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 Business - An Overview Of WP ThemesFlexible web site publishing platforms like the WordPress CMS platform have truly improved web design and web development for business owners.

This is a great thing for non-technical users planning to start an online presence that is simple, easy and inexpensive to manage.

Prior to “blogging” and the introduction of powerful and effective CMS software, if you needed a business site, you typically had to wait until both the website development and web design processes were completely done. This could take weeks, sometimes even months!

The introduction of WordPress themes have changed all this. In this article, you will learn what WP themes are, how they save your business money on web development costs, and how WP themes let you easily customize your site.

Web Site Design Revolution

More website owners have been benefiting from a change in web design that has been going for many years now. If you are a business owner, you will want to know more about this, because it could save you thousands of dollars on website development or website design costs.

Very briefly, here’s how things used to work in “traditional” website development before tool like WordPress was developed:

The first step would be to discuss your requirements with a web developer or web site designer. After that, the actual design itself would be discussed and agreed upon. This involved time and money being spent with a professional website designer discussing elements of the web site like the layout, colors, formats, page elements, content, etc.

Every page of your site then had to be hand-coded with all of the design elements and codes written into your content. All pages were then assembled 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.

Themes - An Overview

(image source:adobe.com)

Only once everything had been tested and functioned the way it should (and looking how the client had imagined it to look), was the site deemed to be finished and ready to go live.

Then, website “templates” came along”. Web site templates allow design elements of the web site to be created separately from the page content. Having templates helped speed up the process of developing web sites and resulted in lowered costs of production. This also enabled web site development firms to service business clients and clients with less money to spend on marketing …

Themes - An Overview

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

As more small businesses started using “template-based” websites, templates started being designed that could offer expanding customization options, such as colour palettes, the ability to pick different styles, formats, elements, layouts, etc …

As web sites and website editor tools developed, web templates also started evolving into web template “systems” that allow website owners to customize their web site’s visual elements.

And then, a “blogging” application called WordPress was developed and helped to start a new website revolution …

WordPress 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:

WordPress Themes

A WordPress theme pushes website templating systems even further.

The WP theme system controls every aspect of your web design. It lets you add a “skin” to your site in a similar way that a web template system does but it gives you complete control over the management, appearance and ability to customize the site’s template features.

As WordPress has explained 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, a unique and revolutionary feature of WordPress is that how your website displays to visitors on the outside is a separate thing from how your content is managed.

Basically, what this means is that a WordPress theme lets you change the design of your website as often as you want without touching your website’s content and all the work you’ve put into it. For example, if WordPress website has been configured for e-commerce, replacing the 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 your site will look completely different.

Why is this such a big deal?

Because when you use WordPress, you no longer have to spend weeks or months waiting for your website to be done. You can get your website built simply and start with any theme you like, and then completely customize the look, feel and design of your website in mere seconds, whenever you decide … and as often as you like!

Even better, you can easily install a theme on your site without having web coding skills. Simply pick any WP theme you like, upload it to your site and activate it. WordPress lets you change your site’s design and modify elements like header images, page layout, typography and more in a few seconds …

Understanding WordPress Themes

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

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

The WordPress team keeps a FREE directory of WP themes which allows WordPress users to access thousands of great web templates at no cost …

Themes - An Overview

(WordPress.org – Themes Directory)

As WordPress becomes more popular, more designers are now starting to develop themes for a wider range of applications.

WordPress themes vary from professional-looking, to artsy designs that are visually stunning and could normally cost thousands of dollars to commission. Surprisingly, most WP themes are fairly inexpensive.

You can see a number of theme galleries containing many examples of great themes in this page:

Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!

(Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!)

Benefits & Advantages Of Themes

Here are just a few of the benefits and advantages of choosing WordPress themes over choosing applications that require traditional web template design:

Ready To Start Using In Minutes

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

WP Themes - An Overview


  • WordPress has a large community of professional web designers who, collectively, contribute thousands of excellent WordPress Themes available to WordPress users. And many of these themes are 100% free to use!
  • Themes give sites a consistent design across all of the site’s elements, like pages, headers, footers, menus, layout, etc …
  • A “theme” works independently of your web site’s content. This means you can swap themes as often as you need without changing your settings.
  • Many themes provide additional features and settings that enable you to customize the theme’s layout and design properties and create a unique look to suit your taste.
  • Many WordPress themes are built using a framework that enables you to update themes to a newer theme version without losing any customizations (e.g. styles)
  • WordPress allows you to search, import and install WordPress Themes automatically inside your admin panel.
  • Themes helps you save thousands of dollars on web design costs. Free WordPress themes cost nothing and most “Premium”themes are normally quite affordable.

About Responsive WP Themes

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

A responsive theme allows websites to automatically readjust the web layout to display smoothly across different screen sizes and resolutions, as well as different devices (e.g. PCs, iPads, cell phones, etc.) …

WordPress Themes - An Introduction

Responsive themes are also optimized for different platforms. Users can scroll, read and display your site on different device platforms without having to resize anything, or requiring website owners to install additional browser elements.

Note: When purchasing 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 devices, but it also means that the theme is newer than most non-responsive themes and therefore complies with the latest standards of web design and web coding.

Hopefully, the above article has given you a clearer understanding of themes, what themes are, how they can help you save money on website development costs, and how themes make customizing sites easy.

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


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Originally published as WordPress Themes Explained.