Today we’re going to talk about one of the funnest parts of creating a new blog – choosing a theme! This is one of the ways you get to really show your own personality on your blog – and you don’t have to be a web designer to make it look good.
Once you’ve installed WordPress on your domain, you’ll be ready to start customizing it. There will be a theme already installed – right now, that theme is called Twenty Fourteen. But you really don’t want to leave that theme there – it looks kind of newbie and unprofessional.
But that brings us to the first decision you’ll need to make: Do you go for a free WordPress theme, or do you upgrade to paid – or ‘premium’ – theme? My recommendation is that if you’re new to blogging, you start with a free theme. You can always upgrade later when you’re sure that you’re going to be dedicated to keeping your site active for the long haul.
If you’re already familiar with blogging, you may want to go ahead and choose a premium theme right from the start so you don’t have to worry about changing later.
When the Themes page opens, you’ll see the themes that are currently installed on your site. You can choose to make any one of those the active theme, simply by holding your mouse over them and clicking on the button that says “Activate”.
But we don’t really want to stick with one of these default themes, we want to look for something a little different. So click up at the top where it says “Add New”.
At the very top of the page, you’ll see “Add Themes” with a button next to it that says ‘Upload Theme’. We’ll come back to that in just a minute. First, I want to talk about the tabs you’ll see right below there – Featured, Popular and Latest, as well as a Feature Filter.
You can use those tabs to see the Featured free themes, the most Popular, or the most recently added to the WordPress library. You can also use the filter to narrow the list down to themes that only have specific features you may want; for example, if you know you want to go with a blue theme, you can filter by color. You can also filter by the type of header or number of sidebars – it all depends on how you want your theme to look.
The free themes you will find here are all approved by WordPress. You’ll see that you can move your cursor over them and click to get more details and a preview of the theme. When you find one you like, just click on the “Install” button and after it’s installed, click on “Activate”.
Now, about that “Upload” button I told you we’d get back to…
There are a lot of other free themes out there, and you can find them with a quick Google search. But word to the wise – many of the “free” themes you’ll find out there aren’t really. Oh, they might not cost you any money, but they often have lots of sneaky code hidden in them. The most common is to have hidden links that point back to other sites – and those sites may be things you don’t want your site associated with. I recommend that you don’t download a theme from any place that you aren’t completely sure is safe.
If you do find an “off-WordPress” theme that you are sure is safe, and you want to install on your site, you’ll download it from the site where you found it. It will download as a .zip file. Next, go to your Themes page, and click on the “Upload Theme” button; upload the entire .zip file. After it’s uploaded, it will show on your “Installed Themes” just like the default themes did, and you can select it to activate.
And here’s a pro tip for you – delete any themes that you aren’t using. Even though they aren’t active on your website, they are still installed on your server, and as such, can still be used by hackers to infiltrate your site if a weakness is found.
So – what about Premium Themes?
Premium themes are typically cleaner (code wise) and more search engine friendly than free themes are. You can search for them on Google too. Some of the more popular sites for premium themes are:
When you purchase a premium theme, you install it the same way as you would a free theme, by using the “Upload” button on your Theme page and installing the zip file.
Some themes are very crisp and clean, others are colorful, almost cluttered looking (like mine!). Choose something that’s based on your personal preferences, but always keep your readers best interest in mind. Some things to avoid: dark backgrounds, hard to read fonts, and jarring color combinations. Remember that people are reading blogs on mobile devices more and more now – you want your font to be easy to read on the small screen.
Of course, if you have the money to do it, you can get someone to design your own custom theme – that’s a great way to get your blog to really stand out from the crowd. But in the meantime, there are plenty of free and Premium themes that are very nice and give you enough options to express your own personality.