Install Themes and Plugins

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Choosing a Theme

There are many great themes for WordPress. A lot are free but I don’t mind spending a bit (<$50) for a high quality, custom design. Browse ThemeForest for a number of great options. Themes can slow WordPress down considerably – but the whole point of this guide is to optimize the performance using smart caching.

Browse Theme Forest

Browse Theme Forest

WP Engine
I chose MySiteMyWay’s Construct theme ($35) because it’s Responsive. Responsive themes provide an adapted experience for mobile and tablet browsers. I’ve also been extremely impressed with the technical support they offer. In preparing this tutorial, I ran into several problems that I didn’t expect them to be able to resolve – but in each case, they gave me easily applied hot patches within 24 hours.

W3 Total Cache also can cache pages distinctly for mobile, tablet and desktop. Look at on your phone and then look at it on your desktop – you’ll see the difference.

Once you’ve purchased and downloaded a theme. You need to upload it to your server. Open a Terminal:

scp -P 33322 -r -i ~/.ssh/hal ~/Downloads/construct
mv ~/construct /var/www/wordpress/wp-content/themes

Then, visit your WordPress Administrator Appearance->Themes page e.g. and activate it. It should look like this:

Activate Your WordPress Theme

Activate Your WordPress Theme

Suggested Plugins

Here are some of the plugins (aside from W3 Total Cache) I use for my WordPress installation:

These I use occasionally but not all the time:

Whenever you change your theme, you’ll need to go back through the process for exporting your static files to your Amazon CloudFront S3 CDN (described here) and purge your cache. Adding or removing plugins may require similar actions.

Please feel free to post corrections, questions or comments below. You can also follow me on Twitter @reifman or email me directly.

Continue to Optimizing AWS…


  1. Thank you for the writeup…
    Question: Why are you uploading the theme files via scp, rather than a direct install via WP itself? Is it possible to do WP upgrades, theme installs or plugin installs from within WP, rather than having to do a scp?


  2. Hey Jeff, I am preparing to move an existing wordpress installation from dreamhost to Amazon through a DIY installation or Bitnami. I have already set-up two instances and terminated them as each instance had issues. I learn by doing so these practice runs have been fantastic as I have not used a command line since the days of DOS.

    Is there a way to set-up SFTP access instead of using scp to upload themes, plugins and edit theme files and CSS?


  3. Hi Jeff, you says that changing the theme will require exporting/purging work. What if I own a multisite install where users (mostly having single page sites) can set their own theme ?


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