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 Newbies - An Introduction To WordPress ThemesPowerful web site management applications like the WordPress CMS have effectively simplified web design and web development for anyone wanting a website.

This greatly benefits businesses planning to build a website that they can fully manage.

Prior to “blogging” and the introduction of powerful and effective CMS technologies, if you wanted to build a website built for your business, you normally had to wait until both the website development and website design processes were completely done. This process could mean waiting around for many weeks, even months!

WordPress themes helped change all this. In this article, we explain what themes are, how themes save you and your business money on website development costs, and how WordPress themes help you easily customize your WordPress site.

Website Design Evolution

Businesses, especially small businesses, are benefiting from a tremendous change in web design that started several years ago. If you are a small business owner, you will want to know about this, because it can save your business a lot of time and money on web development or website design costs.

Let’s briefly take a look at how things worked in “traditional” website development before a CMS software like WordPress came along:

The first step would be to discuss your project with a website development firm or web site designer. Then, the design itself would be discussed and agreed upon. This required spending time and money with someone with web site design skills going over areas of the website such as the, colours, styles, graphic elements, content, etc.

Every page of your website then had to be hand-coded with all your elements and codes written into your page content. All pages were then assembled into a web site using hyperlinks and custom coded navigation menus and uploaded to your server, along with every other file required to make your site work – script libraries, graphic images, media elements, etc.

WP Themes - An Introduction

(image source:adobe.com)

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

Then, website “templates” were introduced”. Website templates allow the ”look and feel” of the web site to be worked on separately from content on the page. Having ready-made templates helped speed up the process of developing web sites and resulted in lowered production costs. This also allowed website developers to service businesses and clients with smaller budgets …

Themes - An Overview

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

As the number of website development firms choosing “template-based” web design services increased, web templates started being developed that could offer different custom features and options, like the ability to switch colours, styles, layouts

As web sites and web building tools evolved, web templates also began evolving into web templating ”systems”, letting users and web designers control the visual elements of a website.

And then, WordPress was developed and helped to start a new web revolution …

Understanding 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 drives web templating systems much further.

A WordPress theme controls all of the design elements of your website. It allows you to add a “skin” to your site similarly to what a template system does but also provides users with more control over the management, presentation and ability to customize your site’s template settings.

As the official WordPress site explains …

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 and revolutionary feature of WordPress is that how your web site looks to visitors externally in no way affects your site’s content management aspects.

Basically, what this means is that WordPress themes let you change the look and feel of your site as often as you want without touching your website’s content and all the functionality you’ve built into it. For example, if WordPress website has been set up for e-commerce, changing the entire look of your site with another theme won’t affect the content or the functionality of the site. All e-commerce features, site settings and product information will remain intact, but the site will look completely different.

Why is this important?

Because when you use WordPress, you no longer need to wait until your site’s web design is completed. You can get your business website built quickly and start with any theme you want, and then modify the entire look, feel and design of your website in a few seconds, whenever you decide … and as often as you like!

Even better, you can easily install a theme on your site with no website code editing skills necessary. Just pick a WP theme you want, upload it to your website and activate it. WordPress lets you change your web design and modify elements like header images, layout, typography and more in minutes …

A Newbie's Guide To WP Themes

Since WordPress is distributed as open source software, web design companies from all over the world can create themes specifically for the WordPress CMS platform using the WP templating system.

This means that thousands of great WP themes are made available to WP users. WP are usually distributed freely under the terms of the GNU General Public License, or sold as Premium (i.e. paid) themes.

The WordPress team keeps a FREE directory of WP themes which allows WordPress users to download, access and install thousands of excellent WordPress themes at no cost …

A Newbie's Guide To Understanding WordPress Themes

(WordPress.org – WordPress Themes Directory)

As the popularity of WordPress increases, more designers are now focusing on developing themes for a wider range of applications.

WP themes range from bare-looking, to designs that are quite beautiful and would normally cost many hundreds of dollars to develop. Surprisingly, themes are quite inexpensive.

You can view a number of theme galleries containing many examples of themes here:

Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!

(Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!)

Benefits & Advantages Of WP Themes

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

Be Up And Running In Minutes

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

A Basic Guide To Understanding Themes

Additionally …

  • WordPress has a large online community of commercial web developers and development companies who contribute thousands of quality WP Themes available to users. Thousands of these themes are completely free to use!
  • Themes give sites a consistent look across all the site’s elements, like pages, headers, footers, menus, layout, etc …
  • A “theme” works independently of your digital content. This makes it possible to change the “look and feel” of your web site or blog as often as you like without changing your underlying content.
  • Many themes provide additional built-in features and settings that allow you to easily customize the site’s layout, style and design elements to create a unique look to suit your preferences.
  • Many WordPress themes are built using a framework that lets you upgrade the theme to newer versions without losing its unique customizations (e.g. styles)
  • WordPress allows you to search, upload, install and update WordPress Themes automatically from your admin panel.
  • Themes allow WordPress users to save hundreds, even thousands of dollars on web development costs. Free themes cost nothing and most “Premium”WordPress themes are normally quite inexpensive.

About Responsive Theme Design

Many WordPress theme developers are now creating themes that incorporate “responsive” design protocols.

A responsive theme enables websites to automatically reconfigure the layout to display smoothly over different monitor sizes and screen resolutions, as well as across different devices (e.g. laptops, iPads, cell phones, etc.) …

Themes - An Overview

A responsive theme is also optimized for different platforms. Users can scroll, read and load your site on all device browsers without having to readjust their browser settings, or requiring the website owner to have installed additional display elements.

Note: When searching for WordPress themes, it’s a good idea to choose a responsive WordPress theme. Not only will the theme ensure that your web site displays well across all of your visitors’ devices, it also means that the theme is newer than most non-responsive themes and therefore probably complies with the latest standards and practices of web design.

Hopefully, this article has provided you with a good overview of themes, what themes are, how they can help your business save money on web design costs, and how themes make it easy to customize your web site.

To learn where to find great themes for your website or blog, visit this page: How To Find Great Premium And Free WordPress Web Themes For Your Site Or Blog.


"I was absolutely amazed at the scope and breadth of these tutorials! The most in-depth training I have ever received on any subject!" - Myke O'Neill, DailyGreenPost.com


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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.