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.

WP For Business - An Introduction To ThemesFlexible web site management platforms like the WordPress CMS have effectively improved web design and web development for users.

This greatly benefits individuals or businesses planning to run a website that they can manage themselves.

Prior to blogging and the introduction of powerful and effective content management systems, if you needed a web site, you normally would have to wait until both the web development and website design processes were completely done. This process could mean waiting for many weeks, even many months!

The introduction of WordPress themes have changed all this. In this post, we look at what themes are, how themes save you and your business money on web design costs, and how themes allow you to easily customize your website.

Web Design Evolution

Businesses have been benefiting from a tremendous revolution in website design that has been going for a number of years now. If you own a small business, you may want to know about this, because it can save your business a lot of time and money on website development and website design costs.

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

The first step would be to discuss your requirements with a web development firm or designer. After this, the actual “web design” had to be discussed and agreed upon. This meant time being spent with a professional web site designer going over things of the website like the layout, colors, formats, visual elements, content, etc.

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

WP Themes - An Overview

(image source:adobe.com)

Only once everything had been tested and functioned how it was intended to (and looking the way a client had wanted it to look), was the website deemed to have been completed and ready for delivery.

Then, website “templates” were introduced”. A web template allows the ”look and feel” of the website to be created separately from content on the page. Having template elements helped speed up the web site development process and resulted in lowered production costs. This also enabled web development firms to work with businesses and clients with smaller budgets …

Understanding WP Themes

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

As the number of web site development companies using “template-based” web design services increased, templates were created that provided clients with various custom features, such as the ability to switch colors, styles, layouts

As websites and website building software developed, web templates also started to transform into website templating ”systems”, which permitted users to customize their website’s visual elements.

And then, WordPress was introduced and helped to kick off a new web revolution …

A Basic Guide To 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:

The WordPress Theme

A WordPress theme takes web templating systems much further.

A WordPress theme controls the design elements of your website. It lets you add a “skin” to your entire site much like a web template system does but also gives you more control over the management, appearance and customization of the site’s template settings.

As per 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 the above states, a unique feature of the WordPress theme is that how your website appears to visitors on the outside in no way affects your site’s functional aspects (e.g. content management and functionality).

In simple terms, what this means is that themes let you modify the look and feel of your website as often as you like without affecting your site’s content and all the functionality you’ve built into it. For example, if WP website has been configured for e-commerce, replacing the theme won’t affect the content or the functionality of the web site. All e-commerce features, site settings and product information will remain intact, but the site will look completely different.

Why is this great for businesses?

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

Even better, you can easily install a theme on your WordPress site with no web design skills necessary. Simply choose a WordPress theme you want, upload it to your site and activate it. WordPress lets you change your entire site’s web design and modify elements like headers, layout, styling options and more with just a couple of mouse clicks …

Understanding WP Themes

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

This means that loads of high quality WP themes are made available to WordPress users. WordPress are generally distributed for FREE under the terms of the GNU General Public License Definition, or sold as Premium (i.e. paid) themes.

The WordPress development team maintains a FREE theme directory which allows WordPress users to download, access and install thousands of great web templates at no cost …

Themes - An Overview

(WordPress.org – WordPress Theme Directory)

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

WP themes vary from minimal-looking, to designs that are simply breathtaking and could easily cost thousands of dollars to create. Surprisingly, most themes can be purchased very cheaply, especially when compared to what you would have been charged if a website designer had to code it from scratch.

You can see several WP theme galleries containing stunning examples of WP themes here:

Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!

(Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!)

Themes – Benefits & Advantages

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

WordPress Theme Installation Is Easy And Fast

Themes are really easy to install on your site. Simply upload the plugin file to your Plugins folder via your dashboard and activate. Even easier still, you can install any of the themes listed in the WP theme repository at WordPress.org) directly from within your WP admin’s “Theme” section.

A Newbie's Guide To Understanding Themes


  • WordPress has a thriving online community of professional website developers who, collectively, make thousands of great WP Themes available to WordPress users. And many of these themes are 100% free to use!
  • Themes give sites a unified and consistent look across all your site’s elements, i.e. pages, headers, footers, menus, etc …
  • A “theme” works independently of your website’s content. This means you can change WordPress themes as often as you need without deleting your blog’s underlying information.
  • Many WordPress themes provide additional functionality and options that allow you to customize the site’s style and design elements to create a unique look to suit your taste.
  • Many WordPress themes are built using a framework that allows you to update the theme to a newer theme version without losing its unique customizations (e.g. styles)
  • WordPress lets you search, upload and install WordPress Themes automatically directly from within your site’s administration interface.
  • Themes allow WP users to save hundreds, even thousands of dollars on web design costs. Free themes cost nothing and most “Premium”themes are typically very inexpensive.

About Responsive Themes

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

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

A Newbie's Guide To Understanding Themes

Responsive themes are also optimized for each device type. Users can scroll, read and display your site on different device browsers without having to readjust their browser settings, or requiring the website owner to install additional display elements.

Note: When searching for WordPress themes, we strongly recommend choosing a responsive WordPress theme. Not only will the theme ensure that your website will display correctly on all devices, but it also means that the theme is newer than non-responsive themes and therefore complies with the latest standards and practices of web design coding.

I hope that the above article has provided you with a good overview of themes, what themes are, how themes can help you and your business save money on website design costs, and how WP themes make customizing web sites easy.

In our next article in our article series for new WP users on understanding basic WordPress features, we show you where to find the best themes for your website or blog.

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"This is an awesome training series. I have a pretty good understanding of WordPress already, but this is helping me to move somewhere from intermediate to advanced user!" - Kim Lednum


Originally published as WordPress Themes Explained.