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.

WordPress For Beginners - An Overview Of WP ThemesThe introduction of advanced web site publishing tools like the WordPress CMS has effectively improved web design and web development for web users.

This greatly benefits entrepreneurial-minded people thinking about getting a website that they can easily manage themselves.

Before blogging and the introduction of powerful and simple content management systems, if you wanted to get a site built for your business, you would have to wait until both the website development and web design processes were completely done. This could take weeks, even many months!

The development of WordPress themes helped change all this. In this post, you will learn what themes are, how they save you and your business money on web development costs, and how themes allow you to easily customize your WordPress site.

Website Design Revolution

More website owners are benefiting from a tremendous revolution in website design that began shortly after websites were first introduced. If you own a small business, you will want to know more about this, because it can save you thousands of dollars on website development or website design costs.

Let’s briefly go over how things worked in “traditional” website development before CMS tools like WordPress were introduced:

The first step would be to meet with a web developer or designer for a brief. Then, the “web design” itself would be discussed and agreed upon. This meant spending time and money with someone with web design skills discussing things of your site like the layout, colors, formats, graphic elements, content, etc.

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

Understanding WordPress Themes

(image source:adobe.com)

Only after everything had been tested and performed the way it should (and looking the way a client had imagined it to look), was the web site considered to have been completed and ready for delivery.

Then, web design “templates” came along”. Website templates allow presentation elements of the web site to be created separately from content on the page. The development of template elements helped speed up the website creation process and resulted in lowered production costs. This also enabled website development firms to expand their services to include business clients with less money to spend …

Understanding WordPress Themes

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

As more small businesses began choosing “template-based” web design services, web templates were introduced to offer clients with various customizable features, like color palettes, the ability to pick different menu styles, formats, header, footer and navigation elements, page layouts, etc …

As websites and website editor software evolved, website templates also began to evolve into web template “systems” that let users and website developers customize the visual aspects of their web site.

Then, a “blogging” application called WordPress was developed and helped to start a new online publishing revolution …

Understanding WP Themes

(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

WordPress themes expand the concept of a web templating system further.

The WordPress theme system controls and unifies the design elements of your web site. It lets you add a “skin” over your entire site similarly to what a web template system does but it gives you more control over the management, appearance and customization aspects of your 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 stated above, one of the unique and revolutionary features of a WordPress theme is that how your web site looks to site visitors is kept independent of the management of your content.

In simple terms, what this means is that you can change the design of your site as often as you like without modifying your site’s content and all the work you’ve put into it. For example, if WordPress site has been configured for e-commerce, changing the entire look of your site with another theme won’t affect the content or the functionality of the site. All e-commerce features, settings and product information will remain unaffected, but the site will look completely different.

This is huge! Why?

Because when your website is built using WordPress, you no longer have to spend weeks or months waiting for your site to be completed. You can get your website built simply and start with any WP theme you like, and then completely edit the look, feel and design of your WordPress site in a few seconds, whenever you want … and as often as you like!

Even better, you can easily install a theme on your site with no website code development knowledge necessary. Simply choose a WP theme you like, install it on your site and activate it. WordPress lets you change your website design and modify elements like header images, layout, typography and more with just a few mouse clicks …

Themes - An Introduction

Because WordPress is open source software, thousands of website design companies can create themes specifically for the WordPress CMS platform using the WordPress template system.

This means that thousands of great WordPress themes can be downloaded by WordPress users. WP are normally distributed freely under the terms of the GNU General Public License, or sold as Premium (paid) WP themes.

The WordPress team keeps a FREE WordPress Theme Directory which gives WordPress users access thousands of great website templates completely free of charge …

WP Themes - An Overview

(WordPress.org – WP Themes Directory)

As more users turn to WordPress for publishing and managing their content online, more designers are now starting to develop themes for a wider audience of WordPress users.

WP themes vary from corporate-looking, to quirky designs that are quite stunning and would normally cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars to design. Surprisingly, most WordPress themes can be purchased quite inexpensively, especially when you compare the cost to what you would have been charged if a website designer had to build it from scratch.

You can see a number of theme galleries containing stunning examples of great premium WP themes here:

Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!

(Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!)

Benefits And Advantages Of WP Themes

Here are just a few of the benefits of using WordPress themes over using website building tools that require traditional web template design:

WordPress Theme Installation Is Easy, Quick & Simple

WordPress themes are quite easy to install on your site. Just upload the plugin file to your Plugins folder via your WordPress admin user area and activate. Even easier still, you can install any of the themes listed in the free theme repository at WordPress.org) directly inside your WP admin’s “Theme” section.

Understanding Themes

Additionally …

  • WordPress has a growing community of commercial website developers and development companies who make thousands of quality WordPress Themes available to WP users. Many of these themes are 100% free to use!
  • Themes give sites a unified and consistent “look and feel” across all your site’s elements, like pages, headers, footers, menus, etc …
  • A “theme” works independently of your digital content. This makes it possible to swap themes as often as you want without deleting the site’s information.
  • Many themes come with built-in features and options that let you easily customize your site’s style, layout and design elements to create a unique look to suit your needs.
  • Many WordPress themes are built using a framework that lets users upgrade the theme to a newer theme version without losing its unique customizations (e.g. styles)
  • WordPress allows you to search, import and install WordPress Themes automatically right inside your dashboard.
  • WordPress themes helps you save hundreds, even thousands of dollars on web design costs. Free WordPress themes cost nothing and most “Premium”themes are typically very inexpensive.

About Responsive WordPress Theme Design

Many WordPress theme designers are now creating “responsive” themes.

A responsive theme allows a website to automatically readjust the web layout to display smoothly across different screen sizes and resolutions, as well as across different devices (e.g. PCs, iPads, mobile phones, etc.) …

Themes - An Introduction

A responsive theme is also optimized for each device type. Users can navigate, read and display the site on a range of device platforms without having to readjust their browser settings, or requiring website owners to have installed additional display elements.

Note: When downloading WordPress themes, we recommend choosing a responsive WordPress theme. Not only will the theme ensure that the content and layout of your site displays well on your visitors’ devices, it also means that the theme is newer than most non-responsive themes and therefore should comply with the latest standards, practices and techniques of web design.

I hope this basic overview has helped you gain a clearer understanding of themes, what themes are, how they help you and your business save money on website design costs, and how WP themes let you easily customize your WordPress site.

In our next article on basic WP features, we show you where to search for the best themes for your website or blog.


"This is an awesome training series. I have a pretty good understanding of WordPress already, but this is helping me to move somewhere from intermediate to advanced user!" - Kim Lednum