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 WP ThemesThe development of powerful web management technologies like the WordPress CMS has truly simplified web design and web development for non-technical business users.

This is a great thing for entrepreneurial-minded people thinking of running a website that they can fully manage.

Prior to blogging and the development of powerful CMS software, if you needed to build a professional web site built for your business, you would have to wait until both the website development and website design processes were fully completed. This could mean waiting around for many weeks, even months!

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

Website Design Evolution

More businesses today have benefited from a tremendous change in web design that began shortly after websites were first introduced. If you are a small business owner, you may want to learn about this, because it can save your business a lot of time and money on web development or web design costs.

In a nutshell, here’s what used to happen before CMS applications like WordPress came along:

The first step would be to meet with a web development agency or web designer for a brief. Next, the actual “web design” had to be discussed and agreed upon. This required spending time and money with someone with website design skills going over elements of your website such as the, colors, styles, graphic elements, content, etc.

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

Themes - An Introduction

(image source:adobe.com)

Only after everything passed testing and worked how it should (and looking the way a client had wanted it to look), was the web site deemed as being completed and ready for sign off.

The next step in the evolution of business website design was the introduction of “web templates”. Web templates allow ”look and feel” elements of the web site to be worked on separately from the page content. Having templates helped make website creation faster and resulted in lowered production costs. This also enabled web site designers to expand their services to include businesses and clients with smaller marketing budgets …

Understanding Themes

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

As the number of businesses adopting “template-based” websites increased, templates were developed that could offer different custom options, like color palettes, the ability to pick different menu styles or layouts, etc …

As web sites and website building software evolved, web templates also began evolving into web templating ”systems”, letting website owners and web designers control their website’s visual components.

And then, WordPress was introduced and helped to start a new website revolution …

Understanding WP Themes

(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

A WordPress theme drives web templating systems further.

A WordPress theme controls and unifies the design elements of the website. It allows you to add a “skin” to your site similarly to what a web template system does but it also also provides users with more control over the management, appearance and ability to customize your template features.

As described 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 stated in the quote above, one of the unique and revolutionary features of WordPress is that how your website looks to site visitors is controlled separately from your site’s functionality and content management.

In simple terms, what this means is that you can change the look and feel of your site as often as you like without modifying your site’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 the site. All e-commerce features, plugin settings and product information will remain intact, but your site will look completely different.

This is huge! Why?

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

Even better, you can easily install a theme on your site without having website code programming skills. Just choose a WordPress theme you like, install it on your site and activate it. WordPress lets you change your website design and modify elements like headers, layout, styling options and more in less than a few minutes …

Understanding Themes

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

This means that thousands of great WP themes are made available to WP users. WP are normally distributed for FREE under the terms of the GNU License Definition, or they can be purchased as Premium (i.e. paid) themes.

The WordPress team maintains a FREE theme directory which allows WordPress users to download and access, thousands of excellent WP themes at $0 cost …

A Newbie's Guide To Understanding Themes

(WordPress.org – Free WordPress Theme Directory)

As more users turn to WordPress for publishing and managing their digital presence, more designers are now focused on creating themes for a wider audience of web users.

WordPress themes range from minimal-looking, to designs that are quite impressive and could easily cost many hundreds of dollars to commission. Surprisingly, most WordPress themes are very inexpensive to buy.

You can see a number of WordPress theme galleries that include various examples of great themes in this post:

Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!

(Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!)

Themes – Benefits And Advantages

Here are just a few of the benefits of choosing WordPress themes over using website building tools that require traditional web template design:

Easy, Quick And Simple To Install

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

Themes - An Overview

Additionally …

  • WordPress has a thriving online community of professional website developers and development companies who, collectively, make thousands of great-looking, high quality WordPress Themes available to users. And many of these themes are completely free to use!
  • Themes give sites a consistent design across all your site’s elements, like pages, headers, footers, menus, etc …
  • A “theme” works independently of your blog’s content. This allows you change themes as often as you like without changing the blog’s underlying data.
  • Many WP themes provide additional built-in features and options that enable you to customize the theme’s style and design properties and create a unique look to suit your needs.
  • Many WordPress themes are built using a framework that enables users to update the theme to newer versions without losing any customizations (e.g. CSS styles)
  • WordPress lets you search, upload and install WordPress Themes automatically inside the dashboard.
  • WP themes helps you save hundreds of dollars on web development costs. Free WordPress themes cost nothing and most “Premium”themes are typically very affordable.

About Responsive WordPress Themes

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

A responsive theme allows websites to automatically reconfigure the layout to display smoothly over different monitor sizes and screen resolutions, as well as across different platforms) …

Themes - An Introduction

A responsive theme is also optimized for each platform. Users can scroll, read and display the site on most if not all device platforms without having to resize anything, or requiring the website owner to have installed additional display elements.

Note: When searching for 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 will work correctly on all devices, but it also means that the theme is newer than most non-responsive themes and therefore probably complies with the latest standards of web design and web coding.

Hopefully, this article has given you a clearer understanding of themes, what WP themes are, how they help you and your business save money on web development costs, and how WordPress themes allow you to easily customize your web site.

In the next blog post in our article series for new WordPress users on helping you understand features and functionality of WordPress, we show you where to search for the best WordPress themes for your blog.


"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


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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.