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.

For a white label version of this tutorial visit WPTrainingManual.com.

WP For Business - An Introduction To ThemesPowerful website publishing tools like WordPress have effectively improved web design and web development for anyone wanting to start a website.

This is great for businesses thinking of running a website that they can easily manage.

Before “blogging” and the development of advanced content management systems, if you needed to build a professional website for your business, you would have to wait until both the website development and website design processes were fully completed. This process could take many weeks, sometimes even many months!

WordPress themes changed all this. In this article, we look at what WP themes are, how they save you money on website development costs, and how WordPress themes allow you to easily customize your WP site.

Evolution In Website Design

More website owners today will benefit from a great change in web design that has been going for a number of years now. If you are a business owner, you may want to learn more about this, because it can save your business a lot of time and money on web development and web design costs.

Very briefly, this is what happened before WordPress were introduced:

The first step would be to discuss your project with a website development company or designer. Then, the actual “web design” would be decided upon. This required spending time with a professional web designer discussing design elements of the website such as the layout, colors, formats, page elements, content, etc.

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

Themes - An Introduction

(image source:adobe.com)

Only once everything had been tested and performed the way it was intended to (and looking how a client had wanted it to look), was the web site considered as being finished and ready to go live.

Then, website “templates” were developed”. A website template allows the design of the web site to be created separately from the page content. Having templates helped speed up the process of developing websites and resulted in lowered costs of production. This also enabled web development companies to expand their services to include small businesses with less money to spend on marketing …

A Basic Guide To Understanding Themes

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

As the number of businesses adopting “template-based” web design services increased, web templates started being developed that offered expanding customizable settings, such as colour palettes, the ability to pick different content styles, formats, elements, layouts, and so on.

As websites and web building tools evolved, web templates also started transforming into website template ”systems”, letting users and web developers customize their web site’s visual elements.

Then, a “blogging” tool called WordPress came along and helped to kick off a new content management 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:

About WordPress Themes

WordPress themes expand website templating systems much further.

A WP theme controls and unifies all of the design elements of your website. It lets you add a “skin” over your site in a similar way that a template system does but also provides users with more control over the management, presentation and ability to customize template features.

As WordPress has described in its 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 states, a unique and revolutionary feature of a WP theme is that how your web site looks to visitors externally is a completely different thing from how your content is managed.

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

Why is this such great for small businesses?

Because with WordPress, you no longer have to wait until your site’s web design is completed. You can get your business website built simply and get started with any WordPress theme you like, and then customize the entire look, feel and design of your site in mere minutes, whenever you choose … and as often as you like!

Even better, you can easily install a theme on your site without requiring any website code editing skills. Just choose any theme you want, install it on your site and activate it. WordPress lets you change your site’s design and modify elements like headers, layout, typography and more with just a couple of mouse clicks …

Themes - An Overview

Because WordPress is open source software, web design companies anywhere in the world can create themes specifically for the WordPress CMS platform using the WP template system.

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

The WordPress team maintains a FREE theme directory which gives WordPress users access thousands of excellent themes at no cost …

Themes - An Introduction

(WordPress.org – Themes Directory)

As WordPress becomes more popular, more designers are now starting to develop themes for a wider audience of web users.

WP themes vary from professional-looking, to fancy designs that are visually spectacular and would typically cost thousands of dollars to commission. Surprisingly, WordPress themes are very inexpensive.

You can see several theme galleries that include various examples of great WordPress themes in this post:

Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!

(Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!)

Benefits Of Using Themes

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

Ready To Go To Work In No Time

Themes are very easy to install on your site. Simply upload a zip file that contains the plugin to your Plugin folder via your dashboard and activate. Even easier still, you can install any of the themes listed in the free WP theme repository at WordPress.org) directly from within your WP dashboard.

A Basic Guide To Understanding Themes


  • WordPress has a thriving online community of commercial website developers who, collectively, make thousands of professional WordPress Themes available to WP users. Thousands of these themes are 100% free to use!
  • Themes give sites a consistent look across all the site’s elements, i.e. pages, headers, footers, menus, etc …
  • A “theme” works independently of your digital content. This makes it possible to change WordPress themes as often as you want without disturbing your underlying content of your blog.
  • Many themes come with built-in features and settings that allow you to customize the theme’s style and design properties to create a unique look to suit your preferences.
  • Many themes are built using a framework that lets users update themes to a newer theme version without losing any unique customizations (e.g. styles)
  • WordPress allows you to search, import and install WordPress Themes automatically directly from within the admin panel.
  • Themes allow users to save hundreds of dollars on web design costs. Free WordPress themes cost nothing and most “Premium”themes are typically very affordable.

Responsive WordPress Theme Design

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

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

WordPress Themes - An Overview

Responsive themes are also optimized for different platforms. Users can scroll, read and display your site on all device platforms without having to readjust their browser settings, or requiring the website owner to install additional themes.

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

I hope this basic overview has helped you gain a better understanding about themes, what themes are, how themes can help you save money, and how themes make customizing sites easy.

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


"I have used the tutorials to teach all of my clients and it has probably never been so easy for everyone to learn WordPress ... Now I don't need to buy all these very expensive video courses that often don't deliver what they promise." - Stefan Wendt, Internet Marketing Success Group


For a white label version of this tutorial visit WPTrainingManual.com.
Originally published as WordPress Themes Explained.