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.

Themes - An IntroductionThe development of powerful web site management technologies like WordPress has truly improved web design and web development for business owners.

This greatly benefits businesses planning to start or build a website that is relatively easy to manage.

Before blogging and the introduction of user-friendly CMS applications, if you needed a professional web site, you normally would have to wait until both the website development and website design processes were fully completed. This process could mean weeks, even many months of waiting for the work to be done!

The development of WordPress themes have changed all this. In this article, we explore what themes are, how WordPress themes save you money on web design costs, and how WordPress themes allow you to easily customize your website.

The Evolution Of Web Site Design

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

Let’s briefly go over how things typically worked in “traditional” website design before a CMS tool like WordPress was introduced:

The first step would be to meet with a website developer or designer for a brief. After that, the actual “web design” had to be discussed and agreed upon. This involved time and money being spent with a professional web designer discussing design elements of your web site such as the layout, colours, styles, page elements, content, etc.

Each page of your site then had to be individually created with all your design elements and scripts coded into the content. All pages were then assembled 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, graphic images, media elements, etc.

A Newbie's Guide To Understanding WordPress Themes

(image source:adobe.com)

Only once everything had been tested and worked how it should (and looking the way the client had wanted it to look), was the web site considered to have been completed and ready to go live.

The next stage in the evolution of business website design was the introduction of “website templates”. A website template allows the design of the website to be worked on separately from the page content. Having ready-made templates helped speed up the website creation process and resulted in reduced production costs. This also allowed website development companies to work with smaller businesses with less money to spend on marketing …

Understanding Themes

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

As the number of web site development firms choosing “template-based” web design services increased, web templates started being developed to provide clients with different customizable features, like colour palettes, the ability to select different styles or elements, etc …

As websites and website editor tools evolved, website templates also began to transform into website templating ”systems”, letting users customize their site’s visual aspects.

And then, a “blogging” application called WordPress was developed and helped to start a new web revolution …

WordPress 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:

About WordPress Themes

WordPress themes improve the idea of a website template system much further.

The WordPress theme system controls every aspect of your web site design. It lets you add a “skin” over your site in a similar way that a template system does but it gives you more control over the management, appearance and customization of template settings.

As explained in 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 states, one of the unique and revolutionary features of WordPress is that the way your site looks to site visitors is an entirely separate system from your site’s content management aspects.

In plain English terms, what this means is that a WordPress theme lets you modify the design of your website as often as you like without modifying your site’s content and all the work you’ve put into it. For example, if your website has been configured for e-commerce, changing the entire look of your site with another theme won’t affect the content or the functionality of the website. 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 your site is built using WordPress, you no longer have to spend weeks or months waiting for your site to be completed. You can get your business website built simply and start with any theme you like, and then customize the entire look, feel and design of your WordPress site in mere seconds, whenever you choose … and as many times as you like!

Even better, you can easily install a theme on your site with no website code programming skills necessary. Just choose a WordPress theme you want, install it on your website and activate it. WordPress allows you to change your site’s design and modify elements like headers, page layout, typography and more in a few seconds …

Themes - An Introduction

As WordPress is distributed as open source software, website design companies all around the world can design themes specifically for the WP CMS platform using the WordPress template system.

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

The WordPress development team maintains a FREE WordPress Theme Directory which allows WordPress users to access thousands of great WordPress themes for free …

Understanding Themes

(WordPress.org – WordPress Themes Directory)

As the popularity of WordPress increases, more designers are now focused on developing themes for a wider range of uses.

WordPress themes vary from functional-looking, to designs that are simply spectacular and would easily cost many hundreds of dollars to create. Surprisingly, most premium themes can be bought fairly cheaply, especially when compared to what it would have cost you if a web designer had to develop it from scratch.

You can view a number of theme galleries that include various examples of great premium WordPress themes in this article:

Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!

(Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!)

Benefits And Advantages Of Themes

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

Be Up And Running In Minutes

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 theme repository at WordPress.org) directly inside your WordPress site’s admin area.

Themes - An Introduction


  • WordPress has a large community of professional website designers who, collectively, contribute thousands of great-looking, high quality WP Themes available to WP users. Thousands of these themes are completely free to use!
  • Themes give sites a consistent design across all of the blog’s elements, like pages, headers, footers, layouts, etc …
  • A “theme” works independently of your website’s content. This allows you change WP themes as often as you want without changing the content.
  • Many themes provide additional functionality and options that let you easily customize the site’s style, layout and design elements to create a unique look to suit your business.
  • Many themes are built using a framework that enables you to update the theme 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 site’s administration interface.
  • WP themes lets you save hundreds of dollars on web design costs. Free themes cost nothing and most “Premium”WP themes are typically very inexpensive.

About Responsive WP Theme Design

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

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

Understanding Themes

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

Note: When searching for WordPress themes, we strongly recommend choosing a responsive WordPress theme. Not only will a responsive theme ensure that your web site will work correctly on all devices, but it also means that the theme is newer than non-responsive themes and therefore complies with the latest standards and practices of website design and coding.

Hopefully, the above overview has given you a clearer understanding of WordPress themes, what WP themes are, how they help you and your business save money on website design costs, and how WP themes make customizing websites easy.

In the next blog post on basic features and functionality of WordPress, we show you where to find great WordPress themes for your website or blog.


"I am beyond impressed with what you have put together. I can tell that you put a ton of hard work into building what you have. You have the absolute best content on WordPress I have ever seen!" - Robert T. Jillie


Originally published as WordPress Themes Explained.