Technically speaking, you cannot have two active themes at the same time on WordPress. However, you can set up two themes and then interchange them.
But why do you need to do this? And how? Is it even possible to use different parts of two different themes?
These are the questions that we will answer today. By the end of this tutorial, you will learn how, when, and why to use 2 themes on WordPress.
Can You Use 2 Themes on WordPress?
The answer is “Yes” and “No”.
“Yes” in the sense that you can install two themes in WordPress. “No” in the sense that they cannot be active at the same time.
What I mean by this is that while you can have 2 themes on WordPress, only one is used by the system at any given time. You cannot select a theme for users from the USA, and then choose another theme that works if the visitor is from the UK.
Now, what if you want to use the functionality of Theme A and then also use the functionality of Theme B?
I understand that sometimes, one theme is not enough. In some cases, you love the design of Theme A for the homepage, but you hate how the blog pages are made. In this case, you prefer the blog pages of Theme B.
Can this work? Can you install two themes and then select what part of the theme shows for a page?
Yes, this can work.
The beauty of this is that you do not even have to learn how to code. You can do this by using an app, but I will talk more about this later.
Why Do You Need to Install Two Themes on WordPress?
The default web design that bloggers use is what their chosen theme offers. What many do not realize is that it is possible to have two themes working at the same time—but only for specific pages.
But why would a person do this?
The first obvious reason is that there are some aspects of your theme that you do not like. In my example earlier, it is possible that you love the homepage of one theme, but you do not like how its blog pages look. Perhaps the blog page is a simple list of posts and you want more details.
Here are some ideas that you may look for in a blog page:
- Has pagination
- Displays feature images
- Has photos of different blog categories
- Has a sidebar
If your current theme does not have these, you are stuck and you need to make do with it, even if you are not happy. The first solution that comes to mind is to hire a website developer. Then, you ask this developer to alter your blog pages.
You do not have to do this—you can install two themes on your WordPress website and use only the blog function of the second theme.
For some website operators, they need specific functions on their website, like a calculator. The thing is that not all themes are built with these functionalities.
Some do, but that is the only part of the theme that you want. So, what do you do?
Again, the first thing that comes to mind is that you have to hire a computer programmer, and then embed the code to a specific page. But if you install two themes, you do not have to do this. What you can do is to create a page and then route that page to Theme B.
For that page, your WordPress website will show what is on Theme B. For the rest of your website pages, your site will show Theme A.
Managing a Multi-Site
WordPress has the capacity to make a multi-site. What this means is that you can build several websites and then manage them all from one administrative account only.
In this case, you definitely want to use different themes. It is not really likely that you will use the same theme for all websites, especially so if you are blogging in different niches.
One good example that I can provide is the blog site of Harvard. In this blog, all students can create a blog of their own. However, only the Super Admin can install plugins for these websites. The bloggers cannot do anything to change their blogs.
If you want this kind of business set-up, you need to install two different themes. Not only will it give your sites different personalities, but your sites will also have localized functions for each website.
Can a Subdomain have a Different WordPress Theme?
First of all, what is a subdomain?
A subdomain is another domain that is appended to your original domain. You use it to separate the functions of your website, and it makes your website a lot more organized.
For example, let us say that you have a website called ABC.COM. Now, if you want another domain that is dedicated to job postings, you can create a subdomain called CAREERS.ABC.COM. If this is not enough, you can also create BLOG.ABC.COM.
The words Careers and Blog are your sub-domains.
So, can you use two themes for different subdomains? Yes, you can, and the way to do this is the same as the method I will show you later.
Now, why will you even need subdomains? Here are a few reasons:
- Content – you use subdomains because you want your website to focus on one thing. For example, you may want another specific domain for a landing page, and then another subdomain for a blog.
If you use subdomains, readers will not get confused about how to navigate your site. Those who are on your blog are the ones interested in reading your posts, and the ones on your other subdomain are the ones interested in your products.
- SEO – subdomains can dramatically improve your SEO. Google will recognize your subdomains differently and will see them as separate websites, serving different purposes. What you can do is to use your subdomains to get traffic for specific reasons, and then send that traffic to your primary domain.
If you have subdomains, it is also easier for search engine algorithms to understand your website, especially so if you have various types of content. For example, you may be operating a magazine site, so you can use subdomains like NEWS.ABC.COM and SHOWBIZ.ABC.COM.
- Budget – let us say that you have a website about baking. Later on, you want to create a website about salads. If your budget is tight, you can use a subdomain and then have that page dedicated to salads. You no longer have to design a new site from scratch.
Typically, website owners would buy a new domain, buy a new hosting subscription, buy a new theme, and then start building the site from scratch. Not only does this require a lot of work, but it also requires a lot of money.
- Mobile site – this is one of the most common reasons why you would need a subdomain. We know that Google prefers mobile sites if the user is on mobile. What you can do is to create a separate site for the mobile version of your website, and yet keep the same contents.
As you can see, there are many reasons to add a subdomain. However, few people do not know about this because it is not often discussed in blog courses and tutorials.
If you ever decide to create a subdomain for your site, you will definitely have to install two themes—especially so if you want your subdomains to have specific functions that your current website does not have.
How to Use 2 Themes on WordPress
Now, let us discuss how you can add two themes on WordPress.
The first thing that you want to do is to create a backup file. This ensures that if something goes wrong, you can restore your website to its original functioning version.
There are many ways to create backup files for your account. If you are self-hosting, this should be easy. Just go to your control panel and then look for the area where you can create a backup.
If your web hosting company does not offer a backup function, what you need to do is to install a plugin that will help you do this.
Once you have created a backup file, follow the steps below:
- Install a new theme – as I mentioned earlier, you cannot activate both of these themes at the same time. What we are doing here is to merely install the second theme so you can pick the parts of that theme that we will activate later on.
- Install the plugin Multiple Themes – without this plugin, your default WordPress site will not allow you to use two themes at a time.
- Activate the second theme – once you have activated the second theme, it is time to make changes as you would like as if you are building your website for the first time. You do not have to do this for all pages.
If you only want to use the blog style of the second theme, then focus on that. What I recommend is that you set-up the entire second theme. This way, you can switch to it anytime in the future if you want to.
- Activate the original theme – once you are done editing the second theme, you have to reactivate the first theme. This will bring back your website to its original state.
- Use Multiple Themes – once the old theme is activated, you will see the Multiple Themes plugin. Click on Appearance > Multiple Themes > Settings. Read what is on the settings, as it has the documentation of what you can do with the plug-in, such as:
- Changing the theme page for the homepage
- Changing the theme page for a specific URL
- Changing theme for a specific subdomain
The last thing you do now is to do the actual change. You can find the controls in the Theme Options tab if you are inside the plugin.
Let us say that you want to change the theme for your homepage only. In this case, go to the Site Home area in the settings tab. Next, look for the area that says Select Theme for Site Home. Beside this is a drop-down menu.
The drop-down selection will show you the installed themes in your WordPress CMS. Since you only have two, for now, you will only see two. Choose the theme that you want for your homepage, and then click all changes.
From this moment, all your web pages will use the old theme, but the homepage will use the theme from the one you selected. You also have the option to change the theme only for a specific URL or for the blog only.
Multiple Themes Plug-in Review
Currently, Multiple Themes is the only known plug-in that can do this. As it stands, it has a rating of 4.5 stars and only three people have been dissatisfied.
Here are the features of the plug-in:
- Mainly supports theme change for website homepage only
- You can also change these for five URLs, but this is only available in version 5
- You can change themes by word query. This is how you change themes for the subdomains
- The tool allows you to change themes based on the prefix of the URL; what this means is that all URLs that start with a specific word that you typed will change themes
- Change themes by query word inside the URL; for example, you can say that all URLs with the word “review” will change to a specific theme
- Override the default WordPress theme – it prevents WordPress from using specific pages from your active theme
- You can also tell the program to change the theme for all pages but then, you can already do this in the default WordPress
- Change themes for all posts – for all blog entries, you can tell the program to use a specific theme
One thing you should know is that it cannot change what your admin panel looks like. If you use it with Paid Themes, the plugin will only work if the theme you are using is in the WordPress theme directory. If not, the plugin is not going to work.
In some cases, it may not work for multi-site WordPress accounts. In that case, you have to install a different plugin, which is made specifically for developing and managing multi-sites.
Now, some plugins use the cache, which means that the theme settings and content are stored in the user’s browser. Some are stored in CDNs. What you need to do is to flush your cache to make the changes work. Some caching software programs only do the caching for visitors.
In this case, log out of your account first and check if the theme change worked. If not, clear your browser cache and history to refresh the system.
I can say that this plugin is great. However, you may encounter some compatibility issues, and you will have to create a ticket. You can also visit the WordPress Forum site and ask questions from there.
Lastly, I cannot emphasize that you do the edits on the new theme before activating it. For example, let us say that you want the sidebar activated on the second theme for blog posts. If you do not do this, you cannot activate the sidebar once that theme blog post is active.
To resolve this problem, you have to activate the second theme, customize it, and then deactivate it. and then tell the Multiple Themes plugin to use that theme’s blog post design on your current active one (the original theme).
Summary: how, when, and why use 2 themes on WordPress
Having two themes in WordPress is a guarantee that if one goes sour, you have a backup that will work. The last thing you want is to have a theme that crashes and start from scratch.
If there is one benefit to having a new theme, you have the assurance that if the other one ever become clunky, you can easily switch to a new one.
The Multiple Themes plugin, another advantage you get is that you can use one active theme, and then simply pull theme designs from another one for specific URLs on your site.
And if you do, your site visitors will not have a bad experience. Also, Google will not view your site as being down, which means that Google will still show your site to users and you will have a continuous flow of traffic.
Despite this plugin, you still have to exercise caution. As you know, themes on WordPress are not made by the same people. Some of them are simply not built to be compatible with some plugins.
If you really want to use the plugin, you have to test different theme combinations and see which ones work perfectly with it.
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