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.

Landing Pages for WordPress

WP For Beginners - An Introduction To WordPress ThemesThe development of advanced web site publishing applications like the WordPress Content Management System (CMS) has truly improved web design and web development for anyone wanting a website.

This is great for business owners planning to start or build a digital presence that they can easily manage by themselves.

Before “blogging” and the development of powerful content management systems, if you needed a professional business website, you normally had to wait until both the website development and website design processes were fully completed. This process could take many weeks, even months!

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

Website Design Evolution

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

Let’s go over how things worked in “traditional” web design before a CMS tool like WordPress was developed:

The first step would be to meet with a web developer or designer for a brief. Next, the actual design itself would be discussed and agreed upon. This meant spending time and money with someone with web site design skills going over areas of the site such as the, colors, formats, graphic elements, content, etc.

Every page of your website then had to be hand-coded with all of the elements and codes inserted into the content. The pages were then assembled into a web site using hyperlinks and navigation menus and uploaded to your server, along 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 once everything passed testing and functioned the way it was intended to (and looking the way a client had imagined it to look), was the site considered to be finished and ready to go live.

Then, web design “templates” came along”. A website template allows ”look and feel” elements of the website to be worked on separately from content on the page. The introduction of templates helped to speed up the website development process and resulted in reduced costs of production. This also allowed web site development agencies to expand their services to include business clients and clients with smaller marketing budgets …

WP Themes - An Overview

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

As the number of website development firms using “template-based” websites increased, templates were introduced that could offer expanding customizable features, like the option to switch colours, styles, layouts

As web sites and website building applications evolved, website templates also started evolving into website template “systems” that let website owners customize the design elements of a web site.

Then, a “blogging” tool called WordPress came along and helped to kick off a new digital publishing revolution …

WP Themes - An Introduction

(WordPress – A Content Publishing Revolution)

help To learn more about content management systems and the benefits of the WordPress CMS, see the tutorial below:

redarrow Benefits Of Using WordPress As A Content Management System (CMS)

The WordPress Theme

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

The WordPress theme system controls every aspect of your site’s design. It lets you add a “skin” over your site in a similar way that a website template system does but it also also gives you complete control over the management, appearance and customization of template options.

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 the WordPress theme is that how your website looks to site visitors is controlled independently of your site’s content management aspects.

Basically, what this means is that WordPress themes let you modify the look and feel of your site as often as you like without touching your website’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 web site. All e-commerce features, site settings and product information will remain unaffected, but the site will look completely different.

This is huge! Why?

Because with WordPress, you no longer need to wait until your website’s design is completed. You can get your website built simply and get started with any WordPress theme you like, and then modify the entire look, feel and design of your site in mere seconds, whenever you choose … and as often as you like!

Even better, you can easily replace any theme on your site without the need of web coding skills. Just choose any theme you like, install it on your website and activate it. WordPress lets you change your website design and customize elements like headers, page layout, style settings and more in a few seconds …

WordPress Themes - An Introduction

Because WordPress is made available as open source software, professional web design companies can design themes specifically for the WP CMS platform using the WP templating system.

This means that loads of great WP themes are made available to WP users. Themes are normally distributed for Free under the terms of the GNU General Public License, or they can be purchased as Premium (i.e. paid) WP themes.

The WordPress team keeps a FREE directory of WordPress themes which allows WordPress users to download, access and install thousands of great themes for free …

Understanding Themes

(WordPress.org – Themes Directory)

As more users turn to WordPress for online publishing, more designers are now starting to create themes for a wider range of applications.

Themes vary from bare-looking, to jaw-dropping designs that are simply breathtaking and could typically cost many hundreds of dollars to commission. Surprisingly, most WP themes are very inexpensive to buy.

You can see a number of WP theme galleries containing various examples of WP themes in this article: How To Find Great Free And Paid Responsive WordPress Themes For Your Business

Benefits & Advantages Of Using WordPress Themes

Here are just some of the many benefits of using WordPress themes over using web development applications that require traditional website design:

Installation Is Easy, Simple And Quick

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

WP Themes - An Introduction

Additionally …

  • WordPress has a growing online community of professional web developers who make thousands of professional WordPress Themes available to users. Many of these themes are completely free to use!
  • Themes give sites a consistent “look and feel” across all your site’s elements, like pages, headers, footers, menus, etc …
  • A “theme” works independently of your site’s content. This allows you swap the “look and feel” of your website as often as you want without deleting your blog content.
  • Many WordPress themes come with additional functionality and options that enable you to easily customize your theme’s style, layout and design elements and create a unique look to suit your business.
  • Many themes are built using a framework that enables users to upgrade themes to newer theme versions without losing any unique customizations (e.g. styles)
  • WordPress lets you search, import and install WordPress Themes automatically within the site’s administration interface.
  • WordPress themes allow WordPress users to save thousands of dollars on website development costs. Free themes cost nothing and most “Premium”themes are normally very affordable.

Responsive Theme Design

Many theme developers are now developing “responsive” themes.

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

WordPress Themes - An Overview

A responsive theme is also optimized for each device type. Users can scroll, read and load the site on various devices without having to readjust their browser settings, or requiring website owners to install additional browser elements.

Note: When selecting, WordPress themes, we recommend choosing a responsive WordPress theme. Not only will the theme ensure that the content and layout of your site will work correctly across all devices, but it also means that the theme is newer than most non-responsive themes and therefore complies with the latest standards, practices and techniques of website design coding.

Hopefully, the above overview has helped you gain a better understanding of WordPress themes, what WordPress themes are, how WordPress themes help you and your business save money, and how WordPress themes make customizing sites easy.

In the next article on helping you understand WordPress features, we show you where to search for great themes for your website or blog.


"These tutorials have so much information and are easy to understand. If you use WordPress or plan to in the future these will help you with everything you need to know." - Valisa (Mesa, Arizona)

Disclaimer: This site is not associated with WordPress, Automattic, or any of the WordPress products reviewed on this website. We may receive an affiliate commission from the sale of third-party services and products advertised, endorsed or linked from our site. All product images remain the copyright of their respective owners and comply with all license terms and agreements of use.

Get Thrive Leads for WordPress


Did you find this article useful? Please feel free to use the links below to share this tutorial with other WordPress users.

Author: Martin Aranovitch

WPCompendium.org provides hundreds of FREE WordPress tutorials for beginners. Our detailed step-by-step tutorials will save you money and teach you how to start, manage, and grow a website or blog using WordPress that puts you in complete control and delivers results with no coding skills required!