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Step 15: Using a Custom Theme in WordPress

WordPress Twenty Twelve Home Page

Let’s pause for a minute and see where we are at.  The picture above shows our current state after following the previous 14 steps.  Not quite where we want to be.  But look how far we’ve come in such a short time.  We are starting to see why WordPress is so popular.  Now we need to think about a couple of things, customizing the appearance of our site and Search Engine Optimization (SEO).  SEO is important for helping you rank in the search engines, like Google.  You want potential site visitors to find you.  The good news is, we can address both items with one approach – an aftermarket WordPress theme.  A theme is a “skin” that, not only changes the way basic WordPress install appears, but also gives you much more control over your site styling and SEO.

My theme of choice is The Thesis Theme for WordPress.  I have been using Thesis since 2008.  With the recent release of version 2.0, Thesis has made major advancements in ease-of-use and search engine optimization, which is why I’m sticking with them.  There are many free themes, but you get what you pay for.  I highly recommend you purchase the Thesis Theme.  The rest of the steps shown in this tutorial will assume you are using Thesis.

WordPress has made it easy to install themes.  Once you have purchased and downloaded Thesis, log into your WordPress Dashboard.  In the left sidebar, click on “Appearance” then click “Themes”.  See the example below.

WordPress Themes Menu

Click the “Install Themes” tab and you’ll be taken to the screen shown below.

Choose Install Theme Tab in WordPress

Next, click “Upload”, then click “Choose File”.

Click Upload WordPress Theme

Navigate to the folder on your computer where you downloaded the Thesis theme after purchasing it.  Select the “” file, then click “Open”.

Select Thesis 2 Theme ZIP file

Once Thesis is uploaded, WordPress will show the confirmation screen as shown below.  Click the “Activate” link.

Thesis 2 Theme Installed

WordPress will now present you with the Thesis theme landing page as shown below.

Thesis 2 Theme Activated

You will now see a new menu option for Thesis in the WordPress sidebar.

Thesis 2 Theme Sidebar

Your website will now look something like the picture below.  Notice that the appearance is already different than the base WordPress theme.  If you scroll to the top of this post you can see the difference from the before picture.  Subtle yes, but the fun is just beginning.

Thesis 2 Theme Base Install

About the author: I’m a techie, a gadget geek, a former programmer, and all-around technology nut. Currently I’m a business analyst for a technology company. I love what technology can do for us. I love smartphones and apps for everything. Building sites with Thesis 2.0 and WordPress help me to reconnect with the feeling of building something tangible.

I’m on: Google+ and Twitter

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Tiiu June 24, 2013, 10:13 PM

    I’m following your wonderful tutorials and so far, so good. However, on the sample default post (Hello, world), on the byline, I don’t like the way my name appears. It shows my email address – the email I use for everything – instead of just my name. Can you tell me where I would change that? In the General settings, it says to put the email where I would get mail about new comments, etc., so I don’t think it would be there. But for the life of me, I can’t figure out where. Thank you very much.

  • Doug Macklem July 21, 2013, 8:09 PM

    I don’t remember my email being exposed on my site and I’ve poked around and can’t find a setting to display your email. Go to Users and make sure where it asks “Display Name As” doesn’t have your email as the selected option.

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