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 Beginners - An Introduction To WP ThemesThe development of powerful web publishing platforms like WordPress has truly improved web design and web development for users.

This is great for individuals or businesses planning to start a website that they can manage by themselves.

Before “blogging” and the introduction of powerful content management systems, if you needed a site, you had to wait until both the web development and web design processes were completely done. This process could mean waiting around for weeks, sometimes even many months!

WordPress themes changed all this. In this post, you will learn what WordPress themes are, how WP themes can help you and your business save money, and how themes allow you to easily customize your site.

Web Design Revolution

Website owners have benefited from a great change in web design that has been going for a number of years now. If you own a business, you will want to learn about this, because it can save your business thousands of dollars on web development and web design costs.

Let’s go over what normally took place before WordPress were introduced:

First, you would discuss your requirements with a web development company or website designer. After this, the design of the site would be discussed and agreed upon. This meant spending time and money with someone with website design skills discussing elements of your web site such as the layout, colours, formats, graphic elements, content, etc.

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

Understanding Themes

(image source:adobe.com)

Only after everything passed testing and functioned the way it was supposed to (and looking the way the client had imagined it to look), was the website deemed to be completed and ready for sign off.

Then, web design “templates” came along”. A web template allows the presentation of the website to be worked on separately from the page content. Having templates helped to speed up the website development process and resulted in reduced production costs. This also enabled web development agencies to service business clients and clients with less money to spend on marketing …

Themes - An Overview

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

As the number of small businesses adopting “template-based” web design services increased, web templates were introduced that could offer different custom settings, such as colour palettes, the ability to specify different formats or elements, etc …

As websites and website editing applications evolved, website templates also began evolving into website templating “systems” that let website owners customize the visual components of a website.

And then, WordPress came along and helped to start a new website revolution …

A Basic Guide To Themes

(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 expands the idea of a website template system further.

A WP theme controls the design elements of the website. It lets you add a “skin” over your site much like a web template system does but it also also gives you complete control over the management, presentation and customization of template features.

As the official WordPress site explains …

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 the WordPress theme is that the way your web site appears to visitors in no way affects your site’s functional aspects (e.g. content management and functionality).

In plain English terms, what this means is that a WP theme lets you 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 work you’ve put into it. For example, if you have set up WordPress site for e-commerce, changing the entire look of your site with another theme won’t affect the content or the functionality of your web site. All e-commerce features, site and plugin settings and product information will remain unaffected, but the site will look completely different.

This is huge! Why?

Because with WordPress, you no longer need to wait until your website’s design is completed. You can get your website built quickly and get started with any theme you like, and completely modify 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 replace any theme on your WordPress site without requiring website design skills. Simply pick any WordPress theme you like, install it on your website and activate it. WordPress allows you to change your web design and modify elements like headers, layout, typography and more in minutes …

Understanding Themes

Since WordPress is open source software, commercial web designers can design themes specifically for the WP CMS platform using the WP template system.

This means that thousands of high quality WordPress themes can be downloaded by WordPress users. Themes are usually distributed freely under the terms of the GNU General Public License, or they can be purchased as Premium (paid) themes.

The WordPress development team keeps a FREE theme directory which gives WordPress users access thousands of great WordPress themes for free …

A Basic Guide To WP Themes

(WordPress.org – WP Theme Directory)

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

Themes vary from simple-looking, to stylish designs that are breathtaking and could typically cost many hundreds of dollars to develop. Surprisingly, themes are quite inexpensive.

You can see a number of theme galleries that include various examples of great premium themes in this page:

Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!

(Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!)

Benefits Of Themes

Here are just a few of the benefits of choosing WordPress themes over choosing traditional web design:

Quick Installation

Themes are really 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 themes repository at WordPress.org) directly inside your WP site’s admin area.

A Basic Guide To WP Themes


  • WordPress has a large community of commercial website developers and development companies who make thousands of excellent WP Themes available to users. Many of these themes are completely free to use!
  • Themes give sites a unified and consistent “look and feel” across all the blog’s elements, like pages, headers, footers, layout, etc …
  • A “theme” works independently of your digital content. This allows you replace WP themes as often as you like without modifying the site’s data.
  • Many WP themes come with additional features and settings that enable you to easily customize the site’s layout and design properties to create a unique look to suit your preferences.
  • Many WP themes are built using a framework that enables users to upgrade themes to newer theme versions without losing its unique customizations (e.g. CSS styles)
  • WordPress lets you search, upload and install WordPress Themes automatically inside your dashboard.
  • WordPress themes allow WP users to save thousands of dollars on web design costs. Free WP themes cost nothing and most “Premium”WP themes are typically quite affordable.

Responsive WP Themes

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

A responsive theme allows websites to automatically readjust the web layout to display smoothly across 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 each platform. Users can scroll, read and load a site on a range of device browsers without having to readjust their browser settings, or requiring the website owner to install additional browser tools.

Note: When downloading WordPress themes, it’s a good idea to choose a responsive WordPress theme. Not only will the theme ensure that your website will work correctly across all of your visitors’ devices, but it also means that the theme is newer than non-responsive themes and therefore complies with the latest standards, practices and techniques of website design and web coding.

Hopefully, this overview has given you a clearer understanding about WP themes, what themes are, how they can help your business save money on website design costs, and how WP themes allow you to easily customize a web site.

In the next blog post in the article WordPress newbies on basic WP features, we show you where to find the best WordPress 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)


For a white label version of this tutorial visit WPTrainingManual.com.
Originally published as WordPress Themes Explained.