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.

Themes - An IntroductionFlexible content management platforms like the WordPress Content Management System (CMS) have truly improved web design and web development for anyone wanting to start a website.

This greatly benefits non-technical users thinking about starting a website that they can fully manage.

Prior to blogging and the introduction of easy-to-use CMS software, if you wanted to build a site built for your business, you typically had to wait until both the website development and website design processes were fully completed. This process could take many weeks, even many months!

WordPress themes changed all this. In this article, we explain what WP themes are, how themes help your business save money on web design costs, and how themes allow you to easily customize your site.

Web Design Evolution

More website owners have benefited from a tremendous change in website design that started several years ago. If you are a business owner, you will want to learn more about this, because it can save your business thousands of dollars on website development and website design costs.

Very briefly, this is what used to happen before WordPress was developed:

First, you would discuss your requirements with a web site development firm or web site designer. After that, the design itself had to be decided upon. This required time being spent with a professional web designer discussing areas of the website such as the layout, colors, formats, visual elements, content, etc.

Every page of your web site then had to be hand-coded with all the elements and codes scripted into the page content. All pages were then assembled into a website using links and custom coded navigation menus and uploaded to your server, together with all other files needed to make your site work – script libraries, images, media elements, etc.

Themes - An Introduction

(image source:adobe.com)

Only after everything had been tested and functioned the way it should (and looking how a client had wanted it to look), was the website deemed to have been finished and ready for sign off.

Then, web design “templates” were developed”. Web site templates allow the presentation of the website to be worked on separately from content on the page. The introduction of templates helped to make website development faster and resulted in lowered costs of production. This also allowed web development agencies to expand their services to include business clients with less money to spend …

A Newbie's Guide To Understanding Themes

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

As more small businesses started choosing “template-based” websites, web templates were developed to offer different customization options, like the ability to switch colors, styles, layouts

As web sites and web building software developed, website templates also began to evolve into website template ”systems”, letting website owners manage the visual aspects of a website.

Then, a “blogging” tool called WordPress was developed and helped to kick off a new web revolution …

WordPress Themes - An Introduction

(WordPress – A Content Publishing Revolution)

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

The WordPress Theme

A WordPress theme takes web templating systems much further.

The WordPress theme system controls every aspect of your site’s design. It lets you add a “skin” to your entire site in a similar way that a template system does but it gives you complete control over the management, appearance and ability to customize template settings.

As WordPress explains in its official website …

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 stated above, one of the unique features of WordPress is that how your site appears to site visitors is controlled separately from your site’s functional aspects (e.g. content management and functionality).

In simple terms, what this means is that WP themes let you change the appearance of your website as much and as often as you like without modifying your site’s content and all the functionality you’ve built into it. For example, if your website has been configured for e-commerce, changing the entire look of your site with a different theme won’t affect the content or the functionality of the website. All e-commerce features, settings and product information will remain intact, but the site will look completely different.

This is important. Why?

Because when you use WordPress, you no longer need to spend weeks or months waiting for your site to be completed. You can get your website built simply and start with any WordPress theme you like, and then completely change the look, feel and design of your site in mere seconds, whenever you choose … and as often as you like!

Even better, you can easily install a theme on your site without requiring website design skills. Just pick any WP theme you want, upload it to your website and activate it. WordPress lets you change your entire site’s web design and customize elements like header images, layout, typography and more in minutes …

A Basic Guide To Understanding Themes

Because WordPress is open source software, website designers can create themes specifically for the WP CMS platform using the WordPress template system.

This means that loads of high quality WP themes can be downloaded by WP users. WordPress are normally distributed as Free Software under the terms of the GNU License Definition, or they can be purchased as Premium (paid) WordPress themes.

The WordPress development team keeps a FREE theme directory which allows WordPress users to download, access and install thousands of great web templates completely free of charge …

Themes - An Introduction

(WordPress.org – WordPress Themes Directory)

As WordPress becomes more popular, more designers are now focusing on developing themes for a wider range of users.

Themes range from minimal-looking, to designs that are visually breathtaking and would easily cost thousands of dollars to develop. Surprisingly, most premium themes are really inexpensive to buy.

You can view several WordPress theme galleries containing stunning examples of great WP themes in this post:

Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!

(Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!)

Benefits And Advantages Of WordPress Themes

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

Ready To Go To Work In No Time

Themes are quite easy to install on your site. Simply upload the plugin file to your Plugin folder via your WordPress dashboard and activate. Even easier still, you can install any of the themes listed in the themes repository at WordPress.org) directly from your WP dashboard.

A Newbie's Guide To WP Themes


  • WordPress has a thriving community of commercial web developers who contribute thousands of great WP Themes available to users. Thousands of these themes are completely free to use!
  • Themes give sites a unified and consistent look across all of your site’s elements, i.e. pages, headers, footers, menus, etc …
  • A “theme” works independently of your website’s content. This means you can change themes as often as you like without deleting your settings.
  • Many WP themes provide additional functionality and settings that let you customize the theme’s style and design properties to create a unique look to suit your needs.
  • Many WP themes are built using a framework that allows users to upgrade themes to newer theme versions without losing any unique customizations (e.g. styles)
  • WordPress allows you to search, upload, install and update WordPress Themes automatically directly from the admin panel.
  • Themes lets you save hundreds of dollars on web design costs. Free WordPress themes cost nothing and most “Premium”WP themes are typically very affordable.

About Responsive Themes

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

A responsive theme enables a website to automatically reconfigure the layout to display smoothly across different monitor sizes and screen resolutions, as well as different platforms) …

Understanding WP Themes

A responsive theme is also optimized for different types of devices. Users can scroll, read and display your site on most if not all devices without having to resize anything, or requiring the website owner to have installed additional themes.

Note: When searching for WordPress themes, it’s a good idea to choose a responsive WordPress theme. Not only will the theme ensure that the content and layout of your site will work correctly on all devices, it also means that the theme is newer than non-responsive themes and therefore complies with the latest standards of website design and web coding.

Hopefully, this overview has helped you gain a better understanding of WordPress themes, what WP themes are, how they help you save money, and how themes make customizing sites easy.

In our next blog post on basic features and functionality of WordPress, we show you where to search for the best themes for your website.


"If you're new to WordPress, this can stand on its own as a training course and will stay with you as you progress from beginner to advanced and even guru status." - Bruce (Columbus, Ohio)