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.

A Basic Guide To WP ThemesThe development of website publishing tools like the WordPress CMS platform has effectively improved web design and web development for web users.

This is great for entrepreneurial-minded people planning to build a website that they can fully manage.

Prior to “blogging” and the development of powerful CMS solutions, if you wanted a professional business web site, you normally would have to wait until both the website development and web design processes were completely done. This process could take many weeks, sometimes even months!

WordPress themes have changed all this. In this post, we explore what WP themes are, how WordPress themes save you money on website development costs, and how themes help you easily customize your website.

A Revolution In Web Design

More website owners today have benefited from a tremendous revolution in web design that has been going for many years now. If you own a small business, you will 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” web development before WordPress came along:

First, you would meet with a website developer or website designer for a brief. After that, the design of the site itself would be decided upon. This involved spending time and money with someone with web design skills going over elements of the web site like the, colors, formats, visual elements, content, etc.

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

WP Themes - An Overview

(image source:adobe.com)

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

The next stage in the evolution of business web design was the introduction of “website templating elements”. Web templates allow the presentation of the website to be created separately from content on the page. The development of ready-made templates helped to make site creation faster and resulted in lowered production costs. This also allowed web development companies to service business clients and clients with smaller budgets …

Understanding WordPress Themes

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

As the number of web site development companies using “template-based” websites increased, web templates were introduced that provided a range of customization options, like the ability to switch colors, styles, layouts

As websites and web editor tools evolved, web templates also began to evolve into website templating ”systems”, enabling website owners and website developers to control their site’s design aspects.

Then, WordPress came along and helped to kick off 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:

The WordPress Theme

A WordPress theme expands web templating systems one step further.

A WordPress theme controls every aspect of your web design. It lets you add a “skin” over your site similarly to what a web template system does but also provides users with more control over the management, appearance and ability to customize all template options.

As WordPress has stated in its official website …

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 a WordPress theme is that the way your site displays to site visitors externally in no way affects the way your site functions in the backend to handle areas like content management and functionality.

Basically, what this means is that a theme lets you modify the appearance of your site as much and as often as you like without modifying your website’s content and all the functionality you’ve built into it. For example, if you have configured WP website for e-commerce, replacing the theme won’t affect the content or the functionality of your site. All e-commerce features, settings and product information will remain unaffected, but your site will look completely different.

This is important. Why?

Because when your website is built with WordPress, you no longer have to spend weeks or months waiting for your web design to be done. You can get your website built simply and get started with any WP theme you want, and then completely edit the look, feel and design of your WordPress site in a few seconds, whenever you choose … and as often as you like!

Even better, you can easily replace any theme on your WP site with no web code editing knowledge required. Just pick any theme you want, upload it to your website and activate it. WordPress allows you to change your entire site’s web design and modify elements like header images, layout, typography and more with just a few mouse clicks …

A Newbie's Guide To Themes

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

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

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

A Newbie's Guide To Understanding Themes

(WordPress.org – Theme Directory)

As WordPress becomes more popular, more designers are now focused on creating themes for a wider range of uses.

WP themes range from functional-looking, to designs that are visually beautiful and could easily cost thousands of dollars to create. Surprisingly, most premium themes are fairly inexpensive to purchase.

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

Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!

(Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!)

Benefits Of WP Themes

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

Ready To Start Using In Very Little Time

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

WordPress Themes - An Introduction

Additionally …

  • WordPress has a thriving online community of professional web developers and development companies who contribute thousands of high quality WP Themes available to WP users. Thousands of these themes are completely free to use!
  • Themes give sites a consistent look across all of your blog’s elements, i.e. pages, headers, footers, menus, layout, etc …
  • A “theme” works independently of your blog’s content. This means you can swap WordPress themes as often as you want without modifying the settings.
  • Many WordPress themes provide additional functionality and settings that allow you to easily customize the site’s style, layout and design properties to create a unique look to suit your business.
  • Many themes are built using a framework that allows you to upgrade the theme to newer theme versions without losing any unique customizations (e.g. styles)
  • WordPress allows you to search, import and install WordPress Themes automatically inside the site’s administration interface.
  • Themes lets you save hundreds of dollars on web design costs. Free WordPress themes cost nothing and most “Premium”WP themes are typically very affordable.

About Responsive Themes

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

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

A Newbie's Guide To Themes

Responsive themes are also optimized for each device type. Users can navigate, read and display the site on most device platforms without having to resize anything, or requiring website owners to have installed additional display elements.

Note: When purchasing WordPress themes, we strongly recommend choosing a responsive WordPress theme. Not only will the theme ensure that the content and layout of your site displays well across all devices, it also means that the theme is newer than non-responsive themes and therefore should comply with the latest standards and practices of website design coding.

I hope this article has given you a clearer overview of themes, what themes are, how they can help you save money on website development costs, and how WP themes make customizing web sites easy.

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


"I was absolutely amazed at the scope and breadth of these tutorials! The most in-depth training I have ever received on any subject!" - Myke O'Neill, DailyGreenPost.com


For a white label version of this tutorial visit WPTrainingManual.com.
Originally published as WordPress Themes Explained.