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 Beginners - An Overview Of WP ThemesThe development of advanced web site management systems like the WordPress CMS has effectively improved web design and web development for anyone wanting a website.

This is terrific news for business owners planning to start or build a web presence that is relatively simple, easy and inexpensive to manage.

Prior to “blogging” and the development of powerful and effective CMS software, if you needed to build a professional web site for your business, you had to wait until both the web development and website design processes were completely done. This could mean weeks, even sometimes many months of waiting around!

The introduction of WordPress themes helped change all this. In this blog post, we explore what WordPress themes are, how WP themes help you and your business save money, and how themes allow you to easily customize your site.

A Revolution In Web Site Design

Website owners have been benefiting from an evolution in web design that has been going for a number of years now. If you are a small business owner, you will want to learn more about this, because it can save your business a lot of time and money on website development or web design costs.

Let’s review how things worked in “traditional” web development before WordPress came along:

The first step would be to meet with a web developer or web site designer for a brief. After this, the design itself had to be decided upon. This involved time being spent with someone with web design skills going over things of the web site such as the layout, colors, formats, page elements, content, etc.

Every page of your site then had to be individually created with all of the elements and scripts coded around your content. The pages were then assembled into a web site using links and navigation menus and uploaded to your server, along with every other file needed to make your site work – script libraries, images, media, etc.

Understanding Themes

(image source:adobe.com)

Only after everything had been tested and worked the way it should (and looking the way the client had imagined it to look), was the website deemed as being completed and ready for sign off.

Then, website “templates” came along”. Web site templates allow design elements of the website to be created separately from content on the page. The development of ready-made templates helped make the process of creating web sites faster and resulted in lowered production costs. This also allowed web site development companies to work with business clients with smaller marketing budgets …

Understanding Themes

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

As more small businesses began using “template-based” websites, web templates were created to offer clients with a number of custom features and options, like colour palettes, the ability to specify different styles, formats, header, footer and navigation elements, page layouts, and so on.

As web sites and web editing applications evolved, website templates also began transforming into web templating ”systems”, letting website owners control their website’s design elements.

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

WP Themes - An Introduction

(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

WordPress themes take the idea of a website template system one step further.

A WP theme controls and unifies the design aspects of a website. It allows you to add a “skin” to your site similarly to what a template system does but it provides users with more control over the management, appearance and customization aspects of all template options.

According to the official WordPress 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, one of the unique and revolutionary features of the WordPress theme is that the way your web site appears to site visitors is managed separately from the management of your content.

In plain English terms, what this means is that you can change the design of your site as often as you want without affecting your website’s content and all the functionality you’ve built into it. For example, if you have set up your website for e-commerce, replacing the theme won’t affect the content or the functionality of your site. All e-commerce features, plugin settings and product information will remain intact, but your site will look completely different.

This is huge! Why?

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

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

WordPress Themes - An Introduction

Because WordPress is open source software, thousands of website design companies 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 WP users. WordPress are usually distributed freely under the terms of the GNU License Definition, or sold as Premium (i.e. paid) WP themes.

The WordPress team maintains a FREE theme directory which allows WordPress users to access thousands of excellent WP themes completely free of charge …

Understanding WordPress Themes

(WordPress.org – Themes Directory)

As the popularity of WordPress increases, more designers are now starting to create themes for a wider range of users.

WordPress themes vary from functional-looking, to fancy designs that are simply stunning and would normally cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars to design. Surprisingly, WordPress themes can be purchased very inexpensively, especially when compared to what it would have cost you if a website designer had to code it from scratch.

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

Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!

(Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!)

Benefits And Advantages Of Themes

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

Ready To Use In Minutes

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

WP Themes - An Introduction

Additionally …

  • WordPress has a large online community of commercial website developers who make thousands of quality WP Themes available to WordPress users. Many of these themes are 100% free to use!
  • Themes give sites a unified and consistent “look and feel” across all your site’s elements, like pages, headers, footers, layout, etc …
  • A “theme” works independently of your website’s content. This makes it possible to change the “look and feel” of your templates as often as you need without changing the site data.
  • Many themes provide additional features and options that allow you to easily customize your site’s layout, style and design properties and create a unique look to suit your preferences.
  • Many WordPress themes are built using a framework that lets you upgrade themes to newer versions without losing any customizations (e.g. CSS styles)
  • WordPress lets you search, import, install and update WordPress Themes automatically inside your dashboard.
  • WP themes lets you save hundreds of dollars on website design costs. Free themes cost nothing and most “Premium”WP themes are normally quite affordable.

Responsive WP Theme Design

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

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

Themes - An Introduction

Responsive themes are also optimized for different platforms. Users can scroll, read and display a site on most if not all device platforms without having to readjust their browser settings, or requiring website owners to install additional browser tools.

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 will work correctly on all devices, it also means that the theme is newer than most non-responsive themes and therefore complies with the latest standards and practices of website design.

I hope that this overview has given you a clearer understanding about themes, what WP themes are, how themes help you save money on website development costs, and how themes let you easily customize a web site.

To learn where to find the best WordPress themes for your website or blog, go here:


"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


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