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 For Newbies - An Overview Of ThemesThe introduction of advanced content publishing tools like WordPress has effectively improved web design and web development for anyone wanting a website.

This is a great thing for non-technical users thinking about starting an online presence that they can easily manage themselves.

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

WordPress themes changed all this. In this article, we explain what WP themes are, how they save you and your business money on web design costs, and how WordPress themes allow you to easily customize your WordPress site.

The Evolution Of Web Design

Businesses will benefit from a tremendous revolution in website design that has been going for several years now. If you are a small business owner, you may want to know more about this, because it can save your business thousands of dollars on web development or website design costs.

In a nutshell, here’s what used to happen before WordPress were developed:

First, you would discuss your project with a website developer or designer. Next, the design of the site had to be decided upon. This required spending time with someone with web site design skills going over things of your web site such as the layout, colors, formats, page elements, content, etc.

Each page of your site then had to be individually created with all of the elements and codes written into your page content. All pages were then assembled together into a web site using links and custom coded navigation menus and uploaded to your server, together with all other files needed to make your website work – script libraries, images, media elements, etc.

Understanding Themes

(image source:adobe.com)

Only once everything passed testing and performed the way it was intended to (and looking how the client had imagined it to look), was the site considered as being finished and ready for sign off.

The next stage in the evolution of business website design was the introduction of “website templating elements”. A web site template allows ”look and feel” elements of the web site to be created separately from the page content. The introduction of template elements helped to make the process of creating web sites faster and resulted in lowered costs of production. This also allowed website development companies to expand their services to include businesses with smaller budgets …

WP Themes - An Introduction

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

As the number of web site development agencies choosing “template-based” websites increased, web templates were created that could provide a number of customization features, such as the ability to choose different colors, styles, layouts

As websites and web editor tools evolved, website templates also started evolving into website template “systems” that permitted users to manage their website’s design components.

And then, a “blogging” software called WordPress was developed and helped to start a new website revolution …

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:

The WordPress Theme

A WordPress theme drives the concept of a web templating system further.

A WP theme controls and integrates all of the design areas of the web site. It allows you to add a “skin” to your entire site in a similar way that a template system does but it also also gives you more control over the management and customization aspects of template options.

As WordPress puts it …

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 stated in the quote above, a unique feature of WordPress is that how your website displays to visitors in no way affects your site’s content management aspects.

In simple terms, what this means is that a theme lets you change the design of your website as often as you want without touching your site’s content and all the work you’ve put into it. For example, if you have set up your website for e-commerce, changing the entire look of your site with another theme won’t affect the content or the functionality of your 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 site is built with WordPress, you no longer have to wait until your website’s design is done. You can get your business website built simply and get started with any WP theme you like, and then completely modify the look, feel and design of your WordPress site in seconds, whenever you decide … and as many times as you like!

Even better, you can easily install a theme on your WP site without the need of web coding skills. Just choose any theme you like, upload it to your site and activate it. WordPress lets you change your site’s design and modify elements like headers, page layout, style settings and more with just a few mouse clicks …

Understanding Themes

Because WordPress is distributed as open source software, hundreds of website designers can design themes specifically for the WordPress platform using the WP templating system.

This means that thousands of great WordPress themes can be downloaded by WP users. Themes are generally distributed for FREE under the terms of the GNU General Public License Definition, or sold as Premium (paid) WP themes.

The WordPress team keeps a FREE directory of WP themes which allows WordPress users to download, access and install thousands of great WordPress themes at $0 cost …

Understanding WordPress Themes

(WordPress.org – Theme Directory)

As WordPress becomes more popular, more designers are now starting to develop themes for a wider range of uses.

Themes vary from corporate-looking, to stylish designs that are simply stunning and could normally cost many hundreds of dollars to create. Surprisingly, themes can be purchased quite inexpensively, especially when compared to what it would have cost you if a website designer had to build it from scratch.

You can see a number of theme galleries containing stunning examples of themes here:

Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!

(Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!)

Themes – Benefits

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

Be Up And Running In Minutes

Themes are quite easy to install on your site. Just upload a zip file containing the plugin files to your Plugins folder via your WordPress admin area and activate. Even easier still, you can install any of the themes listed in the theme repository at WordPress.org) directly from your WP admin’s “Theme” section.

WP Themes - An Overview

Additionally …

  • WordPress has a growing online community of commercial theme designers who contribute thousands of great-looking, high quality WordPress Themes available to users. Many of these themes are completely free to use!
  • Themes give sites a unified and consistent look across all of the blog’s elements, like pages, headers, footers, menus, etc …
  • A “theme” works independently of your website’s content. This means you can change WordPress themes as often as you want without changing your blog settings.
  • Many themes come with built-in features and options that allow you to easily customize your theme’s layout, style and design properties and create a unique look to suit your taste.
  • Many 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, import, install and update WordPress Themes automatically right within the site’s administration interface.
  • WordPress themes allow users to save hundreds, even thousands of dollars on web development costs. Free themes cost nothing and most “Premium”themes are typically quite inexpensive.

About Responsive WP Themes

Many theme developers are now developing WordPress themes that incorporate “responsive” design.

A responsive theme enables a website to automatically resize to display smoothly over different screen sizes and resolutions, as well as across different platforms) …

WordPress Themes - An Introduction

A responsive theme is also optimized for each device type. Users can scroll, read and display the site on a range of device platforms without having to readjust their browser settings, or requiring the website owner to install additional browser elements.

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

Hopefully, this post has helped you gain a clearer understanding of WordPress themes, what themes are, how WordPress themes help you save money on web design costs, and how WordPress themes make it easy to customize a WordPress site.

In our next blog post in the article series on helping you understand WP features, we show you where to search for the best themes for your website or blog.

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"Wow! I never knew there's so much to learn about WordPress! I bought one of the WordPress for Dummies three years ago, such authors need to be on this course!" - Rich Law, Create A Blog Now


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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.