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How to Install a New Site Theme Design in Drupal Quickly

Drupal is the second most popular content management system and has many benefits. It allows you to build a powerful, complex, and fast-loading website without having to learn how to code yourself. It also powers prominent websites such as WhiteHouse.gov, Weather.com, Oxford University’s website, and many others.

In this post, we’ll cover the benefits of using Drupal, discuss Drupal themes, explain the difference between free and paid themes, and show you how to install a theme in Drupal quickly so you can launch your site as soon as possible.

Why Choose Drupal?

As mentioned earlier, Drupal is the second most popular CMS that powers 8% of all the websites that use a Content Management System. The latest version, Drupal 8, brought about major improvements to the core while maintaining the stability that makes Drupal less resource intensive.

As such, Drupal is a great choice when you need to build a large and complex website.  

In addition, other benefits of Drupal include:

  • Flexible. Similar to other content management systems, Drupal has plenty of themes and modules available that allow you to change the look of your website as well as add extra functionality such as newsletter sign-ups, social sharing buttons, integrate Google Analytics, and more through core and contributed modules. Currently, there are more than 2,000 themes and over 40,000 modules to choose from.
  • Open source and free. Drupal is open-source and free, which means you can download, install, and use it at no cost as well as contribute to it if you know your way around the code.
  • Optimized performance. Drupal has been built with stability, security, and performance in mind so you can rest assured that websites built on Drupal will not only be secure, but also fast.
  • Community Support. Lastly, Drupal has a vibrant community where you can go to find support. There are also many other sites like Stack Exchange that have tutorials, code snippets, and walkthroughs available.

Drupal Themes and Where to Find Them

Now that we’ve covered why you should choose Drupal, let’s go over Drupal themes and where you can find them.

Drupal themes control how your website looks, however, there are a couple of key things you need to know when working with them.

Installed vs Uninstalled and Default Theme

Themes can be managed through Drupal’s administration interface. When you log in to your Drupal website and go to Appearance, you’ll notice an Installed and Uninstalled section.

In essence, this means you can have more than one theme enabled on your site, however, only one theme can be the default theme visible to your readers and users.

You’ll also notice that you’ve got two simultaneously active themes—the second one being an administration theme, which is what defines how the dashboard or the backend of your Drupal site looks.

The uninstalled themes are those you can install and then set as default.

Uninstalled themes

Administration Themes

The main idea behind administration themes is that you don’t need all the bells and whistles of your main theme to manage your website successfully. The goal is to eliminate all the distractions and help you complete site management tasks quickly and efficiently.

You can, therefore, set a different theme as your administration theme and use it on any administration pages as well as for adding content and editing pages.

Global and Theme Settings

For the most part, the style and visual appearance of your site will be controlled by the theme’s settings. However, on the appearance page you’ll notice that you can control the global settings as well as settings for both the default and the administration theme.

Global settings control the default display settings for your site, across all themes. They include options for displaying images, a logo, and a favicon and can be overwritten in individual theme’s settings. By splitting the appearance settings in global and theme settings, Drupal effectively allows you to have more control over your site’s appearance.

Theme Settings

Where to Find Drupal Themes

Drupal has both free and paid themes available. You can find free Drupal themes on their official website by going to the Themes’ section. You’ll find both main and administration themes and you can filter through the themes based on their maintenance status, core compatibility, popularity, and more.

Drupal themes download page

Unfortunately, you can’t filter the topics according to niche and in some cases, all you can see is the screenshot of the theme and not a live preview.

You can also find plenty of high-quality paid themes on third-party marketplaces such as ThemeForest and Envato Elements. Unlike Drupal’s Themes page, both ThemeForest and Envato Elements allow you to see themes according to the category so you can easily browse nothing but themes for business sites or choose to focus on personal, restaurant, portfolio, or any other niche. 

You can also see a live demo of the theme so you have an easier time of seeing how a theme would look and behave on a live site.

Should You Choose a Free or Paid Drupal Template?

With so many free Drupal themes available, you might be wondering whether it’s worth investing in a paid Drupal theme. Before you make that decision, it’s worth considering the pros and cons of free and paid themes and their differences.

Pros and Cons of Free Drupal Themes

The most obvious benefit of free Drupal themes is that they come at no cost. This is useful if you’re just starting out and have a limited budget. However, free themes also come with a few disadvantages:

  • In some cases, theme developers won’t provide support for the theme, which means if you’ve got questions or have an issue you can’t resolve you’ll have to rely on the theme’s documentation and help from other users of Drupal to troubleshoot and resolve the problem.
  • Some themes may be developed as a one-off project that doesn’t get ported to the latest Drupal version, which can cause compatibility problems further down the road.
  • Some free themes might not have all the functionality that you need for your website. In that case, you’ll have to hire a developer or find a different theme.

Pros and Cons of Paid Drupal Themes

When it comes to paid Drupal themes you’ll find a lot more versatility, which means that you can find a theme for almost any niche, whether you want to build a business website or a personal blog. Here are some additional advantages of paid themes:

  • Paid themes are also regularly updated, which means you’ll be able to use them even after Drupal releases a new core update. In a majority of cases, premium themes will often be ported to the next major release as well so there are fewer chances of running into compatibility issues that break your site.
  • Another benefit of premium themes is the support from a theme author. Since they develop themes professionally, they’re more likely to provide you with answers and solutions beyond the theme’s documentation.

Obviously, the biggest downside to paid themes is the cost, however, the cost of a premium Drupal theme is still less than hiring a developer.

When and Why Paid Drupal Themes Are a Better Choice

Paid Drupal themes have a lot more going for them than their free counterparts. As such, they’re a better choice no matter what type of website you’re trying to build. However, if your budget is limited, starting out with a free theme is acceptable, especially if this is your first website as well.

But if you’re a business owner or want to use your website to generate revenue through advertising or affiliate marketing, then a paid theme will serve you better in the long run and is a sound investment.

What’s more, with a paid theme you minimize the risk of having to pay for someone to fix potential issues or implement a feature you don’t have, which means you can even save money.

How to Install a Theme in Drupal

Installing a Drupal theme is a two-step process. First, you’ve got to add the theme to your site. Then, you need to install it and set it as the default theme. In Drupal, you can add the theme to your site in three ways:

  1. By installing a theme from a URL
  2. By using the upload button in the admin area
  3. By uploading your theme using an FTP program

We’ll explain all of these methods below.

1. Add a Drupal Theme From a URL

Adding a theme from a URL works great when using themes available from Drupal’s official site. To install a Drupal theme this way, follow the steps below:

1. Locate the theme’s URL. On Drupal’s website, select the theme you want to install and scroll down to the green box that shows available downloads.

2. Right-click on either tar.gz or .zip link and select Copy Link Address.

3. Log into your Drupal site and navigate to Appearance.

Drupal Appearance

4. Press the Install new theme button and you’ll be taken to the next screen. Here, paste the link you’ve copied previously in the Install from URL box.

Installing new Drupal theme

5. Once the theme has been installed, you’ll see a notification screen that the theme has been installed successfully. On this screen, select Install newly added themes to finish the installation process.

6. Locate the new theme under Uninstalled themes and click Install and set as default to use it.

2. Use the Upload Button

Using the upload button

Installing the theme using the upload button is a great way to install a drupal theme that you’ve downloaded to your computer previously, either from Drupal’s website or from a third-party marketplace. Simply follow these steps:

1.  Locate the downloaded folder that contains your theme.

2. Log into your Drupal site and navigate to Appearance.

3. Press the Install new theme button and you’ll be taken to the next screen. Here, click the Choose file button and then select the theme folder.

4. Click the Install button and wait for the theme to install.

5. Once the theme has been installed, you’ll see a notification screen that the theme has been installed successfully. On this screen, select Install newly added themes to finish the installation process.

6. Locate the new theme under Uninstalled themes and click Install and set as default to use it.

3. Upload Your Theme With an FTP

The last method is to install a Drupal theme using an FTP program such as Filezilla, Transmit or any other FTP program. To install a theme using FTP, follow these steps:

1.  Launch your FTP program and use the credentials provided by your host to connect to your site.

2.  Locate the downloaded folder that contains your theme on the left-hand side of your FTP program

3. Drag the theme folder to the themes folder on the right-hand side of your FTP program and wait for the files to be uploaded

4. Once the theme has been uploaded, log in to your site and navigate to Appearance. Scroll down to the Uninstalled themes section and you’ll see your uploaded theme.

5. Locate the new theme under Uninstalled themes and click Install and set as default to use it.

Whichever method you use, once you’ve set the new theme as default, you can go back to your site by clicking the Back to Site button and verifying that the new theme is now enabled and active on your site.

Get Started on Your Drupal Site With a Beautiful Drupal Theme

Installing a theme on your Drupal website is easy once you know where to find the themes and know which steps you need to follow. Use our article to help you find the right Drupal theme for your site and install it quickly.