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.

WP Themes - An OverviewThe development of web site publishing applications like the WordPress CMS platform has effectively simplified web design and web development for anyone wanting to start a website.

This greatly benefits individuals or businesses that want a website that they can manage by themselves.

Prior to “blogging” and the introduction of powerful and simple content management systems, if you needed a professional business web site, you typically had to wait until both the web development and website design processes were completely done. This process could take weeks, sometimes even many months!

The introduction of WordPress themes changed all this. In this article, you will learn what WordPress themes are, how they save your business money on website design costs, and how WordPress themes allow you to easily customize your site.

Website Design Evolution

More website owners today have been benefiting from a tremendous change in website design that has been going for several years now. If you own a small business, you will want to learn about this, because it could save your business thousands of dollars on web development and web design costs.

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

The first step would be to meet with a web development firm or designer for a brief. After that, the actual “web design” had to be discussed and agreed upon. This required spending time with someone with web site design skills going over elements of the site like the layout, colours, formats, graphic elements, content, etc.

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

Understanding WordPress Themes

(image source:adobe.com)

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

The next phase in the evolution of website design was the introduction of “website templating elements”. A web site template allows the presentation of the web site to be worked on separately from content on the page. Having ready-made templates helped speed up the web development process and resulted in reduced production costs. This also enabled website development agencies to service business clients and clients with smaller budgets …

WordPress Themes - An Overview

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

As the number of small businesses adopting “template-based” web design services increased, templates started being designed that provided different customization settings, such as color palettes, the ability to specify different formats and elements, etc …

As web sites and website building tools developed, web templates also began to transform into website template “systems” that let website owners control the design aspects of a site.

And then, WordPress came along and helped to kick off a new website revolution …

WordPress 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 push the idea of a web template system even further.

The WordPress theme system controls and integrates every aspect of your website design. It lets you add a “skin” to your site in a similar way that a website template system does but it also also provides users with complete control over the management, presentation and customization of the template settings.

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 features of the WP theme is that the way your site looks to site visitors externally is controlled independently of your site’s functional aspects (e.g. content management and functionality).

Basically, what this means is that you can modify the design of your site as often as you want without affecting your site’s content and all the functionality you’ve built into it. For example, if your site has been set up for e-commerce, replacing the theme won’t affect the content or the functionality of the website. All e-commerce features, settings and product information will remain intact, 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 website to be completed. You can get your website built simply and start with any theme you want, and customize the entire look, feel and design of your WordPress site in minutes, whenever you choose … and as often as you like!

Even better, you can easily replace any theme on your WP site without having web code editing knowledge. Just choose any WordPress theme you want, upload it to your site 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 with just a couple of mouse clicks …

A Newbie's Guide To Understanding WordPress Themes

Since WordPress is open source software, website designers can design themes specifically for the WordPress platform using the WP templating system.

This means that thousands of high quality WordPress themes are made available to WP users. Themes are usually distributed for Free under the terms of the GNU General Public License Definition, or sold as Premium (paid) WP themes.

The WordPress team maintains a FREE theme directory which allows WordPress users to download, access and install thousands of excellent WP themes completely free of charge …

Understanding WordPress Themes

(WordPress.org – Free Theme Directory)

As more businesses turn to WordPress for online publishing, more designers are now focusing on creating themes for a wider range of applications.

WP themes vary from professional-looking, to fancy designs that are quite spectacular and would typically cost many hundreds of dollars to commission. Surprisingly, WP themes can be bought quite cheaply, especially when compared to what it would have cost you if a website designer had to code it from scratch.

You can view several WP theme galleries that include many examples of great premium WordPress themes in this page:

Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!

(Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!)

Benefits Of Using Themes

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

Be Up And Running In Very Little Time

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

A Basic Guide To Understanding WP Themes


  • WordPress has a large online community of professional theme designers who, collectively, make thousands of professional WP Themes available to users. Many of these themes are completely free to use!
  • Themes give sites a consistent design across all of the site’s elements, like pages, headers, footers, layout, etc …
  • A “theme” works independently of your blog’s content. This allows you change themes as often as you need without deleting the site’s information.
  • Many WP themes provide built-in features and options that let you customize the theme’s style and design elements to create a unique look to suit your business.
  • Many WP 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 allows you to search, import and install WordPress Themes automatically directly from within your admin panel.
  • WordPress themes lets you save thousands of dollars on web design costs. Free WP themes cost nothing and most “Premium”WP themes are typically very affordable.

Responsive Themes

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

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

Themes - An Introduction

A responsive theme is also optimized for each device type. Users can scroll, read and load the site on most if not all devices without having to readjust their browser settings, or requiring the website owner to install additional themes.

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

I hope that this post has provided you with a clearer overview of themes, what WordPress themes are, how they can help your business save money on website design costs, and how WP themes let you easily customize your WP site.

In our next article on helping you understand WordPress features, we show you where to find the best WP themes for your blog.


"Learning WordPress has been a huge stumbling block for me. I've been looking for something that covers absolutely everything but doesn't cost an arm and a leg. Thank you so much ... you have just provided me with what I have been looking for! Truly appreciated!" - Tanya


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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.