Guide to building your own website

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3. Choose and install a Theme

The first thing you are going to have to do is choose and install a WordPress theme. Themes are great because they provide you with a starting point for page structure, layout, colors, heading styles, columns, etc. rather than having to build all of these elements yourself. I use WordPress themes for all of the sites I build because it makes the process so easy and the results can be very professional looking.

You can find WordPress themes all over the place on the web, and there are a lot of great ones… but there are as many or more poor themes. I recommend choosing a theme from WordPress’s own repository, or choosing one from a safe and reputable source such as ThemeForest.

Log into your WordPress dashboard at (use your username and password that you received in an email). On the left side of your dashboard you will see a menu with a variety of options. Click on “Appearance” as highlighted in the screenshot below.


The themes that are already installed in your site will be shown. To add a new theme, click “Add New” at the top.


You can now browse and search the hundreds of themes within WordPress and easily install any of them. If you are like most grad students, you want your website to act as an online resume, CV, and/or portfolio… so search for a theme that suits this purpose. You might discover that although there are many themes available, not many of them really match up with what you are looking for. But before I move on and show you how to find and install a Theme that you find elsewhere on the web, let me first walk you through installing one of WordPress’s own themes.

Let’s imagine that you select the zeeBizzCard theme.


Hover your mouse over it, then click the blue “Install” button that appears. The theme will now install. When it is complete you need to click “Activate”. The zeeBizzCard theme will now be your active theme, and you will see how it looks live when you visit your website. Before we get to how to customize your theme, let me first show you how to install themes that you acquire from other sources on the web.

Themes available from within WordPress are great, but they are used by many many people.. so using one of them will mean that your site looks a lot like a lot of other people’s sites. You might decide that you want your site to be more distinct, so using a WordPress theme that you find elsewhere (and pay a small price for) may be a better option. There are a lot of WordPress themes available for purchase… about $40 or less, so it doesn’t need to be an expensive option. A good place to look for themes is ThemeForest.


ThemeForest has a few free themes, and a lot of really awesome cheap themes. I recommend browsing their selection and finding one in your price range that suits your needs and your style. Make sure you choose a WordPress compatible theme. Some good search terms to use when search ThemeForest’s themes are “resume”, “cv”, and “Vcard”. The search results using these search terms should provide you with a lot of great options. Click here to see some of the ThemeForest WordPress themes that I recommend for grad students.

Once you find the one suits you best, click “Purchase”, complete your purchase using PayPal, and download the .zip file. Obviously, save the file in a location that is easily accessible, as you will be uploading it to WordPress in just a minute.

Go back to your WordPress dashboard, click on “Appearance”. In the Themes section of the dashboard, click on “Add New” at the top of the page. Instead of browsing the themes that appear there, this time we want to upload the purchased theme from ThemeForest. Click “Upload Theme”.


Click on “Choose File” and navigate to the location where you saved the .zip file, select it, and click Open. Then click “Install Now”. After the installation process is complete, just Activate it, and you’re ready to go!

Now you need to customize your theme. Every theme is different, so you’ll have to play around with it yourself to check out all of the customization options you have. Your theme should have come with documentation that explains how to set it up, and who to contact if you have questions.

Here are a few simple things that you should do right away:

  • Delete the sample post “Hello World”. Go to Posts on the WordPress Dashboard, find the post titled “Hello World!” and click Trash.
  • Delete the Sample Page. Go to Pages on the Dashboard, find “Sample Page” and click Trash.

Continue to next page for directions on adding pages to your site.

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About author View all posts Author website

Kyle Massey

Kyle is a current PhD student at the University of Texas at Austin in the College of Education.

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