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.

WordPress For Beginners - An Introduction To WordPress ThemesThe development of advanced content publishing tools like the WordPress CMS platform has truly improved web design and web development for business users.

This is a great thing for businesses planning to run a web presence that they can fully manage themselves.

Before “blogging” and the introduction of user-friendly CMS technologies, if you wanted to build a site for your business, you typically would have to wait until both the web development and web design processes were completely done. This process could mean waiting around for many weeks, even many months!

The development of WordPress themes changed all this. In this article, you will learn what WP themes are, how WP themes save your business money on website design costs, and how themes let you easily customize your website.

A New Development In Web Design

Businesses are benefiting from a revolution in website design that has been going for many years now. If you own a small business, you may want to learn more about this, because it can save your business thousands of dollars on website development or website design costs.

In a nutshell, here’s how things typically worked in “traditional” website development before CMS applications like WordPress came along:

First, you would meet with a web development agency or web site designer for a brief. After that, the “web design” itself would be decided upon. This involved time and money being spent with a professional web designer discussing elements of the web site like the, colours, formats, graphic elements, content, etc.

Every page of your website then had to be individually created with your design elements and scripts coded into your page content. 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 needed to make your website work – script libraries, images, media elements, etc.

A Newbie's Guide To Understanding WordPress Themes

(image source:adobe.com)

Only after everything passed testing and was working how it was intended to (and looking how a client had wanted it to look), was the website deemed to be finished and ready for delivery.

Then, web design “templates” came along”. A web template allows the design of the website to be worked on separately from content on the page. Having templates helped to make website development faster and resulted in reduced costs of production. This also allowed web site designers to service small business clients with less money to spend on marketing …

A Newbie's Guide To Understanding Themes

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

As the number of businesses choosing “template-based” web design services increased, web templates were developed that could offer expanding custom settings, such as the ability to switch colors, styles, layouts

As websites and website editor software evolved, website templates also began transforming into website template ”systems”, permitting users and web designers to manage their website’s visual elements.

Then, a “blogging” application called WordPress came along and helped to start a new web 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:

The WordPress Theme

WordPress themes improve web templating systems one step further.

The WP theme system controls and integrates the design elements of your website. It allows you to add a “skin” to your site much like a template system does but it also also provides you with complete control over the management and customization of all template settings.

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 stated above, one of the unique features of the WP theme is that how your website displays to site visitors externally does not affect how your content is managed.

In plain English terms, what this means is that you can modify the appearance of your site 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 your site for e-commerce, replacing the theme won’t affect the content or the functionality of your web site. All e-commerce features, plugin settings and product information will remain unaffected, but the site will look completely different.

This is important. Why?

Because when you use WordPress, you no longer have to wait until your website’s design is done. You can get your website built quickly and get started with any WordPress theme you want, and completely customize 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 editing skills. Just choose a WP theme you want, upload it to your website and activate it. WordPress allows you to change your web design and customize elements like header images, page layout, style settings and more in minutes …

Themes - An Overview

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

This means that loads of high quality WordPress themes can be downloaded by WordPress users. WP are generally distributed freely under the terms of the GNU License Definition, or sold as Premium (paid) WP themes.

The WordPress development team maintains a FREE directory of WordPress themes which allows WordPress users to download, access and install thousands of great WP themes for free …

Understanding Themes

(WordPress.org – Free Theme Directory)

As the popularity of WordPress soars, more designers are now focused on developing themes for a wider audience of web users.

WordPress themes vary from bare-looking, to dynamic designs that are simply impressive and could normally cost thousands of dollars to develop. Surprisingly, most themes can be bought quite cheaply, especially when compared to what it would have cost you if a website designer had to create it from scratch.

You can see a number of WordPress theme galleries containing various examples of WP themes in this article:

Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!

(Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!)

Benefits Of Using WordPress Themes

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

WordPress Theme Installation Is Easy, Quick And Simple

WordPress themes are very easy to install on your site. Simply upload the plugin file to your Plugin folder via your admin user account and activate. Even easier still, you can install any of the themes listed in the free WordPress theme directory at WordPress.org) directly inside your WP dashboard.

A Newbie's Guide To WP Themes


  • WordPress has a large community of professional website designers who make thousands of great-looking, high quality WP Themes available to WordPress users. And many of these themes are 100% free to use!
  • Themes give sites a unified and consistent design across all of your site’s elements, like pages, headers, footers, menus, etc …
  • A “theme” works independently of your blog’s content. This makes it possible to change the “look and feel” of your templates as often as you like without affecting your website’s settings.
  • Many WordPress themes come with built-in features and settings that allow you to easily customize your theme’s layout and design elements and create a unique look to suit your needs.
  • Many themes are built using a framework that allows users to upgrade themes to a newer theme version without losing any unique customizations (e.g. styles)
  • WordPress allows you to search, import, install and update WordPress Themes automatically right within your dashboard.
  • WordPress themes helps you save hundreds, even thousands of dollars on web development costs. Free themes cost nothing and most “Premium”WP themes are typically very inexpensive.

About Responsive WordPress Themes

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

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

Themes - An Overview

A responsive theme is also optimized for each device type. Users can scroll, read and load your site on different device platforms without having to readjust their browser settings, or requiring website owners to have installed additional themes.

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

Hopefully, this post has helped you gain a clearer understanding of WordPress themes, what themes are, how they can help your business save money on website design costs, and how themes make customizing sites easy.

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


"These tutorials have so much information and are easy to understand. If you use WordPress or plan to in the future these will help you with everything you need to know." - Valisa (Mesa, Arizona)


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Author: Martin Aranovitch

Martin Aranovitch is the owner of WPCompendium.org and the author of The WordPress User Manual. 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.