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.

Themes - An OverviewThe introduction of powerful website management platforms like the WordPress CMS platform has effectively simplified web design and web development for business users.

This is great for entrepreneurial-minded people thinking about getting an online business presence that is simple and easy to manage.

Before blogging and the development of sophisticated CMS solutions, if you wanted to get a web site for your business, you typically would have to wait until both the web development and web design processes were completely done. This could mean weeks, sometimes even many months of waiting around!

WordPress themes changed all this. In this post, we look at what WP themes are, how WordPress themes save you and your business money on web design costs, and how themes let you easily customize your website.

Evolution In Web Site Design

Website owners have been benefiting from an evolution in website design that started several years ago. If you are a small business owner, you will want to know about this, because it could save your business thousands of dollars on web development or web design costs.

Very briefly, here’s how things typically worked in “traditional” website design before CMS solutions like WordPress came along:

The first step would be to meet with a website development agency or web site designer for a brief. Then, the actual “web design” would be decided upon. This meant spending time with a professional website designer going over design elements of your web site like the, colors, formats, page elements, content, etc.

Every page of your website then had to be hand-coded with all the design elements and codes written into the content. The pages were then assembled together into a web site 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 elements, etc.

Themes - An Introduction

(image source:adobe.com)

Only once everything passed testing and performed how it was supposed to (and looking the way a client had wanted it to look), was the website considered to have been finished and ready to go live.

Then, website “templates” were developed”. Web templates allow presentation elements of the web site to be worked on separately from the page content. Having template elements helped make the process of creating websites faster and resulted in reduced production costs. This also allowed web developers and designers to service business clients with smaller marketing budgets …

A Newbie's Guide To Understanding Themes

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

As the number of small businesses choosing “template-based” websites increased, templates started being created that could provide clients with expanding customizable options, such as the option to choose different colors, styles, layouts

As web sites and web editing applications evolved, web templates also began transforming into web template ”systems”, enabling website owners and website developers to control the visual aspects of a site.

And then, a “blogging” tool called WordPress was developed and helped to kick off a new business website 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 the idea of a website template system further.

A WordPress theme controls the design areas of your website. It lets you add a “skin” to your entire site much like a template system does but it provides you with complete control over the management, appearance and customization aspects of your site’s 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 quote states, one of the unique and revolutionary features of WordPress is that the way your site displays to visitors externally is controlled independently of how your content is managed.

In plain English terms, what this means is that you can change the look and feel of your site as much and as often as you want without touching your site’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, site settings and product information will remain intact, but your site will look completely different.

This is huge! Why?

Because with WordPress, you no longer have to wait until your site’s web design is completed. You can get your website built quickly and get started with any WP theme you want, and then completely change the look, feel and design of your WordPress site in mere minutes, whenever you decide … and as many times as you like!

Even better, you can easily install a theme on your WP site without having web design knowledge. Just choose any theme you want, upload it to your website and activate it. WordPress allows you to change your web design and modify elements like header images, layout, typography and more with just a couple of mouse clicks …

A Basic Guide To WP Themes

Since WordPress is distributed as open source software, thousands of web designers can create themes specifically for the WordPress platform using the WP template system.

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

The WordPress development team maintains a FREE WordPress Theme Directory which allows WordPress users to download, access and install thousands of great website templates at $0 cost …

A Newbie's Guide To Understanding Themes

(WordPress.org – WordPress Theme Directory)

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

Themes range from minimal-looking, to designs that are visually spectacular and would normally cost many hundreds of dollars to develop. Surprisingly, themes are really inexpensive to purchase.

You can view a number of WordPress theme galleries that include many examples of great premium 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 choosing web building applications that require traditional web template design:

Ready To Go To Work In Minutes

WordPress themes are quite easy to install on your site. Simply upload it to your Plugins folder via your WordPress administrator area 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.

Understanding Themes


  • WordPress has a large community of professional web developers and development companies who make thousands of quality WordPress Themes available to WordPress users. And many of these themes are 100% free to use!
  • Themes give sites a unified and consistent look across all of the blog’s elements, like pages, headers, footers, menus, layout, etc …
  • A “theme” works independently of your blog’s content. This means you can replace themes as often as you like without affecting your site content.
  • Many WP themes provide built-in functionality and options that allow you to customize your site’s style, layout and design properties and create a unique look to suit your preferences.
  • Many WordPress themes are built using a framework that enables users to upgrade the theme to newer theme versions without losing any unique customizations (e.g. CSS styles)
  • WordPress allows you to search, upload, install and update WordPress Themes automatically inside the site’s administration interface.
  • Themes helps you save thousands of dollars on web development costs. Free WordPress themes cost nothing and most “Premium”WP themes are typically quite affordable.

Responsive Themes

Many WordPress theme designers are now creating “responsive” themes for WordPress.

A responsive theme enables a website to automatically reconfigure the layout to display smoothly over different screen sizes and resolutions, as well as across different devices (e.g. PCs, tablets, cell phones, etc.) …

WP Themes - An Overview

A responsive theme is also optimized for each device type. Users can scroll, read and load your site on various device browsers without having to resize anything, or requiring the website owner to install additional display elements.

Note: When purchasing 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 website design and web coding.

We hope the above article has provided you with a clearer overview of themes, what themes are, how WP themes help you and your business save money, and how WP themes make customizing websites easy.

In the next article on helping you understand WP features, we show you where to search for great themes for your blog.


"These tutorials have so much information and are easy to understand. If you use WordPress or plan to in the future these will help you with everything you need to know." - Valisa (Mesa, Arizona)

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Author: Martin Aranovitch

Martin Aranovitch is the founder of WPCompendium.org and the author of The Small Business Digital Manager. WPCompendium.org provides hundreds of FREE detailed step-by-step tutorials that will teach you how to use WordPress to grow your business online at minimal cost with no coding skills required!

Originally published as WordPress Themes Explained.