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 Understanding WordPress ThemesAdvanced content publishing tools like the WordPress Content Management System (CMS) have effectively simplified web design and web development for anyone wanting to start a website.

This greatly benefits businesses planning to start a website that is simple, easy and inexpensive to manage.

Before blogging and the introduction of powerful and simple CMS technologies, if you wanted to build a site built for your business, you had to wait until both the web development and website design processes were fully completed. This process could mean weeks, even sometimes many months of waiting!

WordPress themes helped change all this. In this post, you will learn what WP themes are, how they save you and your business money on website development costs, and how themes make it easy to customize your website.

Evolution In Web Site Design

More businesses today are benefiting from a revolution in web 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 could save your business a lot of time and money on website development or web design costs.

Let’s go over what normally took place before WordPress came along:

First, you would meet with a web development agency or web designer for a brief. After this, the actual design of the website itself would be discussed and agreed upon. This meant spending time and money with someone with website design skills discussing elements of the site such as the, colors, styles, graphic elements, content, etc.

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

A Basic Guide To Understanding WP Themes

(image source:adobe.com)

Only after everything passed testing and performed the way it should (and looking the way the client had wanted it to look), was the site considered as being finished and ready for delivery.

The next step in the evolution of website design was the introduction of “website templating elements”. A web site template allows the presentation of the website to be worked on separately from the page content. The development of ready-made templates helped to speed up the process of developing websites and resulted in lowered costs of production. This also enabled website developers and designers to work with smaller business clients with less money to spend on marketing …

Themes - An Introduction

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

As the number of web site development firms adopting “template-based” websites increased, web templates were designed to provide different customizable features, such as the option to switch colors, styles, layouts

As web sites and website building tools evolved, web templates also began to evolve into web templating ”systems”, letting website owners and website designers manage the visual aspects of a site.

Then, a “blogging” application called WordPress was introduced and helped to kick off a new website revolution …

Themes - An Introduction

(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

A WordPress theme drives website templating systems further.

A WordPress theme controls every aspect of your site’s design. It allows you to add a “skin” over your site in a similar way that a template system does but also provides users with more control over the management, presentation and customization of all template options.

As WordPress has described in its web 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 states, one of the unique features of a WP theme is that how your site looks to site visitors externally in no way affects how your site functions in the backend to handle areas like content management and functionality.

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

This is huge! Why?

Because when you use WordPress, you no longer have to spend weeks or months waiting for your website to be done. You can get your business website built quickly and start with any WordPress theme you like, and completely edit the look, feel and design of your WordPress site in minutes, whenever you decide … and as often as you like!

Even better, you can easily install a theme on your site without requiring website code editing knowledge. Simply choose a theme you want, install it on your site and activate it. WordPress allows you to change your entire site’s web design and modify elements like headers, page layout, typography and more in a few seconds …

A Basic Guide To WP Themes

As WordPress is made available as open source software, website designers can create themes specifically for the WP CMS platform using the WP templating system.

This means that thousands of high quality WordPress themes can be downloaded by WP users. Themes are normally distributed for FREE under the terms of the GNU License Definition, or they can be purchased as Premium (paid) themes.

The WordPress team keeps a FREE theme directory which gives WordPress users access thousands of excellent themes completely free of charge …

WordPress Themes - An Introduction

(WordPress.org – Themes Directory)

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

Themes range from corporate-looking, to creative designs that are simply breathtaking and could typically cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars to commission. Surprisingly, themes are very inexpensive to purchase.

You can view several theme galleries containing stunning examples of WordPress themes in this article:

Benefits & Advantages Of Using Themes

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

Be Up And Running In Minutes

WordPress themes are quite easy to install on your site. Simply upload it to your Plugins folder via your WP dashboard and activate. Even easier still, you can install any of the themes listed in the free theme directory at WordPress.org) directly inside your WordPress dashboard.

WP Themes - An Introduction


  • WordPress has a growing community of commercial theme developers who make thousands of fantastic WP Themes available to users. Many of these themes are completely free to use!
  • Themes give sites a consistent “look and feel” across all of your site’s elements, like pages, headers, footers, menus, etc …
  • A “theme” works independently of your digital content. This means you can swap themes as often as you need without modifying your site information.
  • Many themes come with built-in functionality and options that let you easily customize the theme’s style, layout and design elements and create a unique look to suit your business.
  • Many themes are built using a framework that lets you update themes to newer theme versions without losing any customizations (e.g. CSS styles)
  • WordPress allows you to search, import and install WordPress Themes automatically directly from within your dashboard.
  • WP themes helps you save hundreds, even thousands of dollars on web design costs. Free WP themes cost nothing and most “Premium”themes are normally very inexpensive.

About Responsive Theme Design

Many theme designers are now developing WordPress themes that incorporate “responsive” design.

A responsive theme enables websites to automatically readjust the web layout to display smoothly across different screen sizes and resolutions, as well as across different platforms) …

Understanding Themes

A responsive theme is also optimized for each device type. Users can navigate, read and display the site on most device browsers without having to readjust their browser settings, or requiring the website owner to have installed additional browser tools.

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 displays well across all devices, but it also means that the theme is newer than non-responsive themes and therefore should comply with the latest standards of web design and coding.

We hope that this basic overview has given you a better understanding of WP themes, what themes are, how WP themes can help your business save money on website development costs, and how WordPress themes make it easy to customize your site.

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


"If you're new to WordPress, this can stand on its own as a training course and will stay with you as you progress from beginner to advanced and even guru status." - Bruce (Columbus, Ohio)

Disclaimer: We have no association with WordPress or any WordPress-related products promoted on this site. We may receive a financial benefit or affiliate commission from purchases of third-party services and/or products mentioned on this site. All product images are the copyright of their respective owners, comply with all license terms and agreements of use to the best of our knowledge and are used solely for training or illustrative purposes.


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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 detailed step-by-step tutorials that will teach you how to use WordPress to grow your business online at minimal cost with no coding skills required!

Originally published as WordPress Themes Explained.