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.

Understanding ThemesPowerful web site publishing systems like the WordPress CMS platform have truly simplified web design and web development for business users.

This is great news for businesses wanting to start an online business presence that is relatively simple and easy to manage.

Before “blogging” and the development of easy-to-use CMS solutions, if you needed a professional website, you would have to wait until both the web development and web design processes were completely done. This could mean weeks, sometimes even many months of waiting!

The introduction of WordPress themes changed all this. In this post, you will learn what themes are, how they save you money on web development costs, and how WP themes allow you to easily customize your WP site.

Web Design Evolution

Businesses, especially small businesses, are benefiting from a tremendous change in website design that began shortly after websites were first introduced. If you own a small business, you may want to learn more about this, because it can save you a lot of time and money on website development or website design costs.

In a nutshell, here’s what happened before software like WordPress were developed:

First, you would meet with a website development agency or designer for a brief. After this, the actual “web design” itself would be decided upon. This involved spending time with someone with web site design skills going over things of your web site like the, colors, styles, graphic elements, content, etc.

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

A Newbie's Guide To WordPress Themes

(image source:adobe.com)

Only once everything passed testing and performed how it was supposed to (and looking how the client had imagined it to look), was the web site considered to be completed and ready to go live.

Then, website “templates” were developed”. A web site template allows the presentation of the web site to be created separately from the page content. Having templates helped to make the process of building websites faster and resulted in lowered costs of production. This also enabled website developers and designers to work with smaller business clients and clients with less money to spend on marketing …

Themes - An Introduction

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

As more small businesses started adopting “template-based” websites, web templates started being designed to offer expanding customizable features and options, like the option to switch colours, styles, layouts

As websites and website editor tools evolved, website templates also began to evolve into web template ”systems”, which allowed website owners to manage their site’s visual aspects.

Then, WordPress was developed and helped to kick off a new digital publishing revolution …

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 push the idea of a web templating system further.

The WordPress theme system controls every aspect of your website design. It allows you to add a “skin” over your entire site similarly to what a web template system does but it also also gives you complete control over the management, presentation and customization of your site’s template features.

As the official WordPress site explains it …

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 the WordPress theme is that the way your web site looks to site visitors on the outside is a completely separate system from how your content is managed.

In plain English terms, what this means is that you can change the design 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 WP website has been configured for e-commerce, changing the entire look of your site with a different 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 intact, but your site will look completely different.

This is huge! Why?

Because with WordPress, you no longer need to wait until your site’s web design is done. You can get your business website built simply and start with any WP theme you like, and customize the entire look, feel and design of your WordPress site in a few minutes, whenever you want … and as often as you like!

Even better, you can easily install a theme on your site without having web code programming skills. Just pick any theme you want, install it on your website and activate it. WordPress allows you to change your website design and customize elements like headers, page layout, styling options and more in less than a few minutes …

Themes - An Introduction

Since WordPress is made available as open source software, web design companies can create themes specifically for the WordPress platform using the WP templating system.

This means that loads of great WP themes can be downloaded by WordPress users. WordPress are usually distributed for Free under the terms of the GNU General Public License Definition, or sold as Premium (i.e. paid) themes.

The WordPress team maintains a FREE WordPress Theme Directory which allows WordPress users to download and access, thousands of great WordPress themes at no cost …

WordPress Themes - An Introduction

(WordPress.org – Themes Directory)

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

Themes vary from bare-looking, to designs that are visually spectacular and could typically cost thousands of dollars to commission. Surprisingly, most WP themes are quite inexpensive to buy.

You can view a number of theme galleries that include many examples of great WP themes here:

Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!

(Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!)

Themes – Benefits

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

Quick & Easy Installation

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

Understanding Themes

Additionally …

  • WordPress has a large community of professional website developers who, collectively, contribute thousands of fantastic WP Themes available to users. And many of these themes are completely free to use!
  • Themes give sites a consistent “look and feel” across all your site’s elements, like pages, headers, footers, layouts, etc …
  • A “theme” works independently of your website’s content. This means you can change themes as often as you want without disturbing the blog data.
  • Many themes provide built-in functionality and options that let you customize your theme’s layout, style and design elements to create a unique look to suit your preferences.
  • Many themes are built using a framework that enables you to upgrade themes to a newer theme version without losing any unique customizations (e.g. CSS styles)
  • WordPress allows you to search, upload and install WordPress Themes automatically from the site’s administration interface.
  • WP themes lets you save hundreds of dollars on web development costs. Free themes cost nothing and most “Premium”WordPress themes are normally quite inexpensive.

About Responsive Theme Design

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

A responsive theme enables websites to automatically reconfigure the layout to display smoothly across different monitor sizes and screen resolutions, as well as across different devices (e.g. PCs, tablets, smart phones, etc.) …

Themes - An Overview

A responsive theme is also optimized for different types of devices. Users can scroll, read and load the site on various device platforms without having to resize anything, or requiring the website owner to install additional browser elements.

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

I hope that this article has given you a better understanding of themes, what themes are, how they help your business save money, and how themes make customizing websites easy.

To learn where to search for great themes for your website, go here:

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"I have used the tutorials to teach all of my clients and it has probably never been so easy for everyone to learn WordPress ... Now I don't need to buy all these very expensive video courses that often don't deliver what they promise." - Stefan Wendt, Internet Marketing Success Group

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Author: Martin Aranovitch

Martin Aranovitch is the founder of WPCompendium.org and the author of The Small Business Digital Manager. WPCompendium.org provides hundreds of FREE tutorials that show you how to use WordPress to grow your business online with no coding skills required! Get our FREE "101+ WordPress Tips, Tricks & Hacks For Non-Techies" e-course with loads of useful WordPress tips!

Originally published as WordPress Themes Explained.