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.

Themes - An IntroductionAdvanced website management tools like the WordPress CMS have truly simplified web design and web development for website owners.

This greatly benefits individuals or businesses that want a web presence that is relatively easy to manage.

Prior to “blogging” and the development of powerful and effective CMS applications, if you wanted a professional web site, you normally would have to wait until both the website development and website design processes were completely done. This could mean weeks, even sometimes many months of waiting for the work to be done!

WordPress themes helped change all this. In this blog post, we look at what themes are, how themes save you and your business money on web development costs, and how themes help you easily customize your site.

Web Design Evolution

More website owners have benefited from a change in web design that began shortly after websites were first introduced. If you own a small business, you will want to know more about this, because it can save you a lot of time and money on web development and website design costs.

Very briefly, here’s what happened before systems like WordPress came along:

First, you would discuss your requirements with a web site developer or designer. Next, the actual “web design” itself would be discussed and agreed upon. This meant spending time with a professional web site designer discussing design elements of the web site such as the, colours, formats, visual elements, content, etc.

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

Understanding WordPress Themes

(image source:adobe.com)

Only after everything passed testing and functioned how it should (and looking the way the client had imagined it to look), was the site deemed as being completed and ready for sign off.

Then, website “templates” came along”. Web templates allow the ”look and feel” of the web site to be worked on separately from content on the page. Having templates helped to make the process of website creation faster and resulted in lowered production costs. This also allowed web site designers to work with small businesses with less money to spend …

Themes - An Overview

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

As more web site development companies began adopting “template-based” websites, templates started being created that could provide expanding customizable options, like colour palettes, the ability to select different content styles, formats, elements, layouts, etc …

As websites and website editing tools evolved, web templates also began to transform into website templating ”systems”, letting users customize their web site’s visual elements.

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

Understanding Themes

(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

WordPress themes push website template systems one step further.

The WordPress theme system controls and integrates every aspect of your website design. It lets you add a “skin” over your site similarly to what a template system does but it gives you more control over the management and ability to customize template features.

As explained in 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 quote states, a unique and revolutionary feature of the WP theme is that the way your web site looks to site visitors on the outside is an entirely separate system from the management of your content.

Basically, what this means is that a theme lets you change the look and feel of your site as often as you want without affecting your site’s content and all the functionality you’ve built into it. For example, if your website has been set up for e-commerce, replacing the theme won’t affect the content or the functionality of the 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 have to wait until your site’s web design is done. You can get your business website built quickly and get started with any theme you want, and then completely change the look, feel and design of your website in a few seconds, whenever you choose … and as often as you like!

Even better, you can easily install a theme on your WP site with no website code programming skills necessary. Simply choose any theme you want, upload it to your website and activate it. WordPress lets you change your site’s design and modify elements like header images, layout, typography and more in a few seconds …

Themes - An Introduction

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

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

The WordPress development team maintains a FREE theme directory which allows WordPress users to access thousands of great web templates completely free of charge …

Themes - An Overview

(WordPress.org – WP Themes Directory)

As the popularity of WordPress increases, more designers are now focusing on developing themes for a wider audience of web users.

WP themes vary from simple-looking, to fancy designs that are beautiful and could typically cost many hundreds of dollars to develop. Surprisingly, most WordPress themes can be bought fairly cheaply, especially when compared to what you would have had to pay if a web designer had to build it from scratch.

You can view several theme galleries that include many examples of great themes in this article:

Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!

(Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!)

Themes – Benefits & Advantages

Here are just some of the many benefits and advantages of using WordPress themes over choosing traditional web template design:

Be Up And Running In No Time

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

A Newbie's Guide To Understanding Themes

Additionally …

  • WordPress has a large online community of professional theme developers who, collectively, make thousands of quality WP Themes available to users. Thousands of these themes are 100% free to use!
  • Themes give sites a unified and consistent design across all your blog’s elements, i.e. pages, headers, footers, menus, etc …
  • A “theme” works independently of your site’s content. This means you can change the “look and feel” of your web site or blog as often as you need without changing the underlying content of your website.
  • Many WP themes come with additional built-in features and options that let you easily customize your theme’s layout and design properties to create a unique look to suit your taste.
  • Many WordPress themes are built using a framework that enables you to update the theme to newer theme versions without losing any customizations (e.g. CSS styles)
  • WordPress lets you search, upload and install WordPress Themes automatically inside your site’s administration interface.
  • WordPress themes allow users to save hundreds of dollars on website development costs. Free WP themes cost nothing and most “Premium”WP themes are typically very inexpensive.

About Responsive Themes

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

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

WordPress Themes - An Introduction

Responsive themes are also optimized for each platform. Users can navigate, read and load the site on most devices without having to resize anything, or requiring the website owner to have installed additional browser elements.

Note: When selecting, WordPress themes, it’s a good idea to choose a responsive WordPress theme. Not only will a responsive theme ensure that your web site will work 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 of website design and web coding.

Hopefully, the above article has given you a clearer understanding of themes, what themes are, how WordPress themes can help you and your business save money on website design costs, and how themes let you easily customize your web site.

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


"Learning WordPress has been a huge stumbling block for me. I've been looking for something that covers absolutely everything but doesn't cost an arm and a leg. Thank you so much ... you have just provided me with what I have been looking for! Truly appreciated!" - Tanya


Originally published as WordPress Themes Explained.