Course: Working with Themes

In this course we’ll show you how to find, select, and install a theme for your WordPress website. Once you have completed this course, you will understand:

  1. Resources for free and quality themes
  2. How to select the right theme for your website
  3. How to install the theme

Resources for Free and Quality Themes

In this lesson, we’re going to provide resources for the best free and quality WordPress themes. We’ll cover the following topics:

  • The best resource for free themes
  • The best resources for quality themes

Let’s get started!

The best resource for free themes

In our experience, WooThemes has the best selection of free themes available. (They’re also one of our choices for quality themes.) WooThemes’ free themes are comparable to their premium themes, so you’ll be getting a high-quality theme without spending a dime.

We’ll be getting into how to select a theme for your website in a future lesson. For now, you can take a look at WooThemes’ free themes to see their current selection.

The best resources for quality themes

We’ve worked with a lot of different theme companies, and we’ve found that there are three that are head and shoulders above the others. All three companies feature the following benefits:

1. Quality themes. All of the companies we recommend provide high-quality themes with standards-compliant code.

2. Excellent support. These companies provide support in different ways, but you’ll always be able to get answers to your questions from any of them.

Recommendations for quality themes

Here are the details on all three companies, along with the pros and cons of each.

1. WooThemes. WooThemes is our primary theme supplier. We’ve been working with them for years, and have always had good results.


Theme quality. WooThemes are among the nicest looking themes around, and their coding is solid.

Functionality. WooThemes themes come packed with a lot of functionality, and they have several add-ons available, as well.

Support. We believe WooThemes’ support is the best in the business. They use a ticketed support system, so you’ll always receive one-on-one support.


Price. WooThemes’ pricing is at the high end of the pricing scale. The current rates are $99.00 for a single theme, and their All Themes Package is priced at $399.00 for access to all of their themes for one year. You can renew at 50% off for subsequent years.

2. Elegant Themes. Elegant Themes also provides beautiful, expertly coded themes packed with functionality. We’ve been using Elegant Themes for a little over a year, and have been very pleased with the results.


Price. Elegant Themes has the lowest pricing of any theme company we’ve reviewed. They have packages starting as low as $39.00, which affords you access to all of their themes for one year.

Theme quality. Elegant themes look and function beautifully, and are compatible with many third-party plugins and add-ons, including some provided by WooThemes.


Support. Elegant Themes provide support via a support forum only. They’re very responsive, and they’ll work with you via private messages if necessary. So their support is good, but it doesn’t have the same “personal” feel as WooThemes.

3. StudioPress. We’ve used StudioPress for single themes when we needed them, and have always been satisfied. StudioPress has a great reputation in the theme industry, and their themes are very popular among web designers and developers.


Coding. StudioPress themes are built on the renowned Genesis Framework. They’re always standards-compliant and rock solid.

Support. StudioPress provides support via both email and a member’s forum. They’re very responsive, and typically respond in a few hours or less.


Appearance. StudioPress themes tend to have a “minimalist” look, and are very simple in their design.

Price. StudioPress themes are also pricey, with single themes going for $99.95, and the All-Theme package coming in at $399.95 per year.

Congratulations on completing Lesson 1! You should now know:

  1. Where to find the best free themes.
  2. Which companies provide the best premium themes, and how they compare.

Selecting the Right Theme for Your Website

In this lesson, we’re going to show you how to select the best theme for your website. We’ll cover the following topics:

  • Functionality vs. form
  • How to select your theme
  • Recommendations for your first website

Let’s get started!

Functionality vs. form

Let’s start with some definitions.

Definitions: Functionality and Form

Functionality. Functionality refers to the features that are included with a theme. Some examples would be responsive design, shortcodes, sliders, and galleries. (We’ll define these terms later in this lesson.)

Form. Form refers to the way a theme appears. Some elements of form are overall design, layout, color schemes, and fonts.

Functionality vs. form

Whenever possible, try to find a theme that will satisfy both functionality and form for the needs of your client. When you have to choose between functionality and form, we recommend that you always go with functionality.

Customizing a theme’s form is much easier than customizing its functionality. If you’re interested in taking your design and development skills to the next level, we offer advanced training on how to customize sites using CSS. Custom CSS is a very “lightweight” addition to a website, whereas adding functionality requires plugins and/or add-ons, which add weight, complexity, and potentially compatibility issues to your code.

How to select your theme

As we just mentioned, you should always start with functionality. By determining the needs of your client in the client interview, you’ll get a good idea of what type of functionality is required for their website.

Functionality considerations

Here are some things to look for:

Responsive design. This is really a must-have in any theme you select. Themes that feature responsive design are coded so that they will appear properly on all devices: desktops, laptops, tablets, and smart phones. This is a requirement in today’s mobile-based world.

Shortcodes. Shortcodes are snippets of code that you can add to your content to add functionality and styling. Most quality themes include shortcodes, and they make it much simpler to create the look and feel you want for your content.

Featured slider. You should look for a theme with a featured slider if your client has an image-based business. Any business that wants to display multiple images on their home page would benefit from a theme with a featured slider.

Gallery. This is a good feature to have if your client wants a Gallery page, where they’ll display multiple images simultaneously.

eCommerce. This would be an important feature if your client wants to sell their products or services online. WooThemes offers a free add-on, WooCommerce, which is fully tested and compatible with all of their themes.

Form considerations

Beyond functionality, there is form. When reviewing themes for form, you should always consider the example sites your client provided. Finding a theme with a similar appearance to what they’ve told you they like will make it much easier for you to create a look and feel that will appeal to them.

Here are some things to consider:

Color scheme. Many themes offer multiple color schemes, so look for a theme that includes a color scheme that your client likes. If your client already has a logo, look for a color scheme that complements or matches their logo.

Tip: Theme Demos

Many theme providers include demos of their themes, where you can give the theme a “test drive” to see if it matches the look and feel you want. Here’s an example of a theme demo for WooThemes’ Mystile theme, which we’ll be using for the Stover Tree Service website. Hover over the ‘More Styles’ panel at the bottom of the page to see the various color schemes available.

Layout. Finding a theme with the same basic layout as your client’s preferences is also a good thing to look for. Many themes also offer multiple layout options within a single theme.

Fonts. Look for a theme with a font style that matches the look and feel you want for your client’s site. Most premium themes also offer multiple font options, as well.

Recommendations for your first website

Returning to our Stover Tree Service example, we have quite a bit of leeway regarding which theme to select. This client is much more concerned with using their website to generate sales than with its look and feel. We have selected WooThemes’ Mystile theme because it includes responsive design, and it’s easy to customize.

We recommend that, if at all possible, you use the Mystile theme for your first website. It’s free, and it will be much easier to follow this training program if you’re using the same theme. If this theme isn’t a good fit, select a theme based on the information we’ve presented in this lesson.

Congratulations on completing Lesson 2! You should now understand:

  1. Functionality vs. form
  2. How to select your theme
  3. How to select a theme for your first website

Installing the Theme

In this lesson, we’re going to show you how to install a theme on your website. We’ll cover all the steps in two ways:

  • With text and screenshots
  • With video

Let’s get started!

Installing Your WordPress theme: Text and screenshots

Downloading the theme

Returning to our Stover Tree Service example, we’ll be using WooThemes’ Mystile theme for their website. The first step is to download the theme.

Start by going to the Mystile page and clicking on the green ‘FREE DOWNLOAD’ button:

Mystile page

The Mystile page

This will scroll the page to the bottom, where you can click on the green ‘ADD TO CART’ button:

Mystile Add To Cart

The Mystile ADD TO CART button

You will then be directed to the Cart page, where you can click on the green ‘CHECKOUT NOW’ button:

Mystile Cart page

The Mystile Cart page

This will take you to the WooThemes login page. If you don’t yet have an account with WooThemes, click on the green ‘SIGN UP FOR A FREE ACCOUNT’ button. If you already have an account, click on the brown ‘Click here to login’ link:

WooThemes Login page

The WooThemes Login page

Then enter your company information and click on the green ‘PLACE ORDER’ button:

WooThemes Order page

The WooThemes Order page

This will take you to the Order Received page. Scroll down and click on the blue ‘Download file:’ link: file

Downloading the file

Then download the file to a folder on your computer where you’d like to save it.

Installing the theme in the WordPress Dashboard

Once you’ve downloaded the Mystile .zip file, the next step is to install it in the WordPress Dashboard. Start with your website’s URL, and then add ‘/wp-admin/’ at the end. For Stover Tree Service, the URL looks like this:

This will take you to the WordPress login screen. Enter the Username and Password you saved when you installed WordPress, and click on the blue ‘Log In’ button:

WordPress Login page

The WordPress Login page

You will then be directed to the WordPress Dashboard:

WordPress Dashboard

The WordPress Dashboard

In the Dashboard, hover over the ‘Appearance’ panel, and then click on ‘Themes’:

Appearance Themes panel

Selecting Themes in the Appearance panel

This will take you to the Themes page of the Dashboard. Click on the ‘Add New’ button:

Themes Add New button

The ‘Add New’ button on the Themes page

You will then be directed to the Install Themes page. Once there, click on the ‘Upload’ link:

Install Themes Upload link

The Upload link on the Install Themes page

On the next page, click the ‘Browse’ button:

Uploading theme Browse button

Browse button for uploading the theme

Then select the downloaded file and click on the ‘Open’ button:

Uploading file

Uploading the file

And then click on the ‘Install Now’ button:

Install Now button

The Install Now button

On the next screen, click on the blue ‘Activate’ link:

Themes page Activate link

The Activate link on the Themes page

That’s it! You can then visit your site to see your newly installed theme:

Stover Tree Service Mystile theme

Stover Tree Service website with Mystile theme

Installing Your WordPress Theme: Video

Watch this video to see the steps required to download, install, and activate your theme:

Congratulations on completing Lesson 3! You should now understand how to install a theme on your first website.

This concludes the Working with Themes course. In our next course, we’ll introduce you to WordPress plugins.

Go to next Course: Introduction to Plugins