A WordPress website can not function without a theme and there are a lot of themes available that you can download from the dashboard for free.
In this tutorial I will explain exactly what WordPress Themes are and how to install them.
I will also show you which free themes I have the best experience with and use for all my websites.
What is a WordPress theme?
You can think of WordPress themes as templates for your website. In addition, you can also do some various basic settings with a theme such as the site logo, the header and footer, blogposts and archive pages.
There are a lot of themes available, both free and premium WordPress themes that you need to pay for. Each theme has different options and features. In this tutorial series I will only use free themes that you don’t have to pay anything for.
It is also possible to create a website by only using a theme, so without using a page builder plugin.
That is often a bit more difficult and you have less options and flexibility. That’s why I always use the Elementor page builder plugin. In the next tutorial I will go more in detail on plugins and I will also cover the Elementor plugin.
It’s important to know that Elementor is used to design the website. But that does not mean that no WordPress theme needs to be installed, because Elementor can only function in combination with a theme.
Therefore it’s always necessary to have at least one theme installed and activated.
You can install multiple themes, but you can only activate one at a time for the website.
Keep in mind that inactive themes also need storage space. To keep the speed of your website optimal, it is therefore wise to keep the number of installed themes limited.
Elementor works well with most themes and In this tutorial I will explain which themes I recommend you to use.
Theme settings in WordPress
To manage the theme settings, go to Appeareance in the left navigation menu and then click on Themes. You can see that 4 themes are already installed with the Twenty Twenty theme active by default.
This WordPress theme ensures how the website is now displayed to visitors.
The image below shows the default design layout as it is for the Twenty Twenty theme. Go to the website URL in a new tab of your browser to view the page:
Go back to the dashboard to select a different theme. For example I select the Twenty Seventeen theme and click on Activate.
Now you will see that the design of the website is displayed differently after reloading the page as displayed in the image below.
So that’s how you can activate a theme.
You can delete WordPress themes by selecting it and then click on Delete. You can delete the three theme’s that aren’t activated because we won’t use them. For now I leave the Twenty Seventeen theme as it is because you cannot delete a theme that is active.
How to install a new theme
Now only the Twenty Twenty Seventeen is installed and it is still active, but I will install two new WordPress themes and then remove this one.
I always use the free Hello theme and the free Astra theme. You can download both of them by clicking on Add New.
Now you see an overview of different themes to use. Most are free and there are also paid themes available.
The two themes that I am going to show you in this tutorial are completely free to use.
Go to the search bar and enter Hello. Now go to Hello Elementor and click on Install.
We now do the same again but for the Astra theme. Type in Astra in the search bar. Then go to the theme called Astra and click on Install.
As you can see, I now have installed the Hello and Astra theme.
Now I want to remove the Twenty Seventeen theme that is still active.
To do that you first need to activate another theme. In this case I activate the Astra theme so I click on Activate.
After that you can remove the Twenty Seventeen theme to keep the website as clean as possible.
Go back to the other tab and refresh the page, you will see that the design is different again due to the Astra theme.
It still doesn’t look like anything in terms of design, but we’re going to adjust that completely as I mentioned before.
I want to emphasize again that the design for now does not matter at all because this will all be designed later on with the Elementor page builder.
Why you should have a backup theme?
It is recommended to download both the Hello and Astra theme so that you always have one backup theme. All themes and plugins are regularly provided with updates.
After an update, there is always a very small risk that there might be a conflict with a plugin or theme.
When you’re facing issues after an update, you can more easily discover what the problem is by switching to another theme and you can do that simply by clicking the Activate button for a theme that is not active.
If the problem is solved then you know that the cause has to do something with the theme, and in that case you have a backup theme available immediately. But if the problem persists with both themes, this indicates that the problem is probably caused by a plugin. So you are better able to determine what is causing the issue after an update.
As mentioned, it’s very unusual that problems arise but you better be well prepared if they do.
Which theme should I activate?
It depends on whether you are using the Free version of Elementor or the Elementor Pro upgrade to determine which theme is best to activate.
The Hello theme is developed by the creators of the Elementor Pagebuilder plugin that we will use later on for the actual designing of the website. This theme is super light and is the best choice for Elementor users because it’s created by the same developers so it works very well together. Because the theme is very light and doesn’t need much storage space it therefore also helps to optimize the speed of the website.
To properly set up and customize the header and footer, blog and archive pages, you will need the paid Elementor Pro version which you already can buy for $ 49 for 12 months with the minimal pricing plan.
That’s only $ 4 a month and therefore you get a lot of extra benefits with the Pro upgrade.
For all my websites I use Elementor Pro because of it’s many advantages and because I like to have a lot of flexibility when designing my websites. Everything you need to know about Elementor Pro will be explained in more detail later, but that is why I always use the Hello theme and I have the Astra theme as a backup theme.
If you want to keep the costs to a minimum, you can also only use the free version of Elementor. In that case, the Astra theme is the best to activate. With this you can set the header, footer, blog and archive pages via a template. Unfortunately, you then have much less options and flexibility to design everything as you might like.
The Astra theme is also known to work very well in combination with Elementor.
Themes are now installed!
We have now done all the basic theme settings and that brings us to the end of this tutorial. I hope everything was clear and that you have learned something new!
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In the next tutorial we will install the basic plugins we need for WordPress websites, including the Elementor page builder.
Check out the tutorial below if If you want to learn how to set up the logo and site icon with the Hello theme and Astra theme:
- How to set up header & footer with Elementor Pro
- Set up site logo with Hello theme
- Set up site icon (favicon) with Hello theme
- How to set up header & footer with Astra theme