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 Understanding ThemesThe development of advanced web site management applications like the WordPress CMS has truly improved web design and web development for website owners.

This is a great thing for non-technical users thinking of running an online presence that is relatively easy to manage.

Before “blogging” and the development of sophisticated CMS software, if you wanted to get a professional site built for your business, you typically would have to wait until both the website development and web design processes were completely done. This could take weeks, sometimes even months!

WordPress themes helped change all this. In this article, you will learn what themes are, how they help your business save money, and how WP themes make it easy to customize your website.

Website Design Evolution

Businesses, especially small businesses, have benefited from a tremendous change in website design that began shortly after websites were first introduced. If you are a business owner, you will want to know about this, because it can save you a lot of time and money on web development and web design costs.

Let’s briefly review what happened before a CMS application like WordPress was introduced:

First, you would meet with a web development agency or designer for a brief. After that, the design would be discussed and agreed upon. This required time and money being spent with a professional web designer going over areas of your website such as the layout, colours, formats, visual elements, content, etc.

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

A Basic Guide To WordPress Themes

(image source:adobe.com)

Only after everything passed testing and was performing the way it should (and looking how the client had imagined it to look), was the site considered as being completed and ready for sign off.

Then, website “templates” came along”. Web site templates allow design elements of the web site to be worked on separately from content on the page. The development of template elements helped speed up the process of developing websites and resulted in lowered costs of production. This also enabled web developers to service smaller business clients and clients with smaller marketing budgets …

Themes - An Overview

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

As the number of small businesses using “template-based” web design services increased, web templates started being introduced to provide clients with different custom features, like color palettes, the ability to specify different content styles, formats, header, footer and navigation elements, layouts, and so on.

As websites and web building software developed, web templates also started to transform into web templating “systems” that let users and web designers control the design components of their site.

Then, WordPress was introduced and helped to start a new web revolution …

WP Themes - An Overview

(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 web template systems further.

The WP theme system controls the design elements of a web site. It lets you add a “skin” over your entire site much like a website template system does but it provides you with complete control over the management, appearance and ability to customize the 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, a unique and revolutionary feature of WordPress is that how your web site appears to site visitors on the outside is kept independent of how your content is managed.

In plain English terms, what this means is that you can change the look and feel of your site as often as you like without touching your website’s content and all the functionality you’ve built into it. For example, if you have set up your website for e-commerce, replacing the theme won’t affect the content or the functionality of your site. All e-commerce features, site and plugin settings and product information will remain intact, but the site will look completely different.

This is huge! Why?

Because when you use WordPress, you no longer have to wait until your website’s design is completed. You can get your website built quickly and get started with any WP theme you like, and completely change the look, feel and design of your site in seconds, whenever you decide … and as many times as you like!

Even better, you can easily install a theme on your site without requiring any website code development knowledge. Simply choose any WP theme you like, install it on your site and activate it. WordPress allows you to change your entire site’s web design and customize elements like header images, layout, style settings and more in less than a few minutes …

WordPress Themes - An Introduction

As WordPress is distributed as open source software, web design companies can create themes specifically for the WordPress CMS platform using the WordPress template 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 General Public License Definition, or they can be purchased as Premium (paid) themes.

The WordPress development team maintains a FREE WordPress Theme Directory which gives WordPress users access thousands of excellent themes for free …

Themes - An Overview

(WordPress.org – WordPress Theme Directory)

As the popularity of WordPress increases, more designers are now focused on creating themes for a wider audience of WordPress site owners.

WP themes range from corporate-looking, to designs that are simply stunning and could typically cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars to develop. Surprisingly, themes can be purchased quite inexpensively, especially when you compare the cost to what you would have been charged if a web designer had to build it from scratch.

You can view a number of theme galleries containing stunning examples of WP themes in this article:

Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!

(Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!)

Benefits Of WordPress Themes

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

Installation Is Easy

Themes are very easy to install on your site. Just upload a zip folder that contains the plugin files to your Plugin folder via your WordPress admin account and activate. Even easier still, you can install any of the themes listed in the WordPress themes directory at WordPress.org) directly from your WP site’s admin area.

Themes - An Overview


  • WordPress has a large online community of commercial theme developers and development companies who contribute thousands of high quality WordPress Themes available to WordPress users. Many of these themes are 100% free to use!
  • Themes give sites a consistent “look and feel” across all of the blog’s elements, i.e. pages, headers, footers, layout, etc …
  • A “theme” works independently of your web site’s content. This allows you replace the “look and feel” of your templates as often as you like without disturbing your blog information.
  • Many themes come with additional built-in features and settings that enable you to easily customize the theme’s style and design properties to create a unique look to suit your preferences.
  • Many themes are built using a framework that allows you to upgrade the theme to a newer theme version without losing any unique customizations (e.g. styles)
  • WordPress lets you search, upload and install WordPress Themes automatically inside your dashboard.
  • Themes helps you save thousands of dollars on web design costs. Free themes cost nothing and most “Premium”WP themes are normally quite affordable.

About Responsive Theme Design

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

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

WordPress Themes - An Introduction

A responsive theme is also optimized for different types of devices. Users can scroll, read and display a site on various devices without having to resize anything, or requiring website owners to have installed additional themes.

Note: When selecting, WordPress themes, we recommend choosing a responsive WordPress theme. Not only will a responsive theme ensure that your web site works across all of your visitors’ devices, it also means that the theme is newer than non-responsive themes and therefore complies with the latest standards of web design and coding.

We hope the above overview has helped you gain a clearer understanding of WP themes, what WP themes are, how themes can help your business save money, and how WordPress themes make customizing your web design easy.

In the next article in our article series for new WordPress users on basic WordPress features, we show you where to search for great WordPress themes for your website or blog.


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Originally published as WordPress Themes Explained.