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.

Understanding ThemesPowerful website publishing applications like the WordPress CMS have truly improved web design and web development for business owners.

This greatly benefits business owners planning to start or build an online business presence that is simple, easy and inexpensive to manage.

Before “blogging” and the development of powerful content management systems, if you wanted a business website, you normally would have to wait until both the web development and web design processes were fully completed. This could mean weeks, sometimes even many months of waiting!

WordPress themes changed all this. In this blog post, we explain what themes are, how WordPress themes can help you save money on web development costs, and how WordPress themes help you easily customize your WordPress site.

Web Design Evolution

Website owners have benefited from a great change in website design that has been going for a number of years now. If you are a small business owner, you will want to know more about this, because it could save you a lot of time and money on website development and web design costs.

Let’s briefly review what normally happened before CMS applications like WordPress came along:

The first step would be to discuss your requirements with a web site development company or designer. Then, the actual design of your web site itself would be discussed and agreed upon. This meant time and money being spent with a professional website designer going over areas of your web site such as the layout, colors, formats, page elements, content, etc.

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

Understanding WP Themes

(image source:adobe.com)

Only after everything passed testing and worked how it was intended to (and looking the way a client had imagined it to look), was the website considered to have been completed and ready for sign off.

The next step in the evolution of business website design was the introduction of “website templates”. Web templates allow the design of the web site to be worked on separately from the page content. The introduction of templates helped to make building web sites faster and resulted in lowered costs of production. This also allowed web developers and designers to service small businesses with smaller marketing budgets …

Themes - An Overview

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

As the number of web development agencies choosing “template-based” web design services increased, web templates started being introduced that offered clients with various customizable features, like colour palettes, the ability to pick different styles, formats, header, footer and navigation elements, page layouts, and so on.

As web sites and website building applications developed, website templates also began to evolve into website templating ”systems”, letting website owners customize their site’s visual components.

And then, WordPress came along and helped to start a new business website revolution …

A Newbie's Guide To 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:

WordPress Themes

A WordPress theme takes the idea of a website templating system further.

The WordPress theme system controls and unifies every aspect of your web design. It lets you add a “skin” to your site in a similar way that a web template system does but also gives you complete control over the management, appearance and customization aspects of your 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 states, one of the unique features of WordPress is that how your website looks to visitors is an entirely different thing from the management of your content.

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

Why is this great news for businesses?

Because with WordPress, you no longer have to spend weeks or months waiting for your website to be completed. You can get your business website built simply and get started with any WP theme you like, and then completely customize the look, feel and design of your WordPress site in a few minutes, whenever you choose … and as often as you like!

Even better, you can easily install a theme on your WP site without requiring any web code programming knowledge. Just pick a WP theme you like, upload it to your website and activate it. WordPress allows you to change your site’s design and modify elements like header images, layout, typography and more with just a few mouse clicks …

Themes - An Introduction

As WordPress is open source software, website designers from all over the world can design themes specifically for the WordPress platform using the WP template system.

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

The WordPress team keeps a FREE theme directory which gives WordPress users access thousands of excellent WordPress themes completely free of charge …

WP Themes - An Introduction

(WordPress.org – WP Themes Directory)

As the popularity of WordPress increases, more designers are now starting to create themes for a wider audience of WordPress site owners.

Themes vary from minimal-looking, to creative designs that are stunning and would normally cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars to create. Surprisingly, most premium themes can be bought quite inexpensively, especially when you compare the price to what you would have had to pay if a website designer had to develop it from scratch.

You can view several theme galleries that include many examples of great WP themes here:

Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!

(Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!)

WordPress Themes – Benefits

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

Be Up And Running In Minutes

Themes are quite easy to install on your site. Simply upload it to your Plugin folder via your WordPress admin user area and activate. Even easier still, you can install any of the themes listed in the theme repository at WordPress.org) directly from within your WordPress dashboard.

WordPress Themes - An Overview


  • WordPress has a growing online community of commercial theme developers and development companies who make thousands of fantastic WordPress Themes available to users. Thousands of these themes are 100% free to use!
  • Themes give sites a consistent design across all of your blog’s elements, like pages, headers, footers, menus, layout, etc …
  • A “theme” works independently of your web site’s content. This makes it possible to swap WordPress themes as often as you like without affecting your blog settings.
  • Many WordPress themes come with additional features and settings that enable you to customize the theme’s layout and design elements and create a unique look to suit your taste.
  • Many WordPress themes are built using a framework that lets users upgrade the theme to newer versions without losing its unique customizations (e.g. styles)
  • WordPress lets you search, upload, install and update WordPress Themes automatically within your dashboard.
  • Themes helps you save thousands of dollars on web design costs. Free WP themes cost nothing and most “Premium”WordPress themes are normally quite inexpensive.

About Responsive WordPress Theme Design

Many theme designers are now creating “responsive” themes.

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

Themes - An Introduction

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

Note: When purchasing WordPress themes, it’s a good idea to choose a responsive WordPress theme. Not only will a responsive theme ensure that your website displays well on your visitors’ devices, it also means that the theme is newer than non-responsive themes and therefore probably complies with the latest standards and practices of website design and web coding.

I hope the above overview has given you a better understanding about themes, what WP themes are, how they help your business save money, and how themes make it easy to customize your website.

To learn where to search for the best themes for your website or blog, see this post: Finding Great Paid And Free Responsive WordPress Web Templates On The Net.


"I am beyond impressed with what you have put together. I can tell that you put a ton of hard work into building what you have. You have the absolute best content on WordPress I have ever seen!" - Robert T. Jillie


Recommended Video Courses For WordPress Users

WordPress Traffic & User EngagementWordPress Traffic & User Engagement

Learn how to drive more targeted traffic to your website and discover ways to improve user engagement with your business online.

More info: WordPress Traffic & User Engagement

Recommended Video Courses For WordPress Users

Keyword Research ToolsKeyword Research Tools

This video course shows you how to do keyword research using tools like the Google Keyword Planner.

More info: Keyword Research Tools

Recommended Video Courses For WordPress Users

Build A WordPress Site ... Fast!Build A WordPress Site ... Fast!

Need a new website or blog in a hurry?

This video course shows you how to quickly install and configure a WordPress website or blog on your own domain name and be up and running in no time!

More info: Build A WordPress Site ... Fast!

Recommended Video Courses For WordPress Users

Google ToolsGoogle Tools

This video course will help you learn the basics of using Google Tools like Google Analytics and Gmail.

More info: Google Tools

Recommended Video Courses For WordPress Users

WordPress 101: How To Use WordPressWordPress 101: How To Use WordPress

Learn how to unlock the power of the WordPress content management system (CMS) using the many powerful features inside your WordPress administration area.

More info: WordPress 101: How To Use WordPress

Recommended Video Courses For WordPress Users

Why Your Business Needs WordPressWhy Your Business Needs WordPress

Learn about the unique features, benefits, and advantages of using WordPress to start or grow your business online.

More info: Why Your Business Needs WordPress

Author: Martin Aranovitch

Martin Aranovitch is the owner of WPCompendium.org and the author of The WordPress User Manual. WPCompendium.org provides hundreds of FREE tutorials that show you how to use WordPress to grow your business online with no coding skills required! Get our FREE "101+ WordPress Tips, Tricks & Hacks For Non-Techies" e-course with loads of useful WordPress tips!

Originally published as WordPress Themes Explained.