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 Introduction To ThemesAdvanced web site publishing platforms like WordPress have truly improved web design and web development for web users.

This greatly benefits non-technical users thinking of building an online presence that they can fully manage by themselves.

Before “blogging” and the introduction of sophisticated content management systems, if you wanted to build a web site for your business, you normally had to wait until both the web development and web design processes were completely done. This process could mean weeks, even months of waiting for the work to be done!

WordPress themes changed all this. In this article, we will explore what themes are, how themes save your business money on web design costs, and how themes make it easy to customize your WordPress site.

A New Development In Web Design

More website owners are benefiting from a revolutionary change in web design that began shortly after websites were first introduced. If you own a small business, you may want to know more about this, because it could save your business thousands of dollars on website development and website design costs.

Very briefly, here’s what used to happen before application like WordPress was developed:

First, you would discuss your project with a web development company or website designer. Next, the actual ”look and feel” of your site itself had to be discussed and agreed upon. This involved spending time and money with someone with web design skills going over things of your web site like the, colors, styles, visual elements, content, etc.

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

A Newbie's Guide To Understanding WP Themes

(image source:adobe.com)

Only after everything had been tested and functioned how it should (and looking how the client had imagined it to look), was the web site considered as being finished and ready to go live.

The next phase in the evolution of business website design was the introduction of “web templates”. Website templates allow the ”look and feel” of the website to be worked on separately from the page content. The introduction of ready-made templates helped make the process of website development faster and resulted in lowered costs of production. This also enabled web site development firms to service business clients with smaller marketing budgets …

Themes - An Overview

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

As the number of small businesses using “template-based” websites increased, templates started being designed to provide clients with a range of custom settings, like colour palettes, the ability to pick different styles, formats, elements, layouts, and so on.

As web sites and website building tools developed, web templates also started to transform into web template ”systems”, permitting website owners to control their website’s design components.

And then, a “blogging” software called WordPress was introduced and helped to kick off a new business website revolution …

A Newbie's Guide To Understanding WP Themes

(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 drive the concept of a website template system much further.

A WordPress theme controls and integrates all of the design elements of the website. It allows you to add a “skin” over your site similarly to what a website template system does but it gives you more control over the management, presentation and customization of all template settings.

As WordPress has described in its 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 the above quote states, a unique feature of a WordPress theme is that how your web site looks to visitors is managed independently of your site’s functionality and content management.

In simple terms, what this means is that a WP theme lets you modify the look and feel of your website as much and as often as you like without modifying your website’s content and all the work you’ve put into it. For example, if you have configured your 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 website. All e-commerce features, settings and product information will remain unaffected, but the site will look completely different.

This is huge! Why?

Because when your website is powered by WordPress, you no longer need to wait until your website’s design is done. You can get your business website built simply and start with any WordPress theme you like, and modify the entire look, feel and design of your site in a few minutes, whenever you want … and as often as you like!

Even better, you can easily replace any theme on your site with no website coding knowledge required. Simply pick any WordPress theme you want, install it on your website and activate it. WordPress lets you change your website design and modify elements like headers, layout, typography and more with just a few mouse clicks …

Understanding WordPress Themes

As WordPress is open source software, website design companies can create themes specifically for the WP CMS platform using the WP template system.

This means that loads of great WP themes are made available to WordPress users. Themes are usually distributed as Free Software under the terms of the GNU General Public License Definition, or sold as Premium (i.e. paid) themes.

The WordPress development team keeps a FREE theme directory which allows WordPress users to download, access and install thousands of great WordPress themes at no cost …

Themes - An Overview

(WordPress.org – Themes Directory)

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

WP themes range from corporate-looking, to designs that are stunning and could normally cost thousands of dollars to design. Surprisingly, most WP themes can be purchased very cheaply, especially when compared to what you would have had to pay if a website designer had to create it from scratch.

You can view a number of theme galleries that include many examples of great premium WP themes in this article:

Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!

(Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!)

Benefits Of WP Themes

Here are just some of the many benefits of using WordPress themes over choosing traditional web template design:

Very Easy To Install

Themes are very easy to install on your site. Just upload a zip file containing the plugin files to your Plugin folder via your WP admin login and activate. Even easier still, you can install any of the themes listed in the theme repository at WordPress.org) directly inside your WP dashboard.

Themes - An Introduction

Additionally …

  • WordPress has a thriving online community of commercial website developers who, collectively, make thousands of great WordPress Themes available to WP users. Thousands of these themes are completely free to use!
  • Themes give sites a consistent “look and feel” across all of the site’s elements, i.e. pages, headers, footers, menus, etc …
  • A “theme” works independently of your digital content. This makes it possible to swap the “look and feel” of your web site or blog as often as you want without disturbing the blog information.
  • Many WP themes come with built-in functionality and settings that allow you to customize the site’s layout and design elements and create a unique look to suit your needs.
  • Many WP themes are built using a framework that allows users to upgrade the theme to newer theme versions without losing any unique customizations (e.g. CSS styles)
  • WordPress lets you search, import, install and update WordPress Themes automatically inside your site’s administration interface.
  • WP themes helps you save hundreds of dollars on website development costs. Free themes cost nothing and most “Premium”WordPress themes are normally very affordable.

About Responsive WP Theme Design

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

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

WP Themes - An Overview

A responsive theme is also optimized for each platform. Users can navigate, read and load your site on a range of device browsers without having to readjust their browser settings, or requiring website owners to install additional browser elements.

Note: When searching for WordPress themes, we recommend choosing a responsive WordPress theme. Not only will a responsive theme ensure that your web site will display correctly across all of your visitors’ devices, but it also means that the theme is newer than most non-responsive themes and therefore complies with the latest standards, practices and techniques of web design.

We hope that the above article has given you a better understanding of themes, what themes are, how themes can help you save money on web development costs, and how themes make it easy to customize your WP site.

In the next article in the article series on understanding basic features and functionality of WordPress, we show you where to find great WordPress themes for your website or blog.


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Originally published as WordPress Themes Explained.