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 Business - An Overview Of WordPress ThemesThe development of content management applications like the WordPress CMS platform has effectively improved web design and web development for non-technical web users.

This is a great thing for business owners planning to build an online business presence that is relatively simple, easy and inexpensive to manage.

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

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

The Evolution Of Website Design

More businesses will benefit from a great change in website design that started a number of years ago. If you own a business, you may want to know more about this, because it can save you thousands of dollars on web development or website design costs.

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

First, you would meet with a website development firm or designer for a brief. Next, the ”look and feel” of your site would be discussed and agreed upon. This meant time being spent with someone with web site design skills going over elements of your website like the layout, colours, formats, page elements, content, etc.

Every page of your site then had to be hand-coded with all the elements and codes written into your page content. The 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, graphic images, media elements, etc.

Understanding WP Themes

(image source:adobe.com)

Only once everything had been tested and functioned how it was intended to (and looking how a client had imagined it to look), was the site considered as being finished and ready for sign off.

Then, website “templates” came along”. A website template allows the design of the web site to be created separately from the page content. The introduction of templates helped to speed up the process of developing websites and resulted in lowered production costs. This also enabled website developers to expand their services to include small business clients and clients with less money to spend …

WordPress Themes - An Introduction

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

As the number of businesses adopting “template-based” web design services increased, templates were developed that could provide clients with different customizable features, such as the option to choose different colours, styles, layouts

As websites and web editor applications evolved, website templates also began to evolve into web templating ”systems”, letting website owners manage their web site’s visual aspects.

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

WordPress Themes - An Introduction

(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 expand the concept of a web templating system even further.

The WP theme system controls and integrates the design aspects of the website. It allows you to add a “skin” to your site in a similar way that a web template system does but it also also provides users with complete control over the management, appearance and ability to customize template settings.

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 the above quote states, one of the unique features of WordPress is that the way your web site looks to visitors externally is a completely separate system from the management of your content.

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

Why is this such great for small business owners?

Because when your site is powered with WordPress, you no longer have to spend weeks or months waiting for your site to be done. You can get your business website built simply and get started with any WP 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 WordPress site without the need of website design skills. Simply choose any WP theme you like, install it on your website and activate it. WordPress lets you change your entire site’s web design and modify elements like headers, page layout, typography and more in minutes …

A Basic Guide To Understanding Themes

Because WordPress is made available as open source software, website designers anywhere in the world can design themes specifically for the WordPress 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 freely under the terms of the GNU License Definition, or they can be purchased as Premium (paid) themes.

The WordPress development team maintains a FREE theme directory which gives WordPress users access thousands of great themes at $0 cost …

Themes - An Introduction

(WordPress.org – Themes Directory)

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

Themes range from corporate-looking, to designs that are quite spectacular and would normally cost many hundreds of dollars to commission. Surprisingly, WP themes can be purchased quite cheaply, especially when you compare the cost to what you would have been charged if a website designer had to develop it from scratch.

You can view several WordPress theme galleries that include stunning examples of great WP themes in this post:

Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!

(Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!)

Themes – Benefits

Here are just some of the many benefits and advantages of using WordPress themes over choosing applications that require traditional website design:

Be Up And Running In Minutes

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

WP Themes - An Overview

Additionally …

  • WordPress has a large online community of commercial web developers who contribute thousands of excellent WP Themes available to users. Many of these themes are completely free to use!
  • Themes give sites a consistent look across all the site’s elements, i.e. pages, headers, footers, menus, layout, etc …
  • A “theme” works independently of your digital content. This means you can change the “look and feel” of your site as often as you need without changing your settings.
  • Many WP themes come with additional built-in features and settings that allow you to easily customize your site’s layout and design properties and create a unique look to suit your business.
  • Many themes are built using a framework that lets you update themes to newer versions without losing any customizations (e.g. styles)
  • WordPress allows you to search, import, install and update WordPress Themes automatically right inside your site’s administration interface.
  • Themes helps you save hundreds, even thousands of dollars on website development costs. Free themes cost nothing and most “Premium”WordPress themes are normally quite inexpensive.

About Responsive WordPress Theme Design

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

A responsive theme enables a website to automatically readjust screen size to display smoothly over different screen sizes and resolutions, as well as across different devices (e.g. laptops, tablets, cell phones, etc.) …

Understanding Themes

Responsive themes are also optimized for different platforms. Users can navigate, read and display your site on all device platforms without having to readjust their browser settings, or requiring website owners to install additional browser tools.

Note: When selecting, WordPress themes, it’s a good idea to choose a responsive WordPress theme. Not only will a responsive theme ensure that the content and layout of your site works on all devices, it also means that the theme is newer than most non-responsive themes and therefore probably complies with the latest standards and practices of web design and coding.

I hope the above overview has given you a better understanding of themes, what WP themes are, how themes can help your business save money, and how WP themes let you easily customize your website.

In the next blog post in our article series on basic WP features, we show you where to find great WordPress themes for your website.


"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


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