As we discussed in “What Is WordPress”, themes and plugins are essential to making your site function. There is a ton of variability and options out there, and it is up to you to find which ones are right for your given needs. Throughout this course and the proceeding ones we will start to work with the WordPress platform and in order to illustrate how to use WordPress and work as a designer on its we will need a different theme and more plugins than the default ones provided. The theme we will be using is Themify which is a paid theme with a lot of functionality. You can find more out about it here. And as we start the build the site there will be plugins that we will need along the way to expand the capabilities of the site. However, in order to use these, we will need to install them ourselves. Luckily this is easy to do, so let’s get started.
In order to upload a new theme to your WordPress instance you will first need to find which theme you want to use. If you navigate to your WordPress dashboard and go to the ‘Themes’ section under the ‘Appearance’ tab you can see a bunch of free options that you can install directly from WordPress.
If you hover over any of these options you can preview what it will look like and then activate it if you decide you want to use it. If that is the case then that is all you need to to. However, most of these themes are fairly limited in what they are capable of and you will most likely want to use a theme outside of what WordPress provides. To do this, once you find the the theme you want, you will need to download it to your computer. It will be downloaded as a zip file and you will want to keep it that way. Once you have your zip file, you will click the ‘Upload Theme’ button at the top of the page, find your sip file, and click install now.
After you click install you will be taken to a page that will let you know if your installation was successful or not and you will have the option to preview or activate your new theme. We are going to go ahead and activate it, and now Themify is the new active theme on our website. You can navigate back to the ‘Themes’ section in the ‘Appearance’ tab and you should see the new theme there with the status of active.
Uploading plugins is accomplished much in the same way as themes. To upload a plugin you will click on the ‘Plugins’ tab. This will take you to a page where you can see all of the plugins installed on your website and at the top of the screen you will see a button to add a new plugin.
Click the ‘Add New’ button and you will be taken to a page where you can search for plugins through WordPress or install upload them from your computer just like we did with the theme.
You will usually be able to find most major plugins such as WooCommerce and it extensions through the search feature, though it is important to note that they will always be the free versions. If you have a paid version of any plugin it will come with the zip file and it will be easier to just upload it. Additionally sometimes you will not find the plugin you are looking for or it won’t be available through WordPress and if that is the case you will also have to upload it from your desktop. A prime example of this is our current active theme, Themify. The creators of the theme have a lot of plugins that expand the capabilities of the theme and its web builder that are available from their site that you won’t find when you search on WordPress, so in order to get them on your website you will have to upload them. The steps to upload them are the same as uploading themes with exception that you won’t be able to preview the plugin before activating it.
Once you activate it you will be able to now use it on your website. Each plugin will accomplish different things and make different changes if any to both the front end of the website as well as the admin panel. So once you activate it is a good practice to see what it changed and learn a little about how to use it. Normally you won’t install a plugin unless you have a direct need for it so you will naturally be trying to use it right after installation anyway.