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 Business - An Introduction To WordPress ThemesThe development of powerful web publishing applications like the WordPress CMS platform has truly improved web design and web development for website owners.

This is a great thing for individuals or businesses planning to start a website that is easy to manage.

Before blogging and the introduction of advanced content management systems, if you needed to get a professional web site for your business, you had to wait until both the website development and web design processes were fully completed. This could mean weeks, sometimes even months of waiting for the work to be done!

WordPress themes changed all this. In this blog post, you will learn what themes are, how themes save your business money on website design costs, and how themes allow you to easily customize your website.

A New Development In Website Design

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

Let’s briefly take a look at how things typically worked in “traditional” web development before system like WordPress came along:

First, you would meet with a web development agency or designer for a brief. After that, the actual ”look and feel” of your site would be decided upon. This meant spending time with someone with website design skills going over areas of the website such as the, colours, formats, page elements, content, etc.

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

WP Themes - An Introduction

(image source:adobe.com)

Only after everything had been tested and functioned how it was intended to (and looking how the client had imagined it to look), was the website deemed as being completed and ready to go live.

The next phase in the evolution of business web design was the introduction of “website templating elements”. Web templates allow the design of the web site to be worked on separately from content on the page. The introduction of template elements helped speed up the web site development process and resulted in lowered costs of production. This also allowed web site designers to expand their services to include businesses and clients with smaller budgets …

A Basic Guide To Understanding WordPress Themes

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

As the number of website development firms choosing “template-based” web design services increased, web templates were created that could offer expanding customization settings, like the option to choose different colours, styles, layouts

As websites and web building software evolved, web templates also started evolving into web template “systems” that allow website owners to manage the visual components of their site.

Then, WordPress was developed and helped to kick off a new online publishing 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:

The WordPress Theme

WordPress themes drive web template systems further.

The WP theme system controls and integrates the design elements of a web site. It lets you add a “skin” to your site much like a web template system does but also provides you with more control over the management, appearance and customization aspects of your template features.

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 quote states, one of the unique and revolutionary features of WordPress is that the way your web site displays to site visitors is a completely separate thing from the way your website works in the backend to handle areas like content management and functionality.

In simple terms, what this means is that a theme lets you modify the look and feel of your website as much and as often as you like without touching your site’s content and all the work you’ve put into it. For example, if your website has been set up for e-commerce, changing the entire look of your site with another theme won’t affect the content or the functionality of the site. All e-commerce features, site and plugin settings and product information will remain intact, but the site will look completely different.

This is huge! Why?

Because with WordPress, you no longer have to spend weeks or months waiting for your web design to be done. You can get your website built quickly and get started with any theme you like, and then completely change the look, feel and design of your website in mere minutes, whenever you decide … and as many times as you like!

Even better, you can easily install a theme on your site with no web code editing skills required. Simply pick any WordPress theme you like, install it on your website and activate it. WordPress allows you to change your website design and modify elements like header images, page layout, styling options and more in a few seconds …

WP Themes - An Overview

As WordPress is open source software, commercial web design companies anywhere in the world can create themes specifically for the WordPress CMS platform using the WP template system.

This means that loads of great WordPress themes are made available to WordPress users. Themes are usually distributed as Free Software under the terms of the GNU License Definition, or sold as Premium (paid) WordPress themes.

The WordPress development team maintains a FREE theme directory which allows WordPress users to access thousands of great themes at no cost …

Themes - An Overview

(WordPress.org – Free Theme Directory)

As the popularity of WordPress soars, more designers are now starting to create themes for a wider range of users.

WordPress themes range from minimal-looking, to designs that are beautiful and could normally cost thousands of dollars to design. Surprisingly, most themes can be bought quite inexpensively, especially when compared to what it would have cost you if a web designer had to create it from scratch.

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

Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!

(Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!)

Benefits Of Using WordPress Themes

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

Installation Is Easy

Themes are really easy to install on your site. Simply upload it to your Plugin folder via your WP administrator account and activate. Even easier still, you can install any of the themes listed in the free theme directory at WordPress.org) directly inside your WP site’s admin area.

WP Themes - An Introduction

Additionally …

  • WordPress has a large community of commercial web developers and development companies who make thousands of great-looking, high quality WP Themes available to users. Thousands of these themes are 100% free to use!
  • Themes give sites a consistent look across all of the site’s elements, i.e. pages, headers, footers, menus, etc …
  • A “theme” works independently of your website’s content. This allows you replace the “look and feel” of your website as often as you like without affecting the underlying content.
  • Many themes come with built-in functionality and options that allow you to customize the site’s style, layout and design properties and create a unique look to suit your preferences.
  • Many WP themes are built using a framework that allows you to update the theme to newer theme versions without losing its unique customizations (e.g. CSS styles)
  • WordPress lets you search, import and install WordPress Themes automatically inside the dashboard.
  • Themes helps you save hundreds of dollars on website development costs. Free WordPress themes cost nothing and most “Premium”WP themes are typically quite inexpensive.

About Responsive WP Themes

Many WP theme developers are now creating WordPress themes that incorporate “responsive” design protocols.

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

Themes - An Introduction

Responsive themes are also optimized for each platform. Users can navigate, read and load a site on a range of device browsers without having to readjust their browser settings, or requiring the website owner to have installed additional display elements.

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

We hope this post has provided you with a better overview of themes, what WP themes are, how themes help you save money on web design costs, and how WP themes make it easy to customize a website.

In the next article in our article series for non-technical users on understanding basic features and functionality of WordPress, we show you where to find great themes for your website.


"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


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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.