How to Install and Delete a Theme in WordPress

There are thousands of different WordPress themes to choose from: free themes, premium themes, even custom WordPress themes built to your specifications from scratch.

Usually, throughout the life of your site, you’ll go through a handful of themes. What served your site in the initial stages might not offer you what you’re looking for a few years into the future. As a result, you’ll want to know how to install and delete WordPress themes. 

Below you’ll learn how to install and delete a WordPress theme. Without learning how to install a new WordPress theme, you’ll be stuck with the default stock theme that WordPress installs. Learning how to delete a WordPress theme is a skill that will help you keep your WordPress site running lean and mean.

If both of those sound confusing, don’t worry, by the end of this post, you’ll be able to both install and delete WordPress themes in your sleep.

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What is a WordPress Theme?

A WordPress theme is a collection of files, templates, and stylesheets which will create the appearance for your site. Once you have a fresh installation of WordPress, you’ll need to install a theme to customize your website.

Every theme will have its own appearance, layout, features, and design rules. The way you customize your theme will also depend on the theme that you installed. 

As a general rule, premium themes (themes that you pay for) will offer you more customization features and generally perform better overall. There are thousands of free themes you can choose from, which isn’t a bad starting place. But, if you’re serious about the success of your site, you’ll probably want to upgrade to a premium WordPress themes eventually. 

Regardless, here are a few things you’ll want to look for before you install a new WordPress theme:

  • Quality reviews. One of the first things to look for is what others thought of the plugin. Wherever you download or purchase your theme, look for user reviews which dive into the things they loved and hated about the theme.
  • Features you need. Before you install a theme make note of the features you require in a theme, like parallax scrolling or eCommerce integration. Then choose your next theme based on these requirements. 
  • Customer support. Most free themes are supported by their developers, but look for an active support forum. Premium themes often come with higher level support and even dedicated support staff. 

What to Do Before You Switch WordPress Themes

If you already have a WordPress theme you’ve been using to customize your site, but you want to upgrade to a new theme, then there are some things you’ll want to do before you switch.

WordPress does make it very easy to switch themes, but if you want to ensure the process goes smoothly, then go through the steps below before you install a new WordPress theme.

1. Take a Site Inventory

The first thing you’ll want to do is take an inventory of your existing site. When you switch themes, there are a lot of things that will transfer over, like your pages, posts, existing plugins, and more. 

But, any modifications you’ve made to your existing theme will no longer be there. Plus, if you’ve been using shortcodes that came with your current theme to modify your site, then these will no longer work either.

Go through your site page by page and take note of any customizations you might have made to the theme’s codebase. You’ll need to find a way to implement these changes into your new site if you want the same changes to take place.

You’ll also want to note existing performance data you have on your site. There’s no point in upgrading your theme if the new theme you install slows down your website. So, before you switch over your theme, run your existing site through a tool like Pingdom or GTMetrix. Then, once you install a new theme, you can run it through the same tools, to see if your performance has improved. 

2. Backup Your WordPress Site

It’s always a good idea to backup your site regularly. But, it’s even more important to backup your site before you’re making any large-scale changes, like switching WordPress themes. 

There’s nothing worse than losing all of that hard work you put into your site when it could have been avoided with a simple backup plugin. The way you backup your website isn’t as important as having a backup in place.

For example, you could have regular website backups through your host. But, if not, you can use a WordPress backup plugin like BackUpBuddy or Updraft Plus to create a full site backup. 

Even if you don’t need to use the backup, it can help prevent unfortunate incidents from occurring, like having to rebuild and rewrite all of your content from scratch. 

3. Turn on Maintenance Mode

If you’re getting regular traffic to your site, then you probably don’t want your users to see your site while it’s amid a facelift. Even though switching themes is a simple process, there are all kinds of little tweaks and customizations you’ll need to make to get your site back in working order.

One way to do this is to use a WordPress maintenance plugin, like Coming Soon & Maintenance by SeedProd, or Under Construction. When a visitor navigates to your site, they’ll be taken to a maintenance page, instead of your work-in-progress website.

coming soon page plugin for wordpress

You don’t have to keep this plugin activated very long, just during the time it takes to switch to your new theme and make sure your settings are 100%. 

If you don’t want to install a maintenance mode plugin, then you can always switch over your WordPress theme during an hour of the day when you don’t get as much traffic. Usually, this will be close to midnight, but it depends on where in the world you’re located. 

4. Don’t Forget Your Tracking or Analytics Plugins

If you have your site synced with Google Analytics or Google Webmaster Tools, then you’ll want to make sure you don’t sever this connection. When you connect your website to these tools, you usually have a tracking code that you insert into your site.

You can either enter this code into your theme’s files, your theme’s settings page, or you can use a plugin. If you used either of the first two approaches, then you might need to copy this code into a file and add it to your new theme.

If you’re using a plugin to handle the connection between these tools, then your site should still be linked. But, it’s worth double-checking nonetheless.  

5. Test That Everything Still Works

Once you’ve installed your new WordPress theme, you’ll want to make sure any existing plugins still work with your site. Go through your plugins one by one and make sure they don’t create any theme conflicts or issues with your website. 

Finally, go back through the initial notes you made in the first step and add any functions not currently present in your existing theme.

Before you reveal your new site to the world, you’ll want to go through every single page on your website to make sure it looks good and is functioning the right way. 

It can also be helpful to go through any interactive elements on your site like your comment section, search function, email subscriber box, social sharing buttons, and more, and make sure everything works the way it should. 

How to Install a WordPress Theme

If you want to install a free WordPress theme, then the best way to do this is via the WordPress theme directory within your WordPress dashboard.

To do this, you have to first login to your WordPress dashboard. If you haven’t done this before, then you’ll need to look for an email that you received once WordPress was installed on your site. This email will contain your login URL, your username, and password. 

Once you have this login, to your site via a link that’ll resemble the following: Enter your username and password, and you’ll be taken to your WordPress dashboard, which will look like the image below:

wordpress dashboard

Once you’re there look for a menu icon on the left-hand side titled ‘Appearance,’ hover over this, and on the drop-down menu click on ‘Themes,’ then click on the blue ‘Add Theme’ button:

choose new wordpress theme to install

On this next screen you’ll be able to search for a specific theme, or you can use the ‘Feature Filter’ option to search for a new theme that has the exact features you’ve been looking for, like a WordPress theme for blogging

search for new wordpress theme using filters

After we’ve run the feature search, we’ll look through the list until we find a theme that catches our attention. In this case, we like the Modern Store theme. So, hover over it and click ‘Install.’

install new wordpress theme

The WordPress theme installer will do its thing, and then the button will change to ‘Activate.’ Click this if you want to activate the WordPress theme and have this become the theme you’re using for your site. 

how to activate and install wordpress theme

That’s it! You’ve now successfully installed a WordPress theme on your site. 

Now, let’s say you’ve downloaded a theme from somewhere else on the web. So, instead of browsing for themes, we’re going to upload it from your computer. 

This section already assumes you have a WordPress theme downloaded as a .zip file on your computer. 

Since we already have a theme we want to install this will be much easier. Navigate to Appearance>Themes on your WordPress dashboard. Then click ‘Add New.’ 

Now we’re on the same screen where we previously searched for a theme. But, instead of using the search or filter functions, we’re going to click the button that says ‘Upload Theme.’

upload new wordpress theme to install

Then, click on ‘Choose File’ and locate theme on your computer, then select ‘Install Now.’ WordPress will install the theme for you, then if you want to activate the theme, click ‘Activate’ on the next screen:

install wordpress theme from uploaded file

Now you’ve mastered two different ways you can install a WordPress theme on your site. 

How to Delete a WordPress Theme

Maybe you’ve gone a little theme crazy and installed one too many themes on your site. Or, you want to get rid of themes that you’re no longer using. Whatever the reason, knowing how to delete WordPress themes is an important skill.

Although you can delete a WordPress theme by connecting to your site via FTP, the easiest way is to remove a theme via your WordPress dashboard. This approach will probably be suitable for 99% of WordPress site owners.

First, we’re going to login to our WordPress dashboard. If you don’t know how to do this, then refer to the beginning of the ‘How to Install a WordPress Theme’ section above.

Once you’ve logged into your WordPress dashboard we’re going to navigate to Appearance>Themes, then hover over the theme we want to delete and click ‘Theme Details.’

how to delete wordpress theme

This will bring up any relevant theme information. Then, in the lower right-hand corner, click the red ‘Delete’ button. A dialogue box will pop up asking if we want to delete the theme, and click ‘OK.’ The theme will now be removed from your site. 

select wordpress theme to delete

Before you delete a theme from your site, make sure that you’ve already activated a new theme. You don’t want to delete a theme that you’re currently using, as WordPress will switch over to another theme and the design of your site might get messed up. 

Managing Your WordPress Themes

Hopefully, by now, you’re confident in the process of installing and removing themes from your WordPress dashboard. 

The beauty of WordPress is that it makes customization easy; you’re never stuck with your current theme choice. With the tutorial above, you should be well equipped to install and delete themes until you’ve found the perfect theme for your website.

Don’t be afraid to test out multiple different themes until you settle on what’s right for your site. The beauty of this site is the more you play around with various themes, the better you’ll understand WordPress, and be equipped to better customize the theme you settle on. 

Kevin Wood writes about technology and human potential. You can find him at his virtual homes Wooden Writing and Counter Culturist.