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 WordPress ThemesAdvanced web site publishing tools like the WordPress CMS have truly simplified web design and web development for website owners.

This greatly benefits businesses planning to build an online business presence that is relatively simple, easy and inexpensive to manage.

Prior to blogging and the introduction of advanced CMS software, if you needed a website, you had to wait until both the website development and web design processes were completely done. This could mean waiting for weeks, even months!

The development of WordPress themes helped change all this. In this post, we explain what themes are, how WordPress themes help you and your business save money on website development costs, and how WordPress themes make it easy to customize your site.

Web Site Design Evolution

Businesses are benefiting from a tremendous revolution in website design that has been going for many years now. If you are a small business owner, you will want to learn about this, because it can save you a lot of time and money on web development or website design costs.

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

The first step would be to discuss your project with a web site development agency or designer. Then, the actual “web design” itself would be discussed and agreed upon. This required spending time with a professional web site designer going over things of the website such as the, colours, formats, visual elements, content, etc.

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

A Basic Guide To WordPress Themes

(image source:adobe.com)

Only once everything passed testing and was functioning the way it should (and looking how a client had imagined it to look), was the web site deemed to be completed and ready for sign off.

The next phase in the evolution of web design was the introduction of “web templates”. A website template allows ”look and feel” elements of the website to be worked on separately from the page content. The introduction of template elements helped speed up the website development process and resulted in lowered production costs. This also enabled website development firms to work with small business clients with less money to spend …

A Basic Guide To WP Themes

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

As the number of businesses choosing “template-based” websites increased, templates were introduced that offered clients with a number of customizable features, such as color palettes, the ability to select different content styles and menu styles, etc …

As websites and website editing applications evolved, web templates also started transforming into website template “systems” that let website owners control their web site’s design elements.

Then, a “blogging” application called WordPress came along and helped to kick off a new website revolution …

WP 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 drives the concept of a website templating system even further.

A WP theme controls all of the design aspects of a website. It lets you add a “skin” over your entire site in a similar way that a template system does but also gives you more control over the management, presentation and customization aspects of the 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 the above states, a unique and revolutionary feature of a WordPress theme is that how your web site looks to visitors on the outside is a different thing from your site’s functionality and content management.

In simple terms, what this means is that a theme lets you change the appearance of your website as much and as often as you like without modifying your site’s content and all the functionality you’ve built into it. For example, if WordPress site has been set up for e-commerce, replacing the theme won’t affect the content or the functionality of your site. All e-commerce features, site and plugin settings and product information will remain intact, but your site will look completely different.

This is huge! Why?

Because when your website is powered with WordPress, you no longer need to spend weeks or months waiting for your website to be completed. You can get your website built quickly and start with any theme you like, and then completely customize the look, feel and design of your site in a few seconds, whenever you decide … and as many times as you like!

Even better, you can easily replace any theme on your WordPress site without the need of website code development skills. Simply pick any WordPress theme you like, install it on your site and activate it. WordPress allows you to change your entire site’s web design and customize elements like header images, page layout, typography and more in minutes …

Understanding WordPress Themes

As WordPress is distributed as open source software, website design companies anywhere in the world can create themes specifically for the WordPress platform using the WordPress templating system.

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

The WordPress development team keeps a FREE theme directory which allows WordPress users to download and access, thousands of great website templates at $0 cost …

WordPress Themes - An Overview

(WordPress.org – Free Theme Directory)

As more businesses turn to WordPress for publishing and managing their content online, more designers are now focusing on developing themes for a wider audience of web users.

Themes vary from simple-looking, to creative designs that are visually breathtaking and would typically cost many hundreds of dollars to create. Surprisingly, most WP themes are quite inexpensive.

You can see several WP theme galleries that include stunning examples of great themes here:

Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!

(Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!)

WordPress Themes – Benefits

Here are just some of the benefits and advantages of choosing WordPress themes over using website development applications that require traditional website design:

Very Easy To Install

Themes are quite easy to install on your site. Simply upload the plugin file 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 inside your WP admin’s “Theme” section.

WordPress Themes - An Introduction

Additionally …

  • WordPress has a growing online community of professional web developers and development companies who contribute thousands of fantastic WordPress Themes available to users. Many of these themes are completely free to use!
  • Themes give sites a unified and consistent “look and feel” across all your blog’s elements, i.e. pages, headers, footers, layouts, etc …
  • A “theme” works independently of your website’s content. This allows you replace the “look and feel” of your website as often as you want without modifying the website’s settings.
  • Many WordPress themes provide built-in features and settings that enable you to customize the theme’s style, layout and design elements and create a unique look to suit your taste.
  • Many themes are built using a framework that lets users upgrade themes to a newer theme version without losing any unique customizations (e.g. styles)
  • WordPress lets you search, upload and install WordPress Themes automatically inside the dashboard.
  • Themes lets you save hundreds, even thousands of dollars on web development costs. Free themes cost nothing and most “Premium”WP themes are typically very inexpensive.

About Responsive Themes

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

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

Themes - An Introduction

Responsive themes are also optimized for different platforms. Users can navigate, read and display your site on most if not all device platforms without having to readjust their browser settings, 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 website will display correctly on 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 web design and coding.

We hope that this post has provided you with a clearer understanding of themes, what WP themes are, how themes help you save money on website design costs, and how themes make it easy to customize a website.

In our next article on helping you understand features and functionality of WordPress, we show you where to search for great themes for your website.


"I am beyond impressed with what you have put together. I can tell that you put a ton of hard work into building what you have. You have the absolute best content on WordPress I have ever seen!" - Robert T. Jillie


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Author: Martin Aranovitch

Martin Aranovitch is the owner of WPCompendium.org and the author of The WordPress User Manual. 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.