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Discovering and Installing WordPress Themes

Let's walk you through adding, activating, and customizing a theme together, then your homework will be to pick your own theme and customize it to your liking. If you don't have WordPress yet, check out our how to start a blog guide that will get you started.

Installing and Activating a WordPress Theme

From your WordPress Dashboard, go to Appearance → Themes.

Here you'll find the default WordPress themes that are already installed.

Go to Add New to look at other themes.

When you look through themes, click Preview for more info and to see a demo, but for now, let’s install Customizr. It’s a really popular theme with lots of options so it makes a good example.

Remember


When choosing a free theme, only consider the ones already in the WordPress directory. These themes are reviewed and safe to use.​

Type customizr into the search bar. It’ll be the first option.

Hover over the theme and 2 buttons show up: Install and Preview. Click Preview.

On the left, you can read a little about the theme as well as see its rating. Customizr has 864 ratings. It's a pretty popular theme and has more options than most free themes do.

Feel free to click around the theme preview to get used to it.

Then, in the top left, click Install. This installs the theme so that you can use it, but you still have to activate it.

You’ll notice that the install button has changed and now says Activate. Go ahead and click Activate.

Your blog now has the Customizr theme. Check it out by going to your website.

Customizing Your WordPress Theme

Now we're going to walk through some theme customization. We'll show you some of it, but mostly you should play with the different options on your own. Pay attention to how the preview of your site changes with each alteration. Try out different combinations of layouts and design options.

Back in your Dashboard, click Customize in the Appearance sub-menu.

On the left, you’ll find all of the general categories of features you can customize.

If you’re ever deep in the customizing rabbit hole, click the house icon in the top left and that will take you back to this menu.

The X takes you back to your dashboard, so if you leave, be sure to save your work first.

On the right is the preview of your site. It shows you how your blog will look when you make changes. There are also a few things you can edit directly on the preview, like the title and tagline (where you see blue pencils).

In the bottom left, you’ll see three icons: a computer, a tablet, and a mobile. Clicking on these will show you what your site looks like on each one. Many themes (like Customizr) have a feature that automatically makes your site custom to the device of the visitor, but some do not. If you want people to be able to read your blog from a mobile phone, keep this in mind and choose an appropriate theme.

Global Settings


Global Settings
affect your whole website.


The first is your Site Title and Tagline. They should already be filled in since Customizr got this information from your WordPress settings. You can change your title and tagline here and decide if you want the tagline to show up at all.


The second global setting is your Logo and Favicon. This is where you would insert them if you had a logo and favicon. Keep this in mind because we’ll talk more about logos and favicons in Lesson 6.


The 3rd global setting is Skin. Go ahead and change the color. What happens? The skin is the color of the title, the buttons, and some of the text. You can also randomize it so the color changes with each page load.


The 4th global setting is fonts, which is pretty self-explanatory. What you do want the text to look like on your website?


You’ll also choose the default font size. Before you change this, scroll down on the preview to the middle where you see Featured Page. Now change the font size. Generally, the default font size is 16-18.


The 5th global setting is Social Links, which means things like Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. Many bloggers create social media accounts for their blogs (we have some for GoStartABlog). In the Promotion module, we'll talk more about social media.


The rest of the global settings are pretty self-explanatory. Take a look through and play with them on your own.


Now let's take a look at some of the other settings. Make sure you're in the Main Menu.

Other Settings


In Header, you can change the design and layout and decide what navigation menus you want to have. Basically, choose what your header looks like and what menu (or menus) you want to include.


We’re going to talk about menus in our Build Your Content module, but keep in mind that you can customize their appearance and location here.


Back in the main menu, go to Content. This is where you determine how you want your content laid out on your posts and pages. All themes are different and some offer different options than others. For example, many themes don’t have an option for breadcrumbs.


The rest of the categories in the main menu are pretty self-explanatory. Look through these to alter each one. Really spend some time playing around with the different options. We want you to become comfortable with trying things out and finding the customization that best fits you and your blog.

Note: When you customize a theme, all of your work is saved. You can deactivate it, try out a different theme, and then come back to it. All of your previous work will be there. You won't have to start again.

WordPress Theme Details


You can get to know your theme through the theme details as well. Back in your Dashboard, click on About Customizr in the Appearance sub-menu.

This page has some details about the Customizr theme. What’s most interesting is the documentation. You’ll see a link called documentation at the top. Go ahead and click on it.

If you ever have any questions or want help with your theme, you can go to the documentation and enter in keywords into the search bar. For instance, if you want to know how to add social media icons to the header of your website, type in “social media icons header” and it will tell you how.

Some themes (like Customizr) have Pro versions you can upgrade to if you want more customization options. We’ll talk about paid themes in the next lesson.

For now, go check out the different themes and try a few of them out. Customize them how you want and find one that you are comfortable using.

Remember


Avoid using free themes that are not in the official WordPress theme directory. They could be from unreliable sources.​

2

Lesson 4 - Free Themes

In this lesson, we're going to install a free theme onto your WordPress blog and walk through some of the basic customization options. We've chosen the them Customizr because it is one of the more elaborate free themes and is pretty widely used.

Follow along with your own blog. Even if you don't want to use Customizr in the end, it's easy to install a different theme. Going through all of the steps will help you get a feel for theme customization in general and will make things easier in the future (no matter what theme you end up using).

Let's get started with Installation & Activation.

Follow along with the written instructions and watch the videos if you'd like to see me going through the steps.

Installation & Activation

From your WordPress dashboard, go to AppearanceThemes.

Here you'll find the default WordPress themes that are already installed.

Go to Add New to look at other themes.

When you look through themes, you can click Preview for more information and to see a demonstration. But for now, we're going to install Customizr.

Remember: When choosing a free theme, only consider the ones already in the WordPress directory. These themes are reviewed and are safe to use. Themes not in the directory may be harmful to your website.

Type "customizr" into the search bar.

It will be the 1st option. When you hover over the theme, 2 buttons will show up: Install and Preview.

Click Preview.

On the left, you can read a little about the theme as well as see its rating. Feel free to click around the theme preview to get used to it.

In the top left, click Install.

This installs the theme so that you can use it, but you still have to activate it in order to apply the theme to your website. You'll notice that the Install button has changed and now says Activate.

Click Activate.

Your blog now has the Customizr theme. You can check it out by going to your website. Next, we'll go through some basic customization options.

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