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 Newbies - An Overview Of WP ThemesThe development of web publishing applications like the WordPress CMS platform has truly improved web design and web development for non-technical business users.

This is a great thing for individuals or businesses that want a web presence that they can fully manage.

Before “blogging” and the development of powerful content management systems, if you needed to get a site for your business, you would have to wait until both the web development and web design processes were fully completed. This could mean weeks, even months of waiting!

WordPress themes helped change all this. In this blog post, you will learn what WP themes are, how WP themes save you money on web development costs, and how themes let you easily customize your site.

Web Site Design Revolution

More website owners today are benefiting from a great change in web design that has been going for many years now. If you own a business, you may want to know about this, because it can save you thousands of dollars on website development and web design costs.

In a nutshell, here’s what normally happened before WordPress were developed:

The first step would be to discuss your requirements with a web site development agency or designer. Then, the design had to be decided upon. This involved spending time and money with someone with web site design skills discussing elements of the web site such as the, colors, styles, page elements, content, etc.

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

A Newbie's Guide To WP Themes

(image source:adobe.com)

Only after everything passed testing and was performing the way it should (and looking the way the client had wanted it to look), was the site deemed to have been finished and ready for delivery.

The next stage in the evolution of web design was the introduction of “web templates”. Web templates allow the ”look and feel” of the website to be worked on separately from content on the page. The development of templates helped to make the process of website development faster and resulted in reduced production costs. This also allowed web development firms to expand their services to include small businesses with smaller marketing budgets …

WP Themes - An Overview

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

As more web site development companies started using “template-based” web design services, web templates started being designed that could offer a number of custom features and options, like the ability to choose different colors, styles, layouts

As websites and web editing tools evolved, web templates also began transforming into website template “systems” that allow website owners to control the design elements of a website.

Then, a “blogging” tool called WordPress was developed and helped to kick off a new business website revolution …

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:

About WordPress Themes

WordPress themes improve the concept of a website template system one step further.

A WP theme controls and unifies every aspect of your website design. It lets you add a “skin” over your site in a similar way that a template system does but also provides you with complete control over the management, presentation and customization aspects of your template settings.

As per 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 web site appears to site visitors is controlled independently of the management of your content.

Basically, what this means is that a WordPress theme lets you change the design of your site as much and as often as you want without modifying your site’s content and all the functionality you’ve built into it. For example, if you have configured your website for e-commerce, replacing the theme won’t affect the content or the functionality of the web site. All e-commerce features, site and plugin settings and product information will remain unaffected, but your site will look completely different.

Why is this such a big deal?

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

Even better, you can easily replace any theme on your site with no web design knowledge necessary. Simply choose a theme you like, upload it to your website and activate it. WordPress allows you to change your entire site’s web design and customize elements like header images, page layout, typography and more in a few seconds …

Understanding WP Themes

Since WordPress is made available as open source software, thousands of website designers anywhere in the world can design themes specifically for the WordPress platform using the WP templating system.

This means that loads of high quality WP themes can be downloaded by WP users. Themes are normally distributed for FREE under the terms of the GNU License Definition, or they can be purchased as Premium (i.e. paid) themes.

The WordPress development team maintains a FREE WordPress Theme Directory which gives WordPress users access thousands of great WordPress themes at $0 cost …

WordPress Themes - An Introduction

(WordPress.org – Theme Directory)

As the popularity of WordPress increases, more designers are now focusing on creating themes for a wider range of users.

Themes range from functional-looking, to designs that are quite spectacular and would normally cost thousands of dollars to create. Surprisingly, most premium WordPress themes are very inexpensive.

You can view a number of WordPress theme galleries that include many examples of themes here:

Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!

(Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!)

Benefits Of WP Themes

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

Ready To Use In Minutes

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

A Newbie's Guide To Understanding WordPress Themes

Additionally …

  • WordPress has a thriving community of professional website developers and development companies who contribute thousands of high quality WP Themes available to users. Many of these themes are 100% free to use!
  • Themes give sites a consistent “look and feel” across all your site’s elements, like pages, headers, footers, layout, etc …
  • A “theme” works independently of your web site’s content. This makes it possible to replace WP themes as often as you like without affecting the settings.
  • Many themes come with additional functionality and options that let you easily customize your site’s layout and design elements and create a unique look to suit your preferences.
  • Many themes are built using a framework that allows users to upgrade the theme to a newer theme version without losing any unique customizations (e.g. CSS styles)
  • WordPress lets you search, import and install WordPress Themes automatically within your site’s administration interface.
  • Themes helps you save hundreds of dollars on website development costs. Free WordPress themes cost nothing and most “Premium”WP themes are typically very affordable.

Responsive WordPress Themes

Many theme designers are now developing themes that incorporate “responsive” functionality.

A responsive theme allows websites to automatically reconfigure the layout to display smoothly across different screen sizes and resolutions, as well as different devices (e.g. computers, iPads, cell phones, etc.) …

Understanding Themes

A responsive theme is also optimized for different platforms. Users can navigate, read and load a site on various device platforms without having to readjust their browser settings, or requiring website owners to have installed additional browser elements.

Note: When purchasing WordPress themes, we strongly recommend choosing a responsive WordPress theme. Not only will the theme ensure that your web site displays well on all of your visitors’ devices, but it also means that the theme is newer than non-responsive themes and therefore probably complies with the latest standards and practices of web design and coding.

We hope that this post has given you a clearer understanding of WordPress themes, what themes are, how themes help you and your business save money, and how WP themes make it easy to customize your WordPress site.

In our next article in our article WP newbies on basic features and functionality of WordPress, we show you where to search for the best WordPress themes for your blog.


"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


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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 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.