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 ThemesThe introduction of content publishing technologies like the WordPress CMS has effectively simplified web design and web development for business owners.

This is terrific news for businesses planning to start an online presence that they can manage by themselves.

Prior to blogging and the introduction of sophisticated CMS technologies, if you wanted to build a professional web site built for your business, you had to wait until both the web development and web design processes were fully completed. This could take weeks, sometimes even many months!

WordPress themes have changed all this. In this post, we will explore what WP themes are, how themes save you money on web development costs, and how themes help you easily customize your website.

Web Site Design Evolution

Businesses will benefit from a great change in web design that began shortly after websites were first introduced. If you are a small business owner, you may want to know about this, because it could save you thousands of dollars on web development or web design costs.

In a nutshell, this is how things typically worked in “traditional” web design before WordPress were introduced:

The first step would be to discuss your requirements with a web development company or web designer. After that, the actual ”look and feel” of your site had to be discussed and agreed upon. This meant spending time and money with someone with web design skills discussing things of your web site like the, colors, styles, graphic elements, content, etc.

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

Understanding WP Themes

(image source:adobe.com)

Only after everything passed testing and worked the way it was intended to (and looking the way the client had imagined it to look), was the site considered to be finished and ready to go live.

Then, website “templates” were introduced”. Web site templates allow the presentation of the website to be worked on separately from content on the page. The introduction of template elements helped speed up the process of developing web sites and resulted in lowered production costs. This also allowed web developers and designers to expand their services to include smaller businesses with less money to spend …

Understanding WP Themes

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

As more website development firms started using “template-based” web design services, web templates were created to provide clients with expanding customizable options, such as colour palettes, the ability to pick different content styles, formats, elements, page layouts, etc …

As websites and website editor software developed, website templates also began evolving into web templating “systems” that allow users and website designers to manage their web site’s design components.

And then, WordPress came along and helped to start a new online publishing 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:

The WordPress Theme

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

The WP theme system controls and integrates the design aspects of your website. 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 more control over the management, presentation and ability to customize template settings.

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 the way your website displays to site visitors on the outside is an entirely separate thing from the management of your content.

In plain English terms, what this means is that a WP theme lets you change the design of your site as often as you like without affecting your website’s content and all the functionality you’ve built into it. For example, if you have configured WP site 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 important. Why?

Because when your website is built with WordPress, you no longer have to spend weeks or months waiting for your web design to be done. You can get your business website built quickly and get started with any theme you like, and completely edit the look, feel and design of your site in seconds, whenever you choose … and as often as you like!

Even better, you can easily install a theme on your WordPress site with no website code development skills required. Simply choose any WP theme you want, install it on your website and activate it. WordPress lets you change your entire site’s web design and customize elements like headers, page layout, typography and more in a few seconds …

WP Themes - An Overview

Since WordPress is distributed as open source software, web design companies can design themes specifically for the WordPress platform using the WP templating system.

This means that thousands of high quality WordPress themes can be downloaded by WP users. WordPress are usually distributed freely under the terms of the GNU License Definition, or sold as Premium (i.e. paid) WP themes.

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

WP Themes - An Overview

(WordPress.org – WordPress Themes Directory)

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

Themes vary from simple-looking, to designs that are quite breathtaking and would normally cost hundreds to thousands of dollars to develop. Surprisingly, most premium WordPress themes are fairly inexpensive.

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

Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!

(Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!)

WordPress Themes – Benefits

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

Very Easy To Install

WordPress themes are very easy to install on your site. Simply upload it to your Plugin folder via your WordPress dashboard and activate. Even easier still, you can install any of the themes listed in the WP themes repository at WordPress.org) directly inside your WordPress site’s admin area.

A Newbie's Guide To Understanding Themes

Additionally …

  • WordPress has a large online community of professional web developers and development companies who contribute thousands of excellent WordPress Themes available to users. And many of these themes are completely free to use!
  • Themes give sites a consistent “look and feel” across all the blog’s elements, i.e. pages, headers, footers, menus, etc …
  • A “theme” works independently of your site’s content. This makes it possible to swap themes as often as you like without modifying the site’s data.
  • Many themes come with additional functionality and options that allow you to customize the site’s layout and design properties and create a unique look to suit your business.
  • Many themes are built using a framework that allows you to upgrade the theme to newer theme versions without losing any customizations (e.g. CSS styles)
  • WordPress allows you to search, upload and install WordPress Themes automatically inside your site’s administration interface.
  • Themes allow WordPress users to save thousands of dollars on website design costs. Free themes cost nothing and most “Premium”themes are normally quite affordable.

Responsive WordPress Themes

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

A responsive theme enables a website to automatically reconfigure the layout to display smoothly across different monitor sizes and screen resolutions, as well as different platforms) …

Themes - An Introduction

Responsive themes are also optimized for different types of devices. Users can navigate, read and display the site on all device platforms without having to readjust their browser settings, or requiring the website owner to have installed additional browser elements.

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

I hope that this basic overview has given you a clearer understanding about WordPress themes, what themes are, how they can help you and your business save money on website design costs, and how WP themes make it easy to customize your website.

To learn where to find the best themes for your website or blog, visit this page: Where To Search For Great Paid And Free WordPress Templates Online.


"If you're new to WordPress, this can stand on its own as a training course and will stay with you as you progress from beginner to advanced and even guru status." - Bruce (Columbus, Ohio)


For a whitelabel version of this tutorial visit WPTrainingManual.com.
Originally published as WordPress Themes Explained.