WordPress Themes Explained

This tutorial explains what WordPress themes are, what makes WordPress themes unique, and the benefits of using WordPress themes to improve the design of your website or blog.

WP For Business - An Introduction To WP ThemesThe introduction of content management systems like the WordPress CMS platform has truly simplified web design and web development for website owners.

This greatly benefits individuals or businesses thinking of getting a web presence that they can easily manage.

Before “blogging” and the development of user-friendly CMS applications, if you wanted to build a website built for your business, you typically had to wait until both the web development and web design processes were completely done. This could mean waiting around for weeks, sometimes even many months!

WordPress themes changed all this. In this blog post, we take a look at what WP themes are, how WP themes help you save money, and how themes help you easily customize your WordPress site.

Website Design Evolution

More businesses today will benefit from a great change in website design that began shortly after websites were first introduced. If you are a small business owner, you may want to know about this, because it could save you thousands of dollars on website development and website design costs.

In a nutshell, this is how things typically worked in “traditional” web design before system like WordPress came along:

First, you would discuss your project with a web site developer or designer. After this, the “web design” itself had to be decided upon. This involved spending time and money with someone with web site design skills going over things of your site such as the, colours, styles, graphic elements, content, etc.

Each page of your website then had to be hand-coded with all the design elements and scripts coded around your content. The pages were then assembled together into a web site using hyperlinks and navigation menus and uploaded to your server, along with all other files required to make your website work – script libraries, graphic images, media elements, etc.

Understanding Themes

(image source:adobe.com)

Only after everything had been tested and worked how it was supposed to (and looking how a client had wanted it to look), was the website deemed to have been finished and ready to go live.

The next stage in the evolution of business web design was the introduction of “website templating elements”. A web template allows presentation elements of the web site to be created separately from the page content. Having ready-made templates helped make site creation faster and resulted in lowered production costs. This also allowed web site development agencies to expand their services to include smaller businesses with less money to spend …

A Newbie's Guide To Understanding Themes

(image source: www.dreamweaver-templates.org)

As more web development companies began adopting “template-based” websites, templates were designed that provided different custom features and options, like color palettes, the ability to specify different styles, formats, header, footer and navigation elements, layouts, etc …

As websites and web building software evolved, website templates also started evolving into website templating “systems” that let users and web developers manage their web site’s design aspects.

And then, WordPress was developed and helped to kick off a new digital publishing revolution …

Themes - An Overview

(WordPress – A Content Publishing Revolution)

To learn more about content management systems and the benefits of the WordPress CMS, see the tutorial below:

About WordPress Themes

A WordPress theme takes website templating systems much further.

The WP theme system controls every aspect of your website design. It allows you to add a “skin” to your site much like a website template system does but it gives you more control over the management and ability to customize all template settings.

As per the official WordPress site …

A WordPress Theme is a collection of files that work together to produce a graphical interface with an underlying unifying design for a weblog. These files are called template files. A Theme modifies the way the site is displayed, without modifying the underlying software. Themes may include customized template files, image files (*.jpg, *.gif), style sheets (*.css), custom Pages, as well as any necessary code files (*.php).

(source: WordPress.org)

As the above states, a unique and revolutionary feature of a WordPress theme is that the way your site appears to visitors externally is a completely separate system from the way your site works internally to handle areas like content management and functionality.

In plain English terms, what this means is that you can change the look and feel of your website as much and as often as you like without affecting your website’s content and all the work you’ve put into it. For example, if WP site has been set up for e-commerce, replacing the theme won’t affect the content or the functionality of your web site. All e-commerce features, plugin settings and product information will remain intact, but the site will look completely different.

This is important. Why?

Because when your site is built with WordPress, you no longer have to wait until your site’s web design is completed. You can get your business website built simply and start with any WordPress theme you like, and completely change the look, feel and design of your website in seconds, whenever you decide … and as many times as you like!

Even better, you can easily install a theme on your site with no website coding skills necessary. Simply choose a theme you want, install it on your website and activate it. WordPress lets you change your website design and customize elements like headers, page layout, styling options and more in a few seconds …

Themes - An Introduction

Since WordPress is open source software, website design companies from all over the world can design themes specifically for the WP CMS platform using the WordPress templating system.

This means that loads of great WP themes are made available to WP users. WP are generally distributed for Free under the terms of the GNU General Public License Definition, or they can be purchased as Premium (i.e. paid) WP themes.

The WordPress team keeps a FREE theme directory which allows WordPress users to download and access, thousands of excellent web templates at $0 cost …

Themes - An Introduction

(WordPress.org – WP Themes Directory)

As more users turn to WordPress for online publishing, more designers are now starting to create themes for a wider range of users.

Themes vary from functional-looking, to dynamic designs that are simply beautiful and would typically cost hundreds to thousands of dollars to create. Surprisingly, most premium WordPress themes are fairly inexpensive.

You can see several WP theme galleries containing many examples of great premium WordPress themes here:

Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!

(Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!)

Benefits Of Using Themes

Here are just some of the many benefits of choosing WordPress themes over choosing traditional web template design:

WP Theme Installation Is Easy & Fast

WP themes are quite easy to install on your site. Just upload it to your Plugins folder via your dashboard and activate. Even easier still, you can install any of the themes listed in the themes directory at WordPress.org) directly inside your WordPress dashboard.

Themes - An Overview

Additionally …

  • WordPress has a growing online community of commercial web developers who contribute thousands of quality WordPress Themes available to users. And many of these themes are completely free to use!
  • Themes give sites a consistent “look and feel” across all the site’s elements, like pages, headers, footers, menus, etc …
  • A “theme” works independently of your web site’s content. This allows you change themes as often as you like without deleting the content.
  • Many themes come with additional functionality and options that allow you to easily customize your theme’s style, layout and design elements and create a unique look to suit your taste.
  • Many themes are built using a framework that allows users to update themes to a newer theme version without losing any unique customizations (e.g. styles)
  • WordPress allows you to search, upload, install and update WordPress Themes automatically directly from within your dashboard.
  • WP themes allow users to save hundreds of dollars on web development costs. Free themes cost nothing and most “Premium”themes are typically very inexpensive.

About Responsive Theme Design

Many WordPress theme developers are now developing themes that incorporate “responsive” design.

A responsive theme enables websites to automatically resize to display smoothly over different screen sizes and resolutions, as well as different devices (e.g. laptops, tablets, cell phones, etc.) …

Understanding Themes

Responsive themes are also optimized for different platforms. Users can navigate, read and load the site on most if not all devices without having to resize anything, or requiring website owners to have installed additional browser elements.

Note: When purchasing WordPress themes, it’s a good idea to choose a responsive WordPress theme. Not only will a responsive theme ensure that the content and layout of your site displays well across all devices, it also means that the theme is newer than non-responsive themes and therefore complies with the latest standards, practices and techniques of web design and web coding.

Hopefully, this article has helped you gain a better understanding of themes, what themes are, how themes help you and your business save money on website development costs, and how themes allow you to easily customize a website.

In the next blog post on understanding basic WP features, we show you where to search for great themes for your website or blog.


"These tutorials have so much information and are easy to understand. If you use WordPress or plan to in the future these will help you with everything you need to know." - Valisa (Mesa, Arizona)