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 web site publishing tools like the WordPress CMS platform has effectively improved web design and web development for website owners.

This greatly benefits businesses that want a website that they can easily manage.

Prior to blogging and the development of powerful content management systems, if you needed to build a web site for your business, you would have to wait until both the web development and web design processes were completely done. This could mean weeks, even many months of waiting around!

WordPress themes helped change all this. In this post, we explore what themes are, how they save you and your business money on web design costs, and how WordPress themes make it easy to customize your website.

A Revolution In Web Site Design

Businesses, especially small businesses, will benefit from a great change in website design that began shortly after websites were first introduced. If you own a business, you will want to know about this, because it could save you thousands of dollars on web development or web design costs.

Let’s take a look at how things used to work in “traditional” website design before WordPress came along:

First, you would discuss your project with a web developer or web designer. After this, the ”look and feel” of the web site itself would be decided upon. This required spending time and money with someone with web design skills going over elements of the site such as the layout, colors, formats, visual elements, content, etc.

Each page of your web site then had to be individually created with all your design elements and codes inserted into the page content. The pages were then assembled into a web site using links and navigation menus and uploaded to your server, together with all other files needed to make your website work – script libraries, images, media, etc.

Themes - An Introduction

(image source:adobe.com)

Only once everything had been tested and performed how it was intended to (and looking the way the client had wanted it to look), was the website considered to be finished and ready for sign off.

The next phase in the evolution of business website design was the introduction of “website templates”. A web template allows the ”look and feel” of the website to be created separately from the page content. The introduction of template elements helped to speed up the process of developing web sites and resulted in lowered production costs. This also enabled web site development firms to work with business clients and clients with smaller budgets …

Themes - An Overview

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

As the number of website development firms using “template-based” websites increased, web templates started being created that offered clients with different customization options, like color palettes, the ability to pick different menu styles or elements, etc …

As websites and web editor software evolved, web templates also started to evolve into website template “systems” that enable users and web developers to control their web site’s design components.

And then, WordPress was developed and helped to kick off a new web revolution …

Understanding Themes

(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 push web template systems much further.

A WP theme controls and integrates every aspect of your website design. It allows you to add a “skin” to your entire site much like a template system does but it gives you more control over the management, presentation and customization of your template features.

As per 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 a WP theme is that how your web site looks to visitors is managed separately from your site’s functional aspects (e.g. content management and functionality).

Basically, what this means is that a WP theme lets you modify the design of your site as much and as often as you like without touching your site’s content and all the work you’ve put into it. For example, if your site has been set up for e-commerce, changing the entire look of your site with a different theme won’t affect the content or the functionality of the website. All e-commerce features, settings and product information will remain unaffected, but your site will look completely different.

This is important. Why?

Because when you use WordPress, you no longer need to wait until your website’s design is completed. You can get your business website built quickly and start with any theme you like, and then completely customize the look, feel and design of your website in a few minutes, whenever you want … and as many times as you like!

Even better, you can easily replace any theme on your site without the need of website code development knowledge. Just choose a theme you like, install it on your site and activate it. WordPress allows you to change your site’s design and modify elements like headers, layout, style settings and more with just a few mouse clicks …

Understanding WP Themes

Because WordPress is distributed as open source software, commercial web designers can design themes specifically for the WP CMS platform using the WordPress templating system.

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

The WordPress development team maintains a FREE theme directory which allows WordPress users to download and access, thousands of great web templates at no cost …

Themes - An Overview

(WordPress.org – Themes Directory)

As more users turn to WordPress for publishing and managing their digital presence, more designers are now starting to create themes for a wider range of uses.

WP themes vary from simple-looking, to exciting designs that are spectacular and would easily cost thousands of dollars to develop. Surprisingly, most premium themes are fairly inexpensive to buy.

You can view several theme galleries containing stunning examples of WP themes in this page:

Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!

(Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!)

WP Themes – Benefits

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

Easy Installation

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

A Newbie's Guide To Understanding Themes


  • WordPress has a large online community of professional theme developers and development companies who contribute thousands of fantastic WP Themes available to WordPress users. Thousands of these themes are completely free to use!
  • Themes give sites a unified and consistent design across all of the blog’s elements, like pages, headers, footers, layouts, etc …
  • A “theme” works independently of your web site’s content. This makes it possible to replace WP themes as often as you like without disturbing your site’s underlying content.
  • Many WordPress themes provide additional features and options that let you customize the theme’s style and design elements and create a unique look to suit your business.
  • Many WordPress themes are built using a framework that enables users to update the theme to newer versions without losing its unique customizations (e.g. CSS styles)
  • WordPress allows you to search, upload, install and update WordPress Themes automatically directly from within the admin panel.
  • WP themes lets you save thousands of dollars on web development costs. Free themes cost nothing and most “Premium”WordPress themes are normally quite affordable.

About Responsive Themes

Many theme developers are now creating “responsive” themes for the WordPress CMS.

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

Understanding Themes

A responsive theme is also optimized for each platform. Users can scroll, read and load your site on a range of device browsers without having to resize anything, or requiring website owners to install additional browser tools.

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

I hope this overview has helped you gain a clearer understanding of WordPress themes, what themes are, how WordPress themes can help you and your business save money on website development costs, and how themes allow you to easily customize your website.

To learn where to find great WP themes for your website or blog, visit this page: How To Find The Best Free And Paid WordPress Templates Online.


"This is an awesome training series. I have a pretty good understanding of WordPress already, but this is helping me to move somewhere from intermediate to advanced user!" - Kim Lednum


Originally published as WordPress Themes Explained.