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 Newbies - An Introduction To WordPress ThemesPowerful web publishing tools like the WordPress CMS platform have effectively simplified web design and web development for business owners.

This is great news for business owners thinking about running a website that they can easily manage themselves.

Prior to “blogging” and the development of powerful content management systems, if you needed to get a website built for your business, you would have to wait until both the web development and web design processes were fully completed. This process could mean waiting for many weeks, even months!

The development of WordPress themes have changed all this. In this post, you will learn what themes are, how they save you and your business money on website design costs, and how WP themes help you easily customize your WordPress site.

Web Site Design Evolution

More website owners have been benefiting from a revolution in web design that started many years ago. If you own a business, you may want to learn about this, because it could save your business thousands of dollars on web development and website design costs.

Let’s briefly take a look at what happened before tool like WordPress came along:

First, you would discuss your project with a website development firm or web site designer. After this, the “web design” would be decided upon. This involved time being spent with someone with web design skills discussing design elements of your website like the layout, colors, styles, page elements, content, etc.

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

A Basic Guide To Understanding WordPress Themes

(image source:adobe.com)

Only once everything passed testing and functioned the way it was supposed to (and looking how the client had imagined it to look), was the website deemed to have been finished and ready for sign off.

The next step in the evolution of business website design was the introduction of “website templates”. Web site templates allow presentation elements of the web site to be created separately from the page content. The development of template elements helped speed up the process of developing web sites and resulted in lowered production costs. This also enabled web development agencies to service small businesses and clients with smaller budgets …

A Newbie's Guide To Themes

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

As more web site development agencies started using “template-based” websites, web templates were introduced to offer clients with expanding customization settings, such as the ability to switch colors, styles, layouts

As web sites and website editor tools developed, web templates also started evolving into web templating “systems” that allowed website owners to customize their web site’s visual elements.

And then, WordPress came along and helped to kick off a new business website revolution …

Understanding 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

A WordPress theme pushes the concept of a website templating system further.

A WordPress theme controls the design elements of the website. It allows you to add a “skin” to your entire site similarly to what a web template system does but it provides users with more control over the management, presentation and customization of your site’s template features.

According to 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 quote states, one of the unique features of a WordPress theme is that the way your website appears to site visitors externally in no way affects the way your website works in the backend to handle areas like content management and functionality.

In plain English terms, what this means is that you can change the appearance of your website as often as you like without affecting your website’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 the site with a different theme won’t affect the content or the functionality of the site. All e-commerce features, settings and product information will remain unaffected, but your site will look completely different.

This is important. Why?

Because when you use WordPress, you no longer need to wait until your website’s design is done. You can get your website built simply and start with any theme you like, and then change the entire look, feel and design of your website in a few seconds, whenever you decide … and as often as you like!

Even better, you can easily replace any theme on your site without requiring website code editing skills. Just pick any theme you like, install it on your website and activate it. WordPress allows you to change your website design and customize elements like header images, page layout, typography and more with just a couple of mouse clicks …

Understanding WP Themes

Because WordPress is distributed as open source software, commercial website design companies from all over the world can design themes specifically for the WordPress platform using the WordPress templating system.

This means that thousands of high quality WordPress themes are made available to WP users. Themes are normally distributed as Free Software under the terms of the GNU License Definition, or sold as Premium (paid) WordPress themes.

The WordPress development team keeps a FREE directory of WP themes which gives WordPress users access thousands of excellent website templates for free …

A Newbie's Guide To Understanding WP Themes

(WordPress.org – Theme Directory)

As the popularity of WordPress soars, more designers are now focused on creating themes for a wider audience of WordPress users.

WordPress themes range from professional-looking, to artsy designs that are simply beautiful and would typically cost hundreds to many thousands of dollars to develop. Surprisingly, most WP themes can be purchased very cheaply, especially when compared to what it would have cost you if a website designer had to develop it from scratch.

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

Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!

(Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!)

WordPress Themes – Benefits

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

Quick Installation

WordPress themes are very easy to install on your site. Just upload the plugin file to your Plugin folder via your WP dashboard and activate. Even easier still, you can install any of the themes listed in the themes directory at WordPress.org) directly inside your WP admin’s “Theme” section.

Understanding WP Themes

Additionally …

  • WordPress has a thriving community of professional web designers who make thousands of great WordPress Themes available to users. And many of these themes are 100% free to use!
  • Themes give sites a unified and consistent look across all your site’s elements, i.e. pages, headers, footers, layouts, etc …
  • A “theme” works independently of your digital content. This means you can change WordPress themes as often as you like without disturbing your site content.
  • Many WP themes provide additional built-in features and options that let you customize the theme’s style, layout and design elements and create a unique look to suit your taste.
  • Many themes are built using a framework that lets users upgrade themes to newer theme versions without losing any unique customizations (e.g. styles)
  • WordPress allows you to search, upload and install WordPress Themes automatically right inside the admin panel.
  • Themes helps you save hundreds, even thousands of dollars on website development costs. Free themes cost nothing and most “Premium”WordPress themes are typically very affordable.

Responsive WP Theme Design

Many WP theme developers are now developing “responsive” themes for the WordPress CMS.

A responsive theme allows websites to automatically reconfigure the layout to display smoothly over different monitor sizes and screen resolutions, as well as different platforms) …

Understanding Themes

Responsive themes are also optimized for each platform. Users can scroll, read and display your site on most devices without having to readjust their browser settings, or requiring the website owner to install additional themes.

Note: When selecting, WordPress themes, we strongly recommend choosing a responsive WordPress theme. Not only will a responsive theme ensure that your web site works 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 and practices of website design and coding.

Hopefully, the above overview has helped you gain a clearer understanding about themes, what WP themes are, how WP themes can help you save money, and how themes make customizing sites easy.

To learn where to find great WordPress themes for your website or blog, see this post: How To Find Great Free And Paid Responsive WordPress Themes On The Web.


"I have used the tutorials to teach all of my clients and it has probably never been so easy for everyone to learn WordPress ... Now I don't need to buy all these very expensive video courses that often don't deliver what they promise." - Stefan Wendt, Internet Marketing Success Group


Where To Find The Best WordPress Themes

This tutorial shows you where to find many great free or premium WordPress themes for your online business, e-commerce store, website, or blog.


In another post, we have written a comprehensive overview of WordPress Themes.

If you haven’t yet discovered WP themes and what makes WordPress themes so special, then make sure to check out our post: A Useful Guide To WP Themes

In this blog post, we will show you where you can look for free and paid themes for your WP website or blog. You will also learn about the different types of WP theme resources and get tips on how to make sure that you get the right themes for your needs and avoid dealing with problems like lack of support and poor coding.

As explained in our previously-mentioned article, a WordPress theme is a unique kind of web design template used on WordPress-powered sites and designed specifically with WordPress in mind.

Many website designers and web design agencies create themes for WordPress. Consequently, members of the WP community can access thousands of professional-quality WP themes covering a wide-range of applications.

Themes cover an extensive range of applications.

Finding WP Themes: Let’s Simplify Things!

If you were to open up Google and type key phrases like this:

  • best free themes for WordPress
  • best responsive WordPress themes
  • best responsive WordPress themes for writers (type in whatever your business, area of interest or blog is about)

Chances are that you are going to get an overwhelming amount of disorganized information to sort through in your search listings.

So, to help you save time and make things easier, we’ll just cut through the clutter and make the process of finding great WP themes really simple.

WordPress.com vs WordPress.org Themes

Before we start, you should know that WordPress offers both a hosted and a self-hosted version. We’ll explain these differences in a later article. For now, let’s just focus on finding themes for the self-hosted version of WordPress (WordPress.org) in this article, which gives you more freedom, more options and more control over your site’s web design.

Free vs Paid WordPress Themes

Next, it’s important to know that there are thousands of Free and Paid themes being made available. Free WordPress themes are generally distributed as Free Software under the terms of the GNU General Public License, or they are sold as Premium (i.e. paid) themes.

Theme Marketplaces Commercial And Independent WP Theme Agencies

There are mostly 2 places where WP themes can be found. The first is in theme marketplaces and theme directories. The second are the commercial and independent theme companies.

WordPress theme marketplaces and theme directories are large aggregators of themes. theme developers (both commercial and independent) list their themes (both free and paid) in the marketplace or directory and visitors search for these just like they would if they were shopping for apps on an app store or software directory.

Some of the larger marketplaces don’t just sell WordPress themes. They can also sell WordPress plugins and templates for other web applications (e.g. Joomla, Drupal, etc.)

Commercial and independent WP theme developers can also design both free and premium WordPress themes, and can vary in size, from an individual developer or a small team of designer, to large web and theme design companies.

As you will see, most commercial theme design houses sell themes exclusively on their own web sites, but some will also list their themes in marketplaces and directories, or even create a free or “lite” version of their themes for free WordPress theme directories .

Let’s now show you where to find great themes for your website.

Choosing Responsive Themes For Your WordPress Website Or Blog


WordPress.org - WP Theme Repository

(WordPress.org – Theme Directory)

The official WordPress theme directory is the biggest and best place to search for WP themes for free. In fact, it’s probably the only free WordPress theme directory you should use when looking for free WP themes. The reason why, is because –as many free software users have discovered– downloading free software, add-ons, apps, templates or themes from untrustworthy places can place your computer, digital presence … even your entire business at risk.

The WordPress.org directory is not only a trustworthy and reputable place to download themes for your site, but it also uses a review team to review and make sure that each theme listed in the directory complies with specific quality and security standards.

To browse thousands of excellent FREE WordPress themes from the official WP Themes Directory, go here:


Useful Tip

Find Themes Inside Your WordPress Dashboard

Useful Tip: You can easily browse through every WordPress theme in the WordPress theme directory and not only find a great theme for your website or blog, but also easily install and activate it directly from within your WP dashboard with only a couple of mouse clicks.

Find Free Themes Inside Your Own WordPress Dashboard!

Use Theme Feature Filter

WordPress has a built-in filtering function inside the admin area that lets you narrow down your search for themes based on criteria like Colors, Layout and Features …

Use Theme Feature Filter

This makes it easier to find themes with specific features. For example, you could search for themes with predominantly orange color design, with a three-column layout and a full-width template, or themes that support custom menus, etc.

Note: in another article where we present an overview of WordPress themes and discuss the importance of using “responsive” themes, we explained how responsive themes ensure that your theme will display correctly on all devices (e.g. the PCs, tablets and smartphones used by visitors to view your site information) …

Use Theme Filters

It’s a good idea to use responsive themes, and the WordPress theme filtering function lets you do just that …

Use WP Theme Filters

… and bring up only themes that are “responsive” …

Use The Theme Feature Filter

Pros & Cons Of Using Free Themes

The obvious “pro” to using free WordPress themes is that it’s free to download and use the theme on your site. An added plus, is that many free themes are professionally designed and provide a number of customizable settings, giving you great flexibility and choice in how you configure all of its various layout elements.

The ”cons” of using free WP themes are that your themes may not get updated as often with new features and bug fixes, and it’s unrealistic to expect the theme developer to provide dedicated support, especially if they are not getting paid. Many free themes ask for donations to help cover their support costs.

When downloading free themes, therefore, check to see when the theme was last updated. If it’s been more than a year since any changes were last made, then it’s best to think carefully about using it, as the theme may have been abandoned by its developer.

If you’re just getting started and your website or blog is still relatively new, it’s a good idea to start with a free theme until you have a better idea of the kind of site design that would work best for your site before spending money on premium themes. Who knows, the theme you downloaded for free could be exactly what works for you and your business.

Now that we’ve seen how to find free themes in the WordPress theme directory and how to narrow down your search for themes that meet your specific criteria, it’s time to turn our attention to finding premium WordPress themes.

Premium WP Themes

If you are looking for themes with stunning design, or professional quality yet highly affordable WordPress web design themes with a distinctive look, unique customizable options and responsive support, you can search through the WordPress theme galleries of the “Premium” theme design agencies listed below:

Theme Marketplaces And Directories


ThemeForest theme marketplace

ThemeForest is one of the biggest and well known theme directories online.

ThemeForest lets many professional WP theme developers showcase their designs through their online marketplace. There are well over 17,500 premium WordPress themes listed (some starting from as little as $3) …

ThemeForest - Premium WordPress Themes

(click on the images above to view all themes on ThemeForest)

If you visit the ThemeForest theme directory, you will be able to browse for specific themes in various categories, such as:

  • Blog/Magazine – themes for bloggers and green living blogs, etc.
  • Corporate – themes suitable for medical sites or marketing purposes.
  • Creative – themes for portfolios, freelancers, etc.
  • Directory Listings – themes that suit sites about directory listings, holiday rentals, tourism directories, etc.
  • eCommerce – themes for selling products online, membership sites, etc.
  • Education – themes that suit sites related to teaching, etc.
  • Entertainment – themes for fashion blogs, restaurants, etc.
  • Mobile – e.g. responsive themes.
  • NonProfit – themes for nonprofit organizations, churches, etc.
  • Real Estate – themes for real estate and real estate listings (e.g. home sales, etc.)
  • Retail – themes for stores, trades or professionals (repairers, engineering, etc.)
  • Technology – themes related to hosting, affiliate marketing, seo, product reviews, direct sales, etc.
  • Wedding – e.g. themes for wedding sites and marriage consellor blogs
  • Miscellaneous – themes suitable for topics related to activism, parenting sites or blogs … even themes you can use if your site is still under-construction!

Useful Tip

When you purchase WordPress themes from ThemeForest, you will receive email notifications when a new update is available for your theme …

ThemeForest sends you theme update notifications

(ThemeForest sends you theme update notifications)

Browse thousands of great WordPress themes in the ThemeForest marketplace here:

Creative Market

Creative Market - WP Theme Marketplace

(click on the above images to see more Creative Market themes)

Creative Market is another leading WP theme marketplace where you can search through thousands of quality premium WordPress themes from independent theme creators.

As stated on their website …

“Creative Market is a platform for handcrafted, mousemade design content from independent creatives around the world.”

Creative Market doesn’t just sell WP themes in its marketplace, but you can easily find WP themes and search through their theme categories (e.g. Landing Page or Business themes, etc.) from their dropdown “Themes” menu …

Creative Market - directory premium WP themes

Browse through hundreds of great premium themes crafted by independent WP theme developers in the Creative Market themes marketplace here:

Mojo Themes

Mojo Themes - WP Theme Marketplace

(click on the images above to browse all Mojo themes)

Mojo is a directory for premium-quality WordPress themes where theme vendors are strongly encouraged to provide customers with lifetime support and upgrades.

According to their website …

“Mojo is a marketplace where anyone can find, rate and buy quality themes & templates in one trusted place.”

Like Envato and Creative Market, Mojo doesn’t focus exclusively on WordPress themes, but you can easily browse hundreds of WP themes and narrow your search with theme categories (e.g. Responsive or eCommerce themes and theme frameworks, etc.) by selecting the dropdown “WordPress Themes” menu …

Mojo - marketplace of WordPress themes

Visit the site to find great themes in the Mojo directory here:

Now that we have looked at WP theme marketplaces, let’s look at commercial WP theme developers.

Commercial WordPress Theme Design Companies


SoloStream provides WordPress users with a selection of high quality WP themes and the option of accessing all themes through a WordPress theme membership.

Solostream Themes

(click on images above to see more themes from SoloStream)

Woo Themes

Woo Themes designs great premium themes and offer a membership option that gives you access to all themes in their growing WordPress theme portfolio.

WooThemes Premium Themes

(click on the above images to browse all themes from WooThemes)


StoreFront specializes in creating WordPress themes for e-commerce. Their themes also integrate well with some of the most powerful e-commerce platforms and plugins available.

StoreFront - WordPress Themes

(click on the above images to view all StoreFront themes)


StudioPress provides WordPress themes based on a framework that enables users to quickly and easily build a professional and search optimized WordPress site, and provides a self-updating design architecture, turn-key site designs with beautiful frames for the content and unprecedented control of the framework.

Many web developers prefer using the Genesis framework not only because it’s well-coded and well-supported (the development team at StudioPress keeps this framework frequently up-to-date to reflect best practices for coding and to make sure that it is always compatible with the latest WordPress version, but because you can update your themes without losing any customizations you have made to your theme.

This is because themes built with the Genesis framework use something called “child themes,” which are like a paint job that sits on top of the theme framework and gives your site its unique design.

If this all sounds too technical, don’t worry about it. StudioPress themes are easy to work with, just like all other WordPress themes. The great thing about choosing themes from StudioPress is that one low price allows you to receive unlimited support and updates, and you can install your themes on unlimited domains.

For more details, click here: StudioPress.

StudioPress Premium Themes

(click on the above images to view more StudioPress themes)

WP Theme-Checking Tools

Here are a few more useful WordPress theme-related tools worth keeping in mind:

What WordPress Theme Is That.com

What WordPress Theme Is That? WP Theme Checker

What WordPress Theme Is That is a free web tool that allows you to easily detect what WP theme and plugins a website or blog uses.

This is a great resource if you ever come across a WordPress site that you like and would like to know what WordPress theme the site is using.

Useful Tip

Tip: If you can’t tell if a site uses WordPress or not, we have posted a a great tutorial that helps you tell if a website uses WordPress: Tell-Tale Signs It’s A WordPress Web Site And WP-Checking Tools

Using this tool is very simple. Just enter the site’s domain name into the field and click the search icon or hit “Enter.” The tool will not only confirm if the site is built using the WP CMS platform, but it will also list the WordPress theme being used by the site and list any WordPress plugins it detects.

Theme Authenticity Checker - WP Plugin

Useful Information

A word of warning: If you decide to use FREE themes for your WordPress site, we strongly recommend sticking with the approved themes listed in the official WordPress theme directory.

A well-known strategy used by many hackers and networks that engage in cyber criminal activities is to put up sites and directories offering “Free” themes for WordPress all over the web and then distribute themes containing malicious code. In fact, some of these sites even display on search engine results for key phrases like “free WordPress themes“, “best free WordPress themes”” etc. It’s best, therefore, to only download free WordPress themes from the official WordPress.org theme directory, or use established and reputable theme merchants.

If you are in doubt about whether a WordPress theme that you have installed on your blog could be infected with potentially malicious or unwanted code, use a free WordPress plugin like Theme Authenticity Checker (TAC) to scan your theme files. The TAC plugin searches the source files of every installed theme on your site for signs of malicious code and outputs a report with the results …

Theme Authenticity Checker (TAC) - WP Plugin

(Theme Authenticity Checker Report Page – Source: Plugin)

I hope that you have found the information on how to find the best free and paid themes for WordPress useful.


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