“Add New Themes” Link is Not There on WordPress.com-Hosted Sites

The “Add New Themes” link is not available in the Dashboard navigation on WordPress.com-hosted sites because you are not allowed to upload your own themes on WordPress.com. You can pay extra to be able to use custom CSS on WordPress.com, but this is not the same as being able to upload your own theme. There are other limitations with WordPress.com-hosted sites, like the fact that you cannot install Google Analytics and you cannot add plugins.

In general, if you want to start off with WordPress.com-hosted site, I recommend that you pay to register and use your own domain name. That way, if you decide to change your site to a self-hosted WordPress installation, all your links will be preserved.

Here’s what the menus look like in the self-hosted WordPress Dashboard versus WordPress.com:

Self-Hosted WordPress
Dashboard Navigation

On a self-hosted WordPress site, there is an "Add New Themes" link under Appearance

On a self-hosted WordPress site, there is an "Add New Themes" link under Appearance

Dashboard Navigation

On a WordPress.com-hosted WordPress site, there is no "Add New Themes" link under Appearance

On a WordPress.com-hosted WordPress site, there is no "Add New Themes" link under Appearance

27 Responses

  1. That’s really crummy! WordPress should be more upfront about this. Thanks for the info!

    • @jessicaojeda
      Thanks for the comment. This is one of the most significant differences between a WordPress.com site and a self-hosted “WordPress.org” site. Where would it be helpful to talk about these differences, do you think?

      There is a post here: WordPress.com or WordPress.org ? The difference. But it’s not that easy to find.

      • They already have this “Please note that the CSS Upgrade does not allow you to upload templates or custom themes.”

        This sentence should be added to the bottom of the “more info” on the “CSS upgrade”, “If you’d like to upload templates or custom themes you will need to sign up for a self-hosted account.” And make “self-hosted account” a clickable link on more information on how to do just that.

      • Thanks, Jessica.

        Iā€™m going to pass your suggestion along to the folks at Automattic/WordPress.com.

  2. Thanks Mark, really helpful info. šŸ™‚

  3. I have a wordpress.com account, just paid to register my own domain, purchased and installed the Headway editor, and now can’t design my blog because of this issue. How do I transfer my wordpress.com account to a free-standing one?

    Thanks so much!


    • Hi Niecy,
      You’ll need a web host. Here are some good hosts for WordPress. I like BlueHost. I have a tutorial that shows how easy it is to install WordPress on BlueHost. Once you have WordPress installed, you can upload and activate Headway. You may be able to do this using the Dashboard under Appearance > Themes. But sometimes I have had trouble doing this with Premium themes. So you may need to use FTP software or your web hosting control panel to upload the theme. Hosting tech support should be able to help you to upload using the control panel. Just give them a call.

      You don’t need to transfer your wordpress.com account, but it’s good that you have it since you will need the API Key that comes with the account in order to activate Akismet anti-spam software on your new third-party hosted WordPress site.

      Good luck! Let me know how it goes.

  4. Thanks for this, I was going crazy trying to figure out what I wasn’t getting lol.

    Really crappy though considering competitors allow you to add custom themes for free, I really like the layout and usability of wordpress……..but this is a real turn off and I’m debating if I want to keep my blog here.

    They should at the very least be upfront about this like another user said, I probably wouldn’t be so upset about this if I had known ahead of time and saved myself a lot of searching for a good theme and then searching for how to use it to find out I can’t.

    • @jlsmiles22
      I understand your frustration. I actually wrote to WordPress.com and told them that some of my readers were feeling the same way. It would be nice to let people know going in, before they spend lots of time adding content and such, only to find that they can’t upload their own theme. As you say, sites like Blogger do let you use custom themes.

      Of course, I’m biased, having spent a lot of time getting to know how to use WordPress. But I had a similar experience with this Business Blogging 101 site because I had gotten it running and put lots of time into posts, etc., people were linking to me and so on, before I realized that I did not have an easy way of moving it to third-party (aka self-) hosting. I wanted more features like Google Analytics and the ability to use JavaScript, do search engine optimization and such, which you don’t have on WordPress.com. But moving the site would have required me to do some slightly tricky stuff with the domain name / URLs, and I really didn’t want to risk having trouble or spending lots of time making the technical stuff work.

      If I had started out on WordPress.com using a subdomain of my main mcbuzz.com domain, like wordpress.mcbuzz.com, things would have been lots easier. Live and learn! So now I make a point of telling people about the domain name issue on WordPress.com wherever I can.

      From WordPress.com’s perspective, my guess is that they want to make it as easy as possible for people to get started with a blog. If they had you read a bunch of fine print, you might give up. In general, WordPress themes are more powerful than Blogger themes because they include a lot of PHP code that you don’t have access to with Blogger.

      Allowing people to upload themes would make the job of WordPress.com folks a lot harder, much more like being a web host. With PHP code, you can create all kinds of malicious or spammy scripts. These are things a regular third-party web hosts have to constantly be on the lookout for. Part of the money you pay for third-party hosting is spent on preventing malware and spam.

      WordPress.com does not want to have to spend time or money policing their servers and software. They want to concentrate on making the user experience really excellent. But part of the user experience is knowing what you are getting, so there does have to be a balance as far as letting people know what WordPress.com can and can’t do.

  5. Thanks! Like the person above, I was going crazy trying to upload a theme via cpanel/filezilla, but the instructions (although seemed simple), just weren’t working. I spent about 3 hours trying again and again.

    I don’t mind paying, but I actually want to keep my blog as username.wordpress.com instead of username.com
    But it won’t let me.

    I made a template/theme using artiseer and really want to upload it.

    Hope to hear back from you since you seem to be the only one who can help around here! Thanks!!

    • @Natasha
      Thanks for your comments. I’m not sure why you want to keep the username.wordpress.com domain, but you can use domain mapping so that you can use both. It costs about $10-$15 a year. http://en.support.wordpress.com/domain-mapping/redirecting-your-blog/

      Reading your question again, though, it sounds like your site might still be on WordPress.com. You can’t use a custom theme on WordPress.com. So you need to find a host and move it first. Let me know if you have already done that.

      • Hi Mark. Thanks so much for the reply.
        You’re right, my site is still on wordpress.com. Please advise me of what I can do to be able to upload the theme I made on artiseer. Thank you!

  6. This is stupid. I agree with jessicaojeda, they should be upfront about this. I really like word press. I was going to put up a blog site, but now I have to delete my account and go somewhere else! I’m not buying a domain, I have bills to pay and more important to put my money on! Oh well, I wonder how my gossip site will do Livejournal!

  7. I almost feel like writing this is a waste of time since nothing is going to be done about it, but I am so upset about the lack of themes WordPress has to offer, and then on top of that you can’t even import one into your wordpress blog. I just want a simple Transparent layout. So many other blogs have this feature, but wordpress doesn’t. I’ve spent money on my wordpress blog, so to be limited in this way is completely frustrating. I’m thinking of changing blog sites.

  8. Hi there,

    I’ve bought my domain name and hosting through GoDaddy. I used their WordPress application, but I think it’s uploading to .com vs. .org. How do I change it .org so I can upload my themes. I’ve already uploaded my themes using ftp.


    • @thelimericklane – Give GoDaddy customer support a call. If your site’s hosted there, you don’t have to worry about .com vs. .org. Use their control panel to install WordPress. (Sounds like you already did.) Be aware that it will install in a subdirectory unless you tell it not to. You probably want to install in the root directory, not a subdirectory. If it’s already in a subdirectory, I recommend installing again into the root. GoDaddy support can tell you about this. And they should also be able to help you figure out where your themes are supposed to go. I’d suggest using the WordPress Dashboard to upload your themes unless you run into an error.

  9. I’ve installed it in the root directory. I installed my themes in the themes folder. I know where my themes are. My problem is with wordpress. I don’t even have the choice of adding a new theme if I wanted to in my dashboard. I’m lost.

    • @thelimericklane – Sorry to ask those basic questions. Sounds like you are an experienced user. It’s hard for me to tell without discussion so I start with the basics. Here’s another basic question that we have to rule out. Are you sure you are logging in to the new GoDaddy installation? You might be logging into WordPress.com without realizing it. I have done this myself before. The .com and self-hosted login pages look very similar. I don’t know the URL so I can’t tell you what it looks like.

      If you are logging into the new install, what do you see when you click on the Install Themes tab under Appearance > Themes ? You should see this: Install Themes screen shot

      Note also that there is no longer an “Install New Themes” button in the Appearance menu with WordPress version 3.0.

  10. When I log into the new install, I don’t see that screen shot at all. I did upload the latest 3.0 version software through GoDaddy.

    So lets say I’m not logging into the new GoDaddy installation…how do I do that??

    The url is thelimericklane.com if that helps.

    Thanks so much for help!!!

  11. I am fried on this WP/godaddy link up as well! I had a WP hosted site (was karlarootness.wordpress.com, now is still that, but have the domain karlalindblom.com directed to it), then I purchased hosting by godaddy, since I bought fresh journal 2.0 theme. I bought their wordpress hosting package, so they know I have wordpress, and I added the go daddy DNS host names to my WP account…Somehow I hosed this up, because now neither the WP full name or the redirected account is resolving to my temp WP blog site. ARGH! Is there anything you can suggest – like what settings I need to change/update between the two sites? I have my domain name server info from Godaddy. All of these changes done today have been to try to get the ability to activate my theme, which I was easily able to upload to the file manager under wp themes within go-daddy – but can’t get the option to pull it up via WordPress admin. Do I need to start from scratch on WP.org?

    Thank you so much!! I would PAY for help at this point!!!


    • @Karla Lindblom – I can help next week but not this week. Sorry! It sounds like there is confusion about where the site is hosted, and how to point your karlalindblom.com domain at the site. Have GoDaddy support help you get a fresh installation of WordPress set up at karlalindblom.com (in the “root” directory).

      Then use Tools > Export to export the site from karlarootness.wordpress.com (Do this when logged into karlarootness.wordpress.com). Then go back and login to the new site at karlalindblom.com and use Tools > Import there to upload the xml file created from the export. Say ‘yes’ to download and import attachments.

      As a final step, you will need to set up domain mapping from karlarootness.wordpress.com to karlalindblom.com. You do this while logged into karlarootness.wordpress.com. Specifically, you need to “redirect your blog”. It’s a little tricky. Sorry I can’t do more right now.

  12. Hello Mark I’m having a problem I started a blog on wordpress bought a domain (OPEN242.COM) but now my theme i have on my computer is not uploading what do i need to do. Because when i go to apparence and click theme there is no upload button there to upload my own theme. Could you tell me what i need to do to be able to upload my theme.

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