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.

WordPress For Newbies - An Introduction To WordPress ThemesThe development of flexible content publishing systems like WordPress has effectively improved web design and web development for business users.

This is great for businesses planning to start a website that is simple and easy to manage.

Before blogging and the introduction of easy-to-use content management systems, if you wanted to build a professional website built for your business, you had to wait until both the web development and website design processes were completely done. This could mean weeks, sometimes even many months of waiting for the work to be done!

The introduction of WordPress themes helped change all this. In this post, we explore what themes are, how they can help you save money on website development costs, and how themes let you easily customize your WP site.

A New Development In Website Design

More website owners today will benefit from a revolution in web design that started many years ago. If you own a small business, you will want to learn about this, because it can save you thousands of dollars on website development and website design costs.

In a nutshell, here’s how things used to work in “traditional” web design before WordPress came along:

First, you would meet with a web developer or web site designer for a brief. Next, the design itself would be discussed and agreed upon. This meant time being spent with a professional web designer going over areas of your website such as the layout, colors, styles, visual elements, content, etc.

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

Understanding Themes

(image source:adobe.com)

Only after everything passed testing and performed how it should (and looking how the client had imagined it to look), was the website deemed to have been finished and ready for sign off.

The next step in the evolution of web design was the introduction of “web templating elements”. A website template allows ”look and feel” elements of the website to be created separately from the page content. The development of ready-made templates helped make the process of developing websites faster and resulted in lowered costs of production. This also allowed web site designers to work with small businesses with less money to spend …

A Basic Guide To Understanding WordPress Themes

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

As more website development firms started using “template-based” web design services, templates started being introduced that could offer different customizable settings, like color palettes, the ability to specify different content styles or header, footer and navigation elements, etc …

As web sites and web building applications evolved, website templates also began transforming into website templating “systems” that let users manage the visual elements of their web site.

Then, a “blogging” application called WordPress was developed and helped to kick off a new digital publishing revolution …

Understanding WordPress Themes

(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 push web template systems one step further.

A WP theme controls and integrates the design aspects of your website. It allows you to add a “skin” to your site much like a web template system does but it provides users with more control over the management and customization aspects of your site’s template settings.

As WordPress describes in its official website …

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, one of the unique and revolutionary features of the WordPress theme is that the way your site appears to site visitors is an entirely separate thing from how your content is managed.

In plain English terms, what this means is that you can change the look and feel 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 you have set up WordPress 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, settings and product information will remain unaffected, but the site will look completely different.

Why is this such great news for small businesses?

Because when your website is built with WordPress, you no longer have to wait until your website’s design is done. You can get your business website built quickly and start with any theme you want, and completely change the look, feel and design of your website in mere minutes, whenever you want … and as often as you like!

Even better, you can easily replace any theme on your site with no website code development knowledge required. Simply choose a theme you like, install it on your website and activate it. WordPress lets you change your website design and customize elements like headers, page layout, style settings and more in minutes …

A Basic Guide To Themes

As WordPress is made available as open source software, commercial web design companies anywhere in the world can design themes specifically for the WP CMS platform using the WP template system.

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

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

Understanding WordPress Themes

(WordPress.org – WordPress Theme Directory)

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

Themes range from simple-looking, to designs that are simply spectacular and would normally cost many hundreds of dollars to create. Surprisingly, most WordPress themes can be purchased very cheaply, especially when you compare the price to what you would have been charged if a website designer had to build it from scratch.

You can view several theme galleries that include various examples of themes here:

Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!

(Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!)

Benefits And Advantages Of Themes

Here are just some of the benefits of choosing WordPress themes over choosing traditional website design:

Fast Installation

WP themes are quite easy to install on your site. Simply upload a zip folder containing the plugin files to your Plugins folder via your WordPress administrator account and activate. Even easier still, you can install any of the themes listed in the WordPress themes repository at WordPress.org) directly inside your WP site’s admin area.

Themes - An Introduction


  • WordPress has a large community of professional website designers and design companies who, collectively, make thousands of excellent WordPress Themes available to users. And many of these themes are 100% free to use!
  • Themes give sites a unified and consistent design across all of your blog’s elements, i.e. pages, headers, footers, layouts, etc …
  • A “theme” works independently of your digital content. This allows you change WordPress themes as often as you like without disturbing the blog settings.
  • Many WordPress themes come with additional built-in functionality and options that allow you to easily customize your theme’s style, layout and design properties and create a unique look to suit your taste.
  • Many themes are built using a framework that allows you to update the theme to a newer theme version without losing any unique customizations (e.g. styles)
  • WordPress lets you search, import, install and update WordPress Themes automatically directly from within the admin panel.
  • Themes helps you save hundreds, even thousands of dollars on website design costs. Free themes cost nothing and most “Premium”themes are normally very inexpensive.

Responsive Theme Design

Many theme developers are now developing “responsive” WordPress themes.

A responsive theme enables a website to automatically resize to display smoothly over different screen sizes and resolutions, as well as different devices (e.g. laptops, iPads, smart phones, etc.) …

Understanding WordPress Themes

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

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

Hopefully, the above article has given you a good overview of WordPress themes, what WordPress themes are, how WP themes help you and your business save money on website design costs, and how WP themes make customizing sites easy.

To learn where to find the best WP themes for your website or blog, see this post: Where To Find The Best Free And Premium Responsive WordPress Web Themes Online.


"This is an awesome training series. I have a pretty good understanding of WordPress already, but this is helping me to move somewhere from intermediate to advanced user!" - Kim Lednum


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