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.

Understanding WP ThemesThe development of flexible content management systems like the WordPress CMS platform has truly improved web design and web development for anyone wanting a website.

This is great news for non-technical users thinking of running a website that they can manage themselves.

Prior to blogging and the development of sophisticated content management systems, if you wanted to get a professional site built for your business, you normally would have to wait until both the web development and website design processes were fully completed. This process could mean weeks, sometimes even months of waiting around!

The development of WordPress themes changed all this. In this post, you will learn what themes are, how WordPress themes save you money on web design costs, and how themes help you easily customize your site.

Web Design Evolution

More website owners are benefiting from a tremendous revolution in web design that began shortly after websites were first introduced. If you own a small business, you may want to learn more about this, because it can save you thousands of dollars on website development or web design costs.

Let’s review what used to happen before CMS tools like WordPress came along:

The first step would be to meet with a web development agency or designer for a brief. After that, the design of the website would be decided upon. This required time and money being spent with a professional web site designer going over design elements of your web site such as the, colors, formats, graphic elements, content, etc.

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

A Newbie's Guide To WP Themes

(image source:adobe.com)

Only after everything had been tested and functioned how it was intended to (and looking how a client had imagined it to look), was the website deemed to be finished and ready to go live.

The next stage in the evolution of business web design was the introduction of “web templating elements”. A web site template allows the ”look and feel” of the website to be worked on separately from content on the page. The development of templates helped make the process of building web sites faster and resulted in reduced production costs. This also enabled web site development firms to expand their services to include business clients and clients with less money to spend …

Themes - An Introduction

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

As the number of businesses adopting “template-based” web design services increased, templates were introduced that provided various customization features and options, such as color palettes, the ability to pick different styles and styles, etc …

As websites and website editor tools developed, web templates also began to transform into website template “systems” that allowed website owners to control the visual elements of a website.

Then, WordPress was developed and helped to start a new content management revolution …

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:

About WordPress Themes

A WordPress theme pushes web templating systems even further.

The WordPress theme system controls every aspect of your web site design. It lets you add a “skin” over your site similarly to what a template system does but it provides you with complete control over the management, appearance and customization of template features.

As WordPress has stated 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 quote states, one of the unique features of a WP theme is that how your site appears to site visitors on the outside is controlled independently of the way your site works internally to handle areas like content management and functionality.

In plain English terms, what this means is that a theme lets you change the design of your website as much and as often as you want without touching your website’s content and all the work you’ve put into it. For example, if you have set up your website for e-commerce, changing the entire look of the site with a different theme won’t affect the content or the functionality of the website. All e-commerce features, plugin settings and product information will remain unaffected, but your site will look completely different.

This is important. Why?

Because with WordPress, you no longer need to wait until your site’s web design is done. You can get your website built quickly and start with any theme you like, and then change the entire look, feel and design of your WordPress site in mere minutes, whenever you decide … and as often as you like!

Even better, you can easily replace any theme on your WordPress site without needing website coding skills. Simply pick any theme you like, install it on your website and activate it. WordPress allows you to change your entire site’s web design and customize elements like headers, page layout, style settings and more in a few seconds …

Understanding WP Themes

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

This means that thousands of great WordPress themes can be downloaded by WP 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 development team keeps a FREE directory of WordPress themes which allows WordPress users to download, access and install thousands of excellent web templates for free …

Understanding Themes

(WordPress.org – Theme Directory)

As WordPress becomes more popular, more designers are now starting to develop themes for a wider audience of WordPress site owners.

Themes range from bare-looking, to designs that are visually spectacular and would typically cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars to design. Surprisingly, most themes can be bought quite cheaply, especially when you compare the price to what it would have cost you if a web designer had to develop it from scratch.

You can see several WordPress theme galleries containing stunning examples of great premium WordPress themes here:

Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!

(Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!)

Benefits And Advantages Of WordPress Themes

Here are just some of the many benefits of choosing WordPress themes over choosing web building applications that require traditional web design:

Be Up And Running In Minutes

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

WP Themes - An Overview


  • WordPress has a growing online community of commercial website developers who, collectively, make thousands of professional WordPress Themes available to WP users. Many of these themes are 100% free to use!
  • Themes give sites a consistent look across all of your site’s elements, like pages, headers, footers, menus, layout, etc …
  • A “theme” works independently of your blog’s content. This allows you swap themes as often as you like without deleting the settings.
  • Many WordPress themes provide built-in functionality and settings that let you customize the theme’s layout and design properties to create a unique look to suit your preferences.
  • Many WordPress themes are built using a framework that allows users to upgrade the theme to newer versions without losing any unique customizations (e.g. CSS styles)
  • WordPress allows you to search, upload, install and update WordPress Themes automatically right within your dashboard.
  • Themes lets you save hundreds of dollars on website development costs. Free WordPress themes cost nothing and most “Premium”WP themes are normally very affordable.

About Responsive WordPress Theme Design

Many theme designers are now creating themes that incorporate “responsive” functionality.

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

Themes - An Introduction

A responsive theme is also optimized for each platform. Users can navigate, read and display a site on a range of device platforms without having to resize anything, or requiring the website owner to install 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 will display correctly 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, practices and techniques of website design coding.

I hope that this overview has helped you gain a better understanding of WordPress themes, what themes are, how WP themes can help you save money on website design costs, and how WP themes make customizing your web design easy.

In our next article in our article WordPress newbies on understanding basic WP features, we show you where to find great WP themes for your website.


"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 direct association with WordPress or any products promoted on this site. We may derive an affiliate commission of financial benefit from the purchase of any third-party products and/or services mentioned on our website. 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 and 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 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.