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 Beginners - An Introduction To WordPress ThemesAdvanced web site publishing systems like the WordPress Content Management System (CMS) have effectively improved web design and web development for users.

This is a great thing for business owners planning to build a website that they can manage.

Before blogging and the introduction of sophisticated CMS technologies, if you wanted a professional business site, you would have to wait until both the website development and web design processes were fully completed. This process could take weeks, even many months!

The introduction of WordPress themes have changed all this. In this article, we explore what WP themes are, how they can help your business save money on website design costs, and how themes allow you to easily customize your website.

The Evolution Of Web Design

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

Very briefly, this is what used to happen before applications like WordPress were developed:

The first step would be to meet with a website development firm or designer for a brief. After this, the actual design of the site itself would be discussed and agreed upon. This meant time being spent with a professional website designer going over things of your web site like the layout, colours, styles, visual elements, content, etc.

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

Themes - An Introduction

(image source:adobe.com)

Only once everything had been tested and performed how it should (and looking how a client had imagined it to look), was the site considered as being completed and ready for delivery.

The next stage in the evolution of website design was the introduction of “website templates”. A web site template allows the design of the website to be worked on separately from content on the page. The development of ready-made templates helped to make the process of developing websites faster and resulted in lowered costs of production. This also enabled website designers to service businesses and clients with less money to spend on marketing …

Themes - An Introduction

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

As more businesses began adopting “template-based” web design services, web templates were developed to offer clients with different customizable features, like the ability to switch colors, styles, layouts

As websites and web building software developed, website templates also started to evolve into website template “systems” that permitted users to manage the visual components of their website.

Then, WordPress came along and helped to start a new business 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

WordPress themes drive the idea of a website templating system further.

The WordPress theme system controls every aspect of your web design. It allows you to add a “skin” over your site much like a web template system does but also gives you complete control over the management, appearance and ability to customize the site’s template settings.

As the official WordPress site explains …

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 above, one of the unique features of WordPress is that the way your web site looks to visitors is a different thing from the way your website is configured internally to handle areas like content management and functionality.

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

Why is this such a big deal?

Because with WordPress, you no longer have to wait until your website’s design is completed. You can get your website built simply and start with any theme you want, and then customize the entire look, feel and design of your website in a few minutes, whenever you decide … and as often as you like!

Even better, you can easily install a theme on your site with no web design knowledge necessary. Simply pick any theme you want, install it on your website and activate it. WordPress allows you to change your entire site’s web design and modify elements like headers, page layout, style settings and more in less than a few minutes …

Understanding Themes

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

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

The WordPress team keeps a FREE WordPress Theme Directory which gives WordPress users access thousands of great website templates for free …

WP Themes - An Overview

(WordPress.org – WP Theme Directory)

As WordPress becomes more popular, more designers are now starting to create themes for a wider audience of WordPress site owners.

Themes vary from corporate-looking, to exciting designs that are breathtaking and could easily cost thousands of dollars to create. Surprisingly, themes are very inexpensive.

You can view a number of theme galleries that include many examples of great premium WordPress themes in this article:

Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!

(Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!)

Benefits Of Themes

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

Ready To Use In Minutes

Themes are very easy to install on your site. Simply upload a zip folder containing the plugin files to your Plugin folder via your WP admin area and activate. Even easier still, you can install any of the themes listed in the WordPress theme directory at WordPress.org) directly from your WP site’s admin area.

Themes - An Overview


  • WordPress has a thriving online community of professional theme developers and development companies who make thousands of fantastic WordPress Themes available to WP users. And many of these themes are completely free to use!
  • Themes give sites a unified and consistent look across all of the site’s elements, like pages, headers, footers, menus, etc …
  • A “theme” works independently of your web site’s content. This means you can swap the “look and feel” of your templates as often as you need without deleting the underlying content of your blog.
  • Many WP themes provide built-in features and settings that enable you to customize the theme’s layout and design properties and create a unique look to suit your needs.
  • Many themes are built using a framework that allows users to update the theme to newer versions without losing any customizations (e.g. styles)
  • WordPress allows you to search, upload, install and update WordPress Themes automatically inside your dashboard.
  • WP themes allow WP users to save hundreds of dollars on website design costs. Free themes cost nothing and most “Premium”WP themes are typically very affordable.

About Responsive WP Theme Design

Many WP theme developers are now creating “responsive” themes for the WordPress CMS platform.

A responsive theme enables a website to automatically resize to display smoothly over different monitor sizes and screen resolutions, as well as different devices (e.g. laptops, iPads, smart phones, etc.) …

WordPress Themes - An Overview

Responsive themes are also optimized for different platforms. Users can navigate, read and display your site on various device platforms without having to resize anything, or requiring the website owner to install additional display elements.

Note: When downloading WordPress themes, we strongly recommend choosing a responsive WordPress theme. Not only will the theme ensure that your web site works across all devices, it also means that the theme is newer than non-responsive themes and therefore complies with the latest standards and practices of web design.

We hope this overview has given you a clearer understanding of WP themes, what WordPress themes are, how WP themes can help you and your business save money on website development costs, and how WP themes let you easily customize your site.

In our next blog post in the article series on helping you understand features and functionality of WordPress, we show you where to find great WordPress themes for your website or blog.


"This is an awesome training series. I have a pretty good understanding of WordPress already, but this is helping me to move somewhere from intermediate to advanced user!" - Kim Lednum


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