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 OverviewFlexible content publishing applications like the WordPress CMS have effectively simplified web design and web development for anyone wanting to start a website.

This greatly benefits entrepreneurial-minded people thinking about getting a web presence that is relatively simple and easy to manage.

Before blogging and the introduction of powerful and simple CMS software, if you wanted to get a web site built for your business, you normally would have to wait until both the web development and web design processes were completely done. This could mean waiting for many weeks, sometimes even many months!

The development of WordPress themes helped change all this. In this post, we explain what themes are, how WP themes save you and your business money on web development costs, and how WordPress themes allow you to easily customize your website.

Website Design Revolution

More businesses will benefit from an evolution in website design that started a number of years ago. If you are a small business owner, you will want to know more about this, because it can save your business a lot of time and money on web development or website design costs.

In a nutshell, this is what used to happen before WordPress came along:

First, you would meet with a website development company or web designer for a brief. Next, the actual ”look and feel” of the website had to be discussed and agreed upon. This meant time and money being spent with a professional website designer discussing things of your website like the, colors, formats, graphic elements, content, etc.

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

WP Themes - An Overview

(image source:adobe.com)

Only after everything passed testing and performed how it was supposed to (and looking how a client had wanted it to look), was the web site deemed to be finished and ready for delivery.

The next stage in the evolution of business website design was the introduction of “web templating elements”. A web template allows presentation elements of the web site to be created separately from the page content. Having ready-made templates helped to speed up the process of developing websites and resulted in lowered costs of production. This also allowed web site developers to service businesses with less money to spend …

A Basic Guide To Understanding WordPress Themes

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

As the number of businesses using “template-based” web design services increased, web templates were created that could offer expanding customization settings, like color palettes, the ability to pick different formats or elements, etc …

As web sites and web building software developed, web templates also started transforming into web templating “systems” that permit users and website designers to control the design aspects of a site.

Then, a “blogging” application called WordPress was introduced and helped to kick off a new web revolution …

A Newbie's Guide To Understanding Themes

(WordPress – A Content Publishing Revolution)

help To learn more about content management systems and the benefits of the WordPress CMS, see the tutorial below:

redarrow Benefits Of Using WordPress As A Content Management System (CMS)

About WordPress Themes

WordPress themes take the idea of a website templating system much further.

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

As the official WordPress site states …

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 stated above, a unique feature of WordPress is that the way your web site displays to site visitors in no way affects the way your site functions in the backend to handle areas like content management and functionality.

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

Why is this such a big deal?

Because with WordPress, you no longer have to spend weeks or months waiting for your website to be done. You can get your website built quickly and start with any theme you want, and then customize the entire look, feel and design of your WordPress site in a few seconds, whenever you want … and as often as you like!

Even better, you can easily replace any theme on your site with no web design knowledge necessary. Just choose a WP theme you like, install it on your website and activate it. WordPress allows you to change your website design and modify elements like headers, page layout, styling options and more in minutes …

WordPress Themes - An Overview

Since WordPress is distributed as open source software, hundreds of website designers all around the world can create themes specifically for the WordPress platform using the WordPress templating system.

This means that thousands of great WordPress themes can be downloaded by WordPress users. Themes are usually distributed for Free under the terms of the GNU General Public License Definition, or they can be purchased as Premium (paid) themes.

The WordPress development team maintains a FREE theme directory which gives WordPress users access thousands of excellent themes completely free of charge …

WordPress Themes - An Overview

(WordPress.org – WP Themes Directory)

As the popularity of WordPress soars, more designers are now starting to create themes for a wider audience of WordPress site owners.

Themes vary from functional-looking, to designs that are quite stunning and could normally cost hundreds to many thousands of dollars to design. Surprisingly, most premium themes are fairly inexpensive.

You can view several theme galleries containing various examples of WP themes here: Where To Look For Great Free And Paid WordPress Themes On The Web

WP Themes – Benefits & Advantages

Here are just a few of the benefits of choosing WordPress themes over choosing traditional web template design:

Installation Is Easy & Simple

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

Themes - An Overview


  • WordPress has a growing online community of professional theme designers who, collectively, contribute thousands of quality WP Themes available to users. And many of these themes are completely free to use!
  • Themes give sites a consistent look across all of your blog’s elements, like pages, headers, footers, layouts, etc …
  • A “theme” works independently of your website’s content. This allows you swap themes as often as you want without deleting the website’s underlying data.
  • Many themes provide additional functionality and options that let you easily customize your site’s style, layout and design properties to create a unique look to suit your needs.
  • Many themes are built using a framework that allows users to upgrade the theme to newer theme versions without losing any customizations (e.g. CSS styles)
  • WordPress lets you search, upload and install WordPress Themes automatically right within your site’s administration interface.
  • Themes allow WP users to save hundreds of dollars on web design costs. Free themes cost nothing and most “Premium”themes are normally very inexpensive.

Responsive Themes

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

A responsive theme allows a website to automatically reconfigure the layout to display smoothly across different monitor sizes and screen resolutions, as well as across different devices (e.g. computers, tablets, mobile phones, etc.) …

Understanding WP Themes

Responsive themes are also optimized for different types of devices. Users can scroll, read and display the site on various device platforms without having to readjust their browser settings, or requiring website owners to install additional display elements.

Note: When downloading WordPress themes, we strongly recommend choosing a responsive WordPress theme. Not only will a responsive theme ensure that your website displays well across all devices, but it also means that the theme is newer than non-responsive themes and therefore should comply with the latest standards and practices of web design and web coding.

We hope that this post has given you a better understanding of WordPress themes, what themes are, how they can help your business save money on website development costs, and how themes make it easy to customize a web site.

To learn where to search for the best WP themes for your website or blog, click here: Finding The Best Paid And Free WordPress Web Themes On The Web.


"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

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Author: Martin Aranovitch

Martin Aranovitch is the founder of WPCompendium.org and has authored hundreds of FREE WordPress tutorials for beginners. WPCompendium.org provides detailed step-by-step tutorials that will teach you how to use WordPress with no coding skills required and at minimal cost!

Originally published as WordPress Themes Explained.