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 ThemesThe development of advanced content management systems like the WordPress CMS has truly simplified web design and web development for users.

This is terrific news for business owners planning to start an online business presence that is relatively easy to manage.

Prior to “blogging” and the development of advanced CMS software, if you needed to get a site for your business, you typically had to wait until both the web development and web design processes were fully completed. This process could mean waiting around for weeks, even months!

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

Web Design Evolution

Businesses will benefit from a revolutionary change in website design that has been going for many years now. If you are a small business owner, you will want to learn more about this, because it can save you thousands of dollars on web development or web design costs.

Let’s briefly take a look at what happened before WordPress were introduced:

The first step would be to discuss your project with a web site development firm or website designer. After that, the actual “web design” would be decided upon. This involved spending time and money with someone with web site design skills discussing elements of your website such as the layout, colors, formats, page elements, content, etc.

Every page of your website then had to be hand-coded with all your elements and scripts coded around the page content. The pages were then assembled into a web site using hyperlinks and navigation menus and uploaded to your server, together with every other file needed to make your website work – script libraries, images, media, etc.

Understanding Themes

(image source:adobe.com)

Only once everything passed testing and performed the way it was supposed to (and looking the way a client had imagined it to look), was the web site considered to be completed and ready to go live.

Then, website “templates” came along”. A website template allows the ”look and feel” of the website to be worked on separately from the page content. The development of templates helped to make the process of developing web sites faster and resulted in lowered costs of production. This also enabled web site development companies to expand their services to include businesses with less money to spend on marketing …

A Basic Guide To Understanding Themes

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

As more web development firms began choosing “template-based” web design services, templates started being designed that offered clients with various custom options, such as colour palettes, the ability to pick different formats or header, footer and navigation elements, and so on.

As web sites and website editor software evolved, website templates also started transforming into web template ”systems”, letting website owners customize their site’s visual components.

And then, a “blogging” software called WordPress came along and helped to start a new online publishing revolution …

Themes - An Introduction

(WordPress – A Content Publishing Revolution)

help To learn more about content management systems and the benefits of the WordPress CMS, see the tutorial below:

redarrow Benefits Of Using WordPress As A Content Management System (CMS)

WordPress Themes

WordPress themes improve the idea of a web templating system one step further.

The WordPress theme system controls the design elements of a web site. It lets you add a “skin” to your entire site much like a template system does but it gives you more control over the management, appearance and customization aspects of all template features.

As WordPress puts 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 in the quote above, one of the unique features of WordPress is that the way your website appears to visitors is controlled independently of your site’s content management settings.

In plain English terms, what this means is that you can modify the appearance of your website as often as you want without affecting your site’s content and all the functionality you’ve built into it. For example, if you have set up WordPress site for e-commerce, replacing the theme won’t affect the content or the functionality of your site. All e-commerce features, site and plugin settings and product information will remain intact, but the site will look completely different.

This is huge! Why?

Because with WordPress, you no longer need to wait until your site’s web design is completed. You can get your website built simply and get started with any theme you like, and edit the entire look, feel and design of your WordPress site in minutes, whenever you choose … and as often as you like!

Even better, you can easily replace any theme on your site without the need of website code editing knowledge. Simply pick any theme you want, upload it to your site and activate it. WordPress allows you to change your website design and modify elements like header images, page layout, typography and more with just a few mouse clicks …

Themes - An Overview

Because WordPress is open source software, website designers from all over the world can design themes specifically for the WP CMS platform using the WordPress templating system.

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

The WordPress team maintains a FREE WordPress Theme Directory which allows WordPress users to download and access, thousands of excellent themes for free …

Understanding Themes

(WordPress.org – Theme Directory)

As the popularity of WordPress increases, more designers are now starting to create themes for a wider audience of web users.

WordPress themes vary from minimal-looking, to exciting designs that are quite impressive and would typically cost hundreds to thousands of dollars to design. Surprisingly, WP themes can be purchased very inexpensively, especially when compared to what it would have cost you if a website designer had to create it from scratch.

You can see several theme galleries containing various examples of great premium WordPress themes here: Where To Get Great Paid And Free WordPress Templates On The Web

Benefits & Advantages Of Using WordPress Themes

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

Quick And Easy Installation

Themes are quite easy to install on your site. Simply upload the plugin file to your Plugins folder via your admin user section and activate. Even easier still, you can install any of the themes listed in the theme repository at WordPress.org) directly inside your WordPress dashboard.

WordPress Themes - An Introduction


  • WordPress has a thriving community of professional web developers and development companies who, collectively, contribute thousands of excellent WordPress Themes available to users. Thousands of these themes are completely free to use!
  • Themes give sites a unified and consistent look across all the blog’s elements, like pages, headers, footers, layout, etc …
  • A “theme” works independently of your site’s content. This allows you replace themes as often as you want without modifying the underlying content.
  • Many WordPress themes provide additional built-in functionality and settings that allow you to customize the theme’s style and design elements and create a unique look to suit your preferences.
  • Many WordPress themes are built using a framework that allows you to update themes to a newer theme version without losing any unique customizations (e.g. CSS styles)
  • WordPress allows you to search, upload and install WordPress Themes automatically from your admin panel.
  • WordPress themes allow WP users to save hundreds of dollars on website development costs. Free themes cost nothing and most “Premium”WordPress themes are typically quite affordable.

Responsive Theme Design

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

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

Themes - An Introduction

Responsive themes are also optimized for each device type. Users can navigate, read and load the site on most if not all device platforms without having to resize anything, or requiring website owners to have installed additional themes.

Note: When purchasing WordPress themes, we strongly recommend choosing a responsive WordPress theme. Not only will a responsive theme ensure that your web site works across your visitors’ 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.

I hope that the above overview has helped you gain a clearer understanding about themes, what WP themes are, how WordPress themes can help your business save money, and how themes make customizing sites easy.

To learn where to search for great themes for your website or blog, go here: Finding Great Paid And Free WordPress Web Templates For Your Business Online.


"This is AMAZING! I had learnt about how to use WordPress previously, but this covers absolutely everything and more!! Incredible value! Thank you!" - Monique, Warrior Forum

Disclaimer: We have no direct association with WordPress, Automattic, or any WordPress-related products mentioned on this website. We may receive financial benefits from the sale of third-party services and products advertised, reviewed or linked from this site. All images are the copyright of their respective owners and have been used only for illustrative or training purposes.


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Author: Martin Aranovitch

Martin Aranovitch is the founder of WPCompendium.org and has authored hundreds of FREE WordPress tutorials for beginners. WPCompendium.org provides detailed step-by-step tutorials that will teach you how to use WordPress with no coding skills required and grow your business online at minimal cost!

Originally published as WordPress Themes Explained.