Part 13: Installing a Theme & Plug-Ins
In this section we are going to install a WordPress theme and some important plugins for our website.
What Is A Theme?
So WordPress itself is a content management system (CMS) and it allows us to have the tools to build and create a content packed website. The theme is the graphic design for your website and comes in a template format.
If you compare it to a car, then the theme is how the body of your car looks. It will provide the basic front end styling for your website. It looks after things like the colours, fonts and page and post layouts. In simple terms it changes the aesthetic look of your website.
There are thousands of these available for WordPress so you will be able to find one that suits the topic that you are writing about. You can find those by clicking this link. https://codex.wordpress.org/Using_Themes
Important Elements of a Good Theme
To have a good looking quality website you need to pick a good theme to help both your visitors and the search engines. The theme also needs to have certain and very important characteristics. I have listed these below:
People search on PCs with different sizes of screens, Laptops, Tablets and Smart Phones. They all have different sizes of screens. It is important that the theme you pick is responsive and automatically makes viewing your website friendly for visitors, irrespective of what device they are using.
- Fast Loading
People searching on the Internet are generally impatient and will not wait around for a website to load. The search engines also like websites that load quickly.
- The Right Style
There are many types of themes for eCommerce, magazine style, blogging, photography etc. You want the theme that you select to be suitable for a website/blog, and in particular, your chosen topic.
So when picking a theme always make sure it is responsive, fast loading and looks the part for the type of website style that you want to have. The good news is that changing a theme on WordPress takes just a few seconds. You can install one, look at it, and quickly change it if you don’t like it.
Types of WordPress Theme
There are three types of themes available
There are thousands of these to pick from https://wordpress.org/themes/
Now the free themes do not cost you any money which is good news for many beginners. These are designed by people who enjoy creating themes for the WordPress platform. Most people starting out opt for a free theme because they are reluctant to spend money as they are not sure if the whole Affiliate plan will actually make them any money.
There are many good ones available with the “Twenty Sixteen” a popular choice for many new people. It is responsive and loads quickly.
The problems with anything FREE is that it comes with no guarantees. WordPress like any content management system is always being tweaked and updated. When this happens then it can impact on your Theme. Unless the theme owner updates the Theme it can quickly become out of date. It will still work but may not allow you to add new features.
Some theme owners will update their themes but some will not. In the most part the free theme option is very tempting for the beginner, or anyone on a tight budget.
These are also referred to as commercial themes simply because you have to pay for a license to use them. This is usually a one-off payment and they cost anything between £30 – 70. Some companies charge a monthly fee of around £10-15 for a selection of their premium themes.
These themes are usually better for a number of reasons:
- Higher quality
- Better functionality
- More customisation choices
- Always supported
At the end of the day companies who build premium themes and charges for them are going to be able to add more features and offer better support, than someone who enjoys building a theme as a hobby. It is a bit like asking a friend who is a good joiner to help build a conservatory or asking a professional conservative builder to do it. Both will be able to get the job done, but the second option will come with support and warranties.
If you are really particular and want a theme that is completely unique then you can decide to pay a developer to do this for you. Depending on what you want this is an expensive option, and is not required to build a good quality Amazon Affiliate website. Some companies will want this option and will pay thousands of pounds to get this done.
It honestly depends on what you want to invest in your online business. When I started I used free themes as I had no idea how all of this Theme picking actually worked. There are plenty of websites out there using free themes and doing really nicely with them. I still have a few of those that do really well.
They do have their limitations though as there are certain design features I now like to have on my Affiliate websites, and I can get those with a premium theme. As an example I like to use tables for comparisons and for lists. With free themes you can get plugins that allow you to do that, but they are limited in design.
With a paid theme I can change the look and feel of my tables and add many other feature rich elements to my website. At the end of the day the final choice will come down to which you like best or what you can afford.
My own belief is that when setting up any business you have to be prepared to invest some money into it. Assume that you decided to open a bricks and mortar business such as a simple coffee shop.
You would have to be willing to invest money for rent, rates or a lease. You would then have to buy tables, chairs, cups, mugs, cutlery, coffee machines and a whole range of other products. It is actually quite a large investment and most of this will be a capital outlay. That will either be in cash or credit but quite a big cost and always an upfront cost before you have made a single penny.
Then you will have the running costs of heating, lighting, salaries and buying the products that go into producing the coffee. Again these are substantial costs and they need to be paid every month.
In my past career I worked with many start-up businesses and I have helped them write their business cases. They are often shocked by these costs and yet this is their dream to start a new business.
Even for a simple business these costs will be in the tens of thousands so will always be considered a “high risk investment.”
Online Business Costs
Now compare those costs with the costs of setting up an online business. The costs for doing that are as follows:
- Domain name – £10 a year
- Hosting – £50 a year
So there you have it folks a total of around £60 a year to keep a website online. Investing in a paid theme will cost another £40 on average and will be a one off investment. I think it is worth doing that.
For this case study on the http://theperfectgrind.co.uk I will be using a paid theme from a company called Thrive Themes. This is now my own favorite theme as it is responsive, very fast to load and has a wide range of features that I can customise.
The important thing is that you pick a theme that allows you to have the design that you want for your own website.
How to Install a Free Theme
There are two ways of doing this so I shall show you both.
Method 1 – From the Dashboard
This is the quickest and easiest method to use. Login to your WordPress Dashboard and then on the left hand column:
Click on Appearance > Themes
When you installed WordPress from your cPanel account in your hosting company a Theme may have been automatically installed. Usually this will be the WordPress Twenty Sixteen Theme which is a free theme. If you are happy with that Theme then you will not need to do anything else.
Look at the image below to see which theme, if any, has been installed on your website.
The word “Active” will appear under the theme that is currently being used on your website. In this case it is the Twenty Sixteen theme which is actually quite a good theme for most Affiliate websites.
To change a theme though you click on the “Add New” button at the top.
This then opens up a range of Themes available in WordPress. They have been sorted as follows:
This is where WordPress will feature some of the very best themes
As the name would suggest this is a list of the most used
A list of the newest themes available
You can use this to set up your favourite themes
- Feature Filter
Normally for advanced users where they can pick themes with certain fetaures such as colours, layouts, features, and subjects
You simply look through these until you find one that you like. When you do then you can hover over it and either install it or preview it. I usually preview it just to get a feel of the overall look of the website.
If you like it then you simply click the install button and then the Activate button.
I did this with the Ares Theme just to show you how much a theme can quickly change the look of a website.
Don’t worry about the images etc as they can easily be changed. You should look at the overall design and just pick one that you like.
Method 2 – Free Theme from the WordPress Theme Directory
In the second method you can go to the WordPress Theme Directory https://wordpress.org/themes/
You can search through there and find a theme that you like. When you find it you simply click the download button that you will see when you hover over the chosen theme.
This downloads as a “zip file.” Choose a location to save your file. Do not open this file as that will stop the theme from working.
Login to your WordPress Dashboard and then on the left hand column:
Click on Appearance > Themes > Add New> Upload Theme > Choose File
Now add your file from the location where you stored it. Once it has uploaded, you simply activate it to have your new theme live on the website.
Uploading a Premium Theme
If you decided to buy a theme then you should have received a download. You install that by going to the left hand column and Click on Appearance > Themes > Add New> Upload Theme > Choose File.
Now add your file you received from the vendor from the location where you stored it. Once it has uploaded, simply activate it to have your new theme live on the website.
Some paid themes may also require an activation code or a license code to activate it. You should have also received that from the vendor, so follow their instructions if that is the case.
When starting out is difficult to know which Theme you should pick. Most new people don’t have the knowledge to understand what is available and why they might need certain elements.
The important things to remember are that the theme should be responsive and one that loads quickly. Three very good free ones which I have used are:
- Twenty Sixteen
- Serif Lite
It is your website so you can pick a theme that you like and it is easy to change to another. You are never stuck having to use a theme so pick one and get started.
I will be using a paid theme as I like some of the extra features that I get from that. The basics however remain the same so you can still follow along as the principles will be exactly the same.
What are Plugins?
These are available in WordPress and they allow you to be able to add particular features that you may want to have. Like the Themes, there are thousands of them. If you can think of a feature you might like on your website, then chances are that there will be at least one plugin for it.
However, and some people forget this, them more you install the slower your website can become, so install only those that you need is my strong advice. Unless you consider a plugin to be vital, then don’t install it just for the sake of it.
Technically they are pieces of code that can be added to the WordPress content management system. They cover all types of features from security, media, adding social buttons and a whole range of other enhancing features.
It is all too eay to get carried away with adding plugins because they are quick to install and help make your website look unique. Personally I think page loading speed is more important than a range of fancy features, so I only install those that I believe to be important.
The Important Plugins That I use
There are a few that I use on all of websites because they add a lot of value. I have included a list below of the ones I would recommend:
- Contact Form 7
Gives you a code that sets up a nice looking contact page
- Google Analytics by Yoast
Allows you to quickly add Google Analytics to your website
- Revision Control
Reduces the number of revisions of posts and articles which speeds up your website
- WP- DBManager
Allows you to back up your website in case of problems
- Yoast SEO
Great for doing Onpage SEO
Now at the moment it is not that important to understand what these plugins do. Generally speaking, they are good for the search engines, for security and for measuring and analysis.
As I said earlier, there are many of these, but I find all of the above very helpful.
How to Add a Plugin to your Website?
Go to the left hand column and then click:
Plugins > Add NEW
On the top right you will find a search box and all you have to do is type in the name of the plugin and hit Enter. The plugins then appear down below in boxes.
Then click Install Now and then Activate Plugin.
You repeat these for all of the plugins above if you want to install those and make sure they have all been activated.
There is a plugin there named Hello Dolly which I delete as it will never be used. You can do that simply by clicking the Delete link under the Title of the plugin. WordPress will ask if you are sure so click Yes and it is gone.
When finished your list of plugins should look like this:
You may notice another plugin there called Akismet. This is a plugin that helps you deal with any spam comments you can get to your website. It isn’t a necessary plugin and to use it on a commercial basis you need to pay a charge of around £7 a month.
Many beginners simply use another Spam plugin instead which does not require payment. As I already have several websites, I do pay for Akismet, and then use it on all of my websites, so I have activated it on this one as well. You can also just leave it there without activating it as it is not required.
Changing the Setting on Your Plugins
We need to change just one setting for now on the Revisions Control plugin. To do this go to the left hand column and then
Click on Settings > Revisions and you will see two drop down menus. Click on each drop down menu and change the setting to “Maximum 2 Revisions stored.”
To explain why we do this is to speed up the loading time of your website. When we write an article and publish it that is the first version of that article. If we change it in any way then it becomes a revision and creates another file. Each time we change it then another file is added to our database.
Over time that slows down your website. By installing this plugin and changing it to 2 revisions, it will only ever hold the last 2 versions of the article.
You can read about plugins and see what else is available. You can install none or some but don’t waste too much time on these. The ones I use I have always found to be useful.
Theme Customisation – Header, Logo & Favicons
At this stage you should have picked a theme that will suit the content of your website and you should also have installed and activated the basic plugins. In this section I will show you how you can make your own website look unique and stand out.
There are three parts to this and all of them are optional. You do not have to add any of these, but it will help make your website look unique and tailored to your needs.
- Adding a Header
- Adding a Logo
- Adding a Favicon
I have shown below the Amazon website to explain each of these. The Favicon is simply a small image that appears right beside the website name at the top of the browser. The logo is usually a simple branding logo that represents your brand. The Header is the section at the top that should inform people what your website is about.
What Is a Header?
In simple terms this is usually a graphical display that sits at the very top of your website. They come in many formats such as plain, graphic; sliding images and even video can be used. The Header space is one of the first things that a visitor will see when they look at your page.
The bottom line on this is that your Header should simply tell people what your website is all about.
What Is a Logo?
This can be a design or a symbol that helps identify a brand and what they offer. There are some very famous logos such as Nike, Adidas, and Apple etc. The important thing to note is that although this is not necessary, it does make your website look very professional.
What is a Favicon?
It stands for favourite’s icon, but as you can see from the image above, it is a very small image that appears on the tab of the Internet browser on your website. Again this is not required, but yet again looks great and adds professionalism.
Now large corporations spend a fortune on their branding and most of us can not afford that luxury. It is unlikely that any of us will ever become famous for our brand. Nevertheless they do help to make your website look really good.
You want to have these on your website because they also help build trust with visitors as they see these on the bigger websites and a certain expectation exists. The more professional you can make your website look the better.
So there are three choices to getting these done:
- Do them yourself for free
- Pay someone to do them cheaply
- Hire a branding company
Many people opt for the free option as they don’t want to invest the money in getting these done. There are free options to do this but it will take time. Branding though in my opinion is a bit of an art form. I worked in Marketing for years with many branding and advertising agencies, and it is not as easy as it looks.
This is the fastest and easiest method to get good quality headers, logos and favicons done. I use a website called fiverr.com. On there you will find people who will design you a website header for $5, a logo for $5 and a favicon for $5.
It is better to get the one person to do all three as that keeps everything consistent. So for $15 you can skip the pain and get this done for you.
Hire a Branding Company
If you want to go all out you can hire a branding company and they will offer you choices and recommendations along with a full design. Be prepared though to spend a lot of money as this will not be cheap.
For around £10 you can get all three done at fiverr.com. It will save you a lot of time and effort and allow you to get on with building your website. That is what I am going to do for my website as you get good quality work done for a small fee.
Simply tell the person on Fiverr what your website is about and what colours you will be using. Give them as much detail as you want. If you have seen other headers that you like then tell them which websites they are on. You will want your own header and logo to be unique so work with the person to get what you want.
You will also be glad to know that all the technical parts are now at an end. So for now it is just important to install a theme that you like and then install the plugins if you want to do that.
I covered a lot in this article but the important thing is to pick a theme that you like. Add the plugins that you want and get your website set up to add the content which is the most important thing.
I do recommend a paid theme as it is always supported and will not cost you the earth. Adding a logo, header and favicon are optional extras but they do help your website to look great.
New people building a website often hesitate at this point and spend a lot of time fiddling around with themes. Do not fall into this trap and just pick a theme and get started on the content. As you become more familiar with WordPress you will find that adding themes and plugins becomes a very simple thing to do.
Beginners are also very reluctant to spend any money simply because they are not sure if this will work for them. For £50-60 a year your domain name and hosting is covered so that is about £5 a month. Getting a favicon, logo, header and a paid them will be a one off cost of around £50-60.
So for about £100 and an ongoing cost of £50 a year I doubt that you will find a cheaper way of starting up a business.