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.

A Basic Guide To ThemesFlexible content management systems like the WordPress CMS platform have effectively improved web design and web development for business owners.

This greatly benefits non-technical users that want to own a website that they can fully manage themselves.

Prior to “blogging” and the development of powerful and effective content management systems, if you needed a website, you had to wait until both the website development and web design processes were completely done. This process could mean weeks, sometimes even months of waiting for the work to be done!

WordPress themes changed all this. In this post, you will learn what themes are, how they save you and your business money on website development costs, and how themes make it easy to customize your site.

Website Design Revolution

More businesses have benefited from an evolution in web design that has been going for several years now. If you are a business owner, you may want to learn more about this, because it could save your business a lot of time and money on web development or web design costs.

Let’s briefly go over what used to happen before a CMS application like WordPress came along:

First, you would discuss your requirements with a web developer or website designer. Then, the actual “web design” would be discussed and agreed upon. This involved time and money being spent with someone with web site design skills going over elements of your web site like the, colors, formats, visual elements, content, etc.

Every page of your website then had to be hand-coded with the design elements and scripts coded around the content. The pages were then assembled together into a website using hyperlinks and custom coded navigation menus and uploaded to your server, along with every other file needed to make your website work – script libraries, images, media elements, etc.

WP Themes - An Introduction

(image source:adobe.com)

Only after everything passed testing and was working how it was supposed to (and looking how a client had imagined it to look), was the web site considered to have been completed and ready for sign off.

The next step in the evolution of web design was the introduction of “website templating elements”. A web template allows presentation elements of the website to be created separately from the page content. The development of template elements helped make the process of site development faster and resulted in reduced costs of production. This also allowed web development firms to service smaller business clients with less money to spend on marketing …

Themes - An Overview

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

As more businesses started using “template-based” web design services, web templates started being created to offer clients with a number of customization features and options, like color palettes, the ability to specify different styles or header, footer and navigation elements, etc …

As websites and website editing software developed, web templates also started to evolve into web templating “systems” that let website owners and website designers manage their website’s design aspects.

And then, a “blogging” tool called WordPress was introduced and helped to start a new business website revolution …

Understanding WordPress Themes

(WordPress – A Content Publishing Revolution)

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

WordPress Themes

WordPress themes drive the concept of a web templating system even further.

A WP theme controls every aspect of your web design. It allows you to add a “skin” over your entire site similarly to what a template system does but it also also provides users with more control over the management and customization of template options.

As WordPress states in its 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 the above states, a unique feature of WordPress is that the way your web site looks to visitors in no way affects the management of your content.

Basically, what this means is that you can change the look and feel of your website as much and as often as you want without affecting your website’s content and all the functionality you’ve built 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 site. All e-commerce features, settings and product information will remain unaffected, but your site will look completely different.

This is huge! Why?

Because when your website is powered by WordPress, you no longer have to wait until your site’s web design is completed. You can get your website built simply and get started with any WP theme you like, and then completely edit the look, feel and design of your WordPress site in seconds, whenever you want … and as often as you like!

Even better, you can easily install a theme on your site with no website design skills required. Simply pick a theme you like, upload it to your website and activate it. WordPress allows you to change your site’s design and customize elements like headers, layout, style settings and more in minutes …

WordPress Themes - An Introduction

As WordPress is open source software, thousands of website designers from all over the world can design themes specifically for the WP CMS platform using the WP template system.

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

The WordPress development team maintains a FREE theme directory which allows WordPress users to download and access, thousands of excellent themes at $0 cost …

WordPress Themes - An Introduction

(WordPress.org – WordPress Themes Directory)

As the popularity of WordPress increases, more designers are now starting to create themes for a wider audience of web users.

WordPress themes vary from bare-looking, to artsy designs that are quite beautiful and could easily cost hundreds to thousands of dollars to commission. Surprisingly, most premium WP themes can be bought fairly inexpensively, especially when you compare the cost to what it would have cost you if a website designer had to develop it from scratch.

You can view several theme galleries containing various examples of themes here:

Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!

(Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!)

Themes – Benefits & Advantages

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

Be Up And Running In No Time

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

Understanding Themes

Additionally …

  • WordPress has a large community of commercial theme developers who make thousands of professional WP Themes available to users. And many of these themes are 100% free to use!
  • Themes give sites a unified and consistent look across all the blog’s elements, i.e. pages, headers, footers, layouts, etc …
  • A “theme” works independently of your digital content. This allows you replace themes as often as you like without deleting your blog’s underlying information.
  • Many WordPress themes come with built-in functionality and settings that enable you to customize the site’s style and design properties and create a unique look to suit your taste.
  • Many WordPress themes are built using a framework that allows users to update themes to newer theme versions without losing any customizations (e.g. styles)
  • WordPress allows you to search, import, install and update WordPress Themes automatically from the dashboard.
  • WP themes allow WordPress users to save thousands of dollars on website development costs. Free themes cost nothing and most “Premium”WordPress themes are normally very affordable.

Responsive WP Themes

Many WP theme designers are now developing “responsive” themes for the WP platform.

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

Understanding WordPress Themes

A responsive theme is also optimized for different types of devices. Users can navigate, read and load your site on most if not all devices without having to resize anything, or requiring website owners to install additional display 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 your website displays well across all devices, but it also means that the theme is newer than non-responsive themes and therefore probably complies with the latest standards, practices and techniques of web design coding.

We hope the above article has provided you with a clearer understanding of themes, what WP themes are, how WordPress themes can help you save money on web development costs, and how themes make customizing your web design easy.

To learn where to find great themes for your blog, go here:


"This is AMAZING! I had learnt about how to use WordPress previously, but this covers absolutely everything and more!! Incredible value! Thank you!" - Monique, Warrior Forum


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 an earlier article, we provide a comprehensive overview of WordPress Themes.

If you haven’t yet discovered WP themes and what makes themes unique, then make sure to check out this article: An Introduction to WordPress Themes

In this article, we show you where to explore loads of wonderful free and paid themes for your site. You will also learn about the different types of WordPress theme resources and get tips on how to ensure that you get the right themes for your needs and how to avoid experiencing problems like lack of customer support and poor coding.

As we’ve explained in another post, a theme is a special kind of web design template that is used on WordPress-driven websites and blogs and designed specifically in the WP platform.

Many talented website designers and website design houses create themes for WordPress. Consequently, members of the WP community can access thousands of professional themes designed for many purposes.

WP themes cover an extensive range of uses and applications.

Where To Find Great Themes For WordPress: Too Much Information … Where To Begin?

If you were to go to Google and type the following:

  • best free WP themes
  • best premium WordPress themes
  • best free WordPress themes for churches (enter whatever your business, search topic or blog is about)

You are probably going to get an overwhelming amount of junk to sort through in the search results.

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

WordPress.com vs WordPress.org Themes

Before we get started, you need to know that WordPress offers users both a hosted and a self-hosted version. We’ll cover these differences in another post. In this article, please note that we will only be covering the topic of finding themes for the self-hosted version of WordPress (WordPress.org) in this post, as these give you more freedom, more options and more control over the design aspects of your site.

Free vs Paid Themes

Next, it’s useful to know that typically, you’ll find both Free and Paid themes being made available. Free themes are generally distributed as Free Software under the terms of the GNU General Public License, or they will be made available to users as Premium (paid) themes.

WP Theme Marketplaces & Theme Agencies

There are two places where you can find WordPress themes. The first place is in theme marketplaces and theme directories. The second type of place are the commercial and independent WordPress theme development firms.

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

Some of the bigger directories 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 theme stores can develop both free and commercial themes, and can vary in size, from an individual theme designer or a small team of designer, to large web and theme design companies.

Most commercial or independent theme stores 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 directories .

Let’s now show you where to find the best WP themes for your website.

Where To Find A Theme For Your Website Or Blog


WordPress.org - Themes Repository

(WordPress.org – WP Theme Directory)

The official WordPress.org theme directory is the largest and best place to download free WP themes. In fact, it’s probably the only free WP theme directory you should use when looking for free WordPress themes. The reason for this, is because –as many free software users have discovered– downloading free software, add-ons, apps, templates or themes from untrustworthy places can contain malicious code and put 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 relies on a team of theme reviewers comprised of dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers to review and make sure that each theme uploaded to the directory meets certain standards of quality and security.

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


Useful Tip

Find WordPress Themes Inside Your WordPress Dashboard

Useful Tip: You can easily browse through every WP theme in the WordPress.org directory and not only find what you are looking for, but also easily install and activate it directly from inside your WP dashboard with only a few clicks.

Find Free WordPress Themes Inside Your Own WordPress Dashboard!

Use WP Theme Filters

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

Use The Theme Filters

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

Note: in an earlier post where we present an overview of WordPress themes and discuss the importance of using “responsive” themes, we explained how these allow your site to be viewed without problems on all devices (e.g. your visitors’ PCs, smartphones and tablets) …

Use The WordPress Theme Filtering

You should use responsive themes, and the WordPress theme filter lets you search across its entire database of free themes …

Use Theme Feature Filter

… and find only themes that use “responsive” design standards …

Use WordPress Theme Feature Filters

Pros & Cons Of Using Free WordPress Themes

The obvious “pro” to using free WordPress themes is that it costs nothing to download and use the theme. Additionally, 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 downside to 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 developer to provide dedicated support, especially if they are not getting paid. Many freely distributed themes ask for donations to help cover their costs of providing support.

When downloading free themes, therefore, check to see when the theme was last updated. If it’s been more than a year since any updates were made, then we advise you 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 is still relatively new, there is nothing wrong with using 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 a theme. Who knows, the theme you downloaded for free could be exactly what works for you and for converting your site visitors into customers.

Now that we’ve seen how to find free themes in the WordPress theme directory and how to filter your search for themes that meet specific criteria, it’s time to turn our attention to premium 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 great support, then search through the WordPress theme galleries of the “Premium” theme design agencies listed below:

Theme Directories


ThemeForest theme directory

ThemeForest is one of the largest and most popular theme directories online.

ThemeForest lets many professional WordPress theme developers showcase their designs through their online marketplace. There are currently over 17,000 premium WP themes listed (some starting from as little as $3) …

ThemeForest - Premium WordPress Themes

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

If you visit the ThemeForest theme marketplace, you will be able to browse for specific WP themes in a range of categories, such as:

  • Blog/Magazine – themes for general blogs and political blogs, etc.
  • Corporate – themes suitable for business sites or marketing purposes.
  • Creative – themes for design, arts, etc.
  • Directory Listings – themes suitable for sites related to travel, buy & sell, tourism directories, etc.
  • eCommerce – themes for selling products online, event bookings and registrations, etc.
  • Education – themes that suit sites related to tutoring, etc.
  • Entertainment – themes for gossip blogs, cafes, 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 catalogs, trades or professionals (electricians, chiropractors, etc.)
  • Technology – themes related to software, newsletters, etc.
  • Wedding – e.g. themes for wedding sites and dating advice blogs
  • Miscellaneous – themes suitable for writing or discussing political issues, parenting sites or blogs … even themes you can use if your site is still under-construction!


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

ThemeForest emails you theme update notifications

(ThemeForest sends you theme update notifications)

Go here to discover great WordPress themes in the ThemeForest marketplace:

Creative Market

Creative Market - WP Theme Directory

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

Creative Market is another leading WP theme directory where you can browse thousands of quality premium 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 browse hundreds of themes for WordPress and search through their theme categories from the site’s dropdown “Themes” menu …

Creative Market WordPress themes marketplace

Browse through hundreds of quality premium WordPress themes crafted by independent WP theme developers in the Creative Market theme directory here:

Mojo Themes

Mojo Themes - WordPress Themes Directory

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

Mojo is a marketplace for premium-quality WP 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 go through all of their WordPress themes and search through their theme categories (e.g. Portfolio or Photography themes and theme frameworks, etc.) by selecting the dropdown “WordPress Themes” menu …

Mojo WordPress themes directory

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

Now that we have looked at WordPress theme directories, let’s look at commercial theme development firms.

Commercial WP Theme Shops


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

Solostream Themes For WordPress

(click on images above to browse more SoloStream themes)

Woo Themes

Woo Themes designs functional premium themes for WordPress and offers a membership option that gives you access to all themes in their theme collection.

WooThemes For WP

(click on the above images to see more themes from WooThemes)


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

StoreFront Themes For WP

(click on the above images to see all themes from StoreFront)


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

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

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

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

For more details, click here: StudioPress.

StudioPress Premium WP Themes

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

Theme-Checking Tools

Here are some useful WordPress theme-related tools worth keeping in mind:

What WordPress Theme Is That – WP Theme And Plugin Search Tool

What WordPress Theme Is That.com

What WordPress Theme Is That.com is a free WP theme-checking tool that lets you easily detect what WordPress theme and plugins a website uses (including parent and child themes).

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

Useful Tip

Tip: If you don’t know if a site uses WordPress or not, we have published a a great tutorial that helps you tell if a site uses WordPress: How Can I Tell If My Site Was Built Using WordPress?

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 whether or not the site is powered by the WordPress CMS platform, but it will also list the WP theme being used on the site and list any plugins it detects.

Theme Authenticity Checker (TAC)


We said this earlier and it’s worth repeating again: When choosing FREE themes for your WordPress site, we strongly recommend sticking with the approved WordPress themes listed in the official WordPress theme repository.

A commonly-used tactic employed by many hacking groups and cyber criminals is to put up sites and directories offering “Free” themes for WordPress all over the web and then distribute modified themes with malicious code embedded in their files. In fact, some of these sites even come up on Google’s search results for search phrases like “free WordPress themes“, “best free WordPress themes”” etc. It’s safer, therefore, to stick with the official WordPress.org repository, or use well-known and trusted theme merchants.

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

Theme Authenticity Checker (TAC) - WordPress Plugin

(Theme Authenticity Checker Report Page – Screenshot Source: Plugin Site, WordPress.org)

We hope that you have found the information on how to find great free and commercial responsive themes for WordPress useful.


"Wow! I never knew there's so much to learn about WordPress! I bought one of the WordPress for Dummies three years ago, such authors need to be on this course!" - Rich Law, Create A Blog Now