Popular filter will show you the most used themes among the WordPress community which will give you an idea of which types of layouts people like.

However, be cautious when using a theme out of the Latest filter as they’re not tested properly and may carry bugs.

You can also click on the Feature Filter to choose exactly what you prefer your theme to consist of, such as its colors and layout. Once you choose and hit the Apply button, all the themes with your preferred colors and layout will appear.

If, however, you want to create your own theme, here’s a guide to help you develop one yourself.

Why Develop Your Own Theme?

You can skip using WordPress themes and go straight to developing them yourself. Some people prefer to develop their own theme instead of choosing from the ones online.

After learning how to use WordPress themes, developing themes can be a huge step forward.

This can be advantagous to the developer as it allows them to create the theme exactly how they want it to look, while learning more about HTML, PHP, and CSS. It can also give you the opportunity to share your creation with other members of the WordPress community.

If you’re still new to theme development and want to learn more about it, you might want to start with a Child Theme first. Child Themes are the way to modify an already existing theme while keeping its functionality and style. 

After setting up your theme, learning how to create pages will be another step forward towards launching your website. Once that is done, nothing is easier than creating posts to publish on your website.

Set-up a Homepage

Once you install your theme, you need to start working on your homepage as that’s the first thing anyone who visits your website sees. 

These next steps are to guide you through giving your homepage its own layout to set it apart as opposed to having it look the same as the layout of any other page.

  1.  Find the Pages link in the sidebar and click on Add New.
  2.  Under Template, choose Homepage.
  3.  Click on Publish.
  4.  Go to Settings in the sidebar, then Reading.
  5.  At the Front Page Displays, choose A Static Page instead of Your Latest Posts.
  6.  Under it, you will find Front Page where you should select Home, then Save Changes.

Set-up a Menu

Menus might not appear in some themes unless you set them up yourself. Follow these steps to create your menu:

  1.  Go to the Appearance panel, then click on Menus.
  2.  Edit the default menu options as you like.
  3.  Click on Create Menu. 
  4.  Switch to the Manage Locations tab.
  5.  Assign a Main Menu, then Save Changes.

Using WordPress Themes Is Simple but What to Do Now?

There are multiple ways how to use WordPress themes.

You can choose from the pre-installed themes, you can install new themes from WordPress, and you can download them from another website and then upload them onto WordPress. 

While some themes have a certain commonality to them, each theme is unique. The options you find in one theme may be different in another, or they may not exist at all.

Keep in mind that each theme has different theme options. Depending on the theme you choose, you could be able to change colors, styles, layout, ect.

Always make sure to read the theme documentation (i.e theme instructions) provided by the Theme Author so as to know how everything works. 

You can change your theme as many times as you want. Whenever you change it, the layout and options will change but you’ll still have the same content.

Finally, whichever theme you choose, make sure that it’s built for the purpose of you website.

For example, if you’re creating a food blog, the theme should suit that visual topic and have many options to showcase any pictures you want displayed. If you’re creating an online shopping website, choose a theme designed for selling products to accommodate your needs.

Find out more about how to use WordPress such as how to setup your website, how to create your navigation, and the best WordPress plugins you could use.

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