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.

A Basic Guide To Understanding ThemesThe introduction of powerful web management systems like the WordPress CMS has truly improved web design and web development for anyone wanting a website.

This greatly benefits non-technical users planning to start or build a digital presence that is easy to manage.

Before “blogging” and the development of powerful content management systems, if you wanted to build a site built for your business, you typically had to wait until both the website development and website design processes were completely done. This process could mean waiting for weeks, sometimes even many months!

WordPress themes changed all this. In this article, you will learn what themes are, how WordPress themes save you money on web design costs, and how WP themes make it easy to customize your website.

Evolution In Website Design

Businesses are benefiting from a tremendous revolution in website design that started many years ago. If you own a small business, you may want to learn more about this, because it can save you thousands of dollars on website development and website design costs.

Very briefly, this is how things typically worked in “traditional” website design before a CMS solution like WordPress came along:

The first step would be to meet with a web developer or designer for a brief. Then, the actual design would be discussed and agreed upon. This involved time and money being spent with someone with website design skills going over areas of your web site like the, colors, formats, graphic elements, content, etc.

Each page of your site then had to be individually created with all of the design elements and codes written into the content. All pages were then assembled into a web site using hyperlinks and navigation menus and uploaded to your server, along with every other file needed to make your site work – script libraries, graphic images, media, etc.

WP Themes - An Introduction

(image source:adobe.com)

Only after everything passed testing and performed how it was supposed to (and looking how a client had wanted it to look), was the web site deemed as being completed and ready for delivery.

Then, web design “templates” came along”. A web site template allows ”look and feel” elements of the website to be worked on separately from the page content. Having ready-made templates helped to speed up the process of developing websites and resulted in lowered costs of production. This also enabled web site development agencies to work with business clients with less money to spend …

Themes - An Introduction

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

As more small businesses started adopting “template-based” web design services, templates started being developed to offer clients with various customizable features, like the ability to switch colours, styles, layouts

As web sites and web editing applications evolved, website templates also started to transform into website templating “systems” that allow users to control the visual aspects of their web site.

And then, WordPress was introduced and helped to kick off a new content management revolution …

WordPress 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:

About WordPress Themes

WordPress themes expand the concept of a website templating system one step further.

A WP theme controls and unifies every aspect of your web site design. It lets you add a “skin” to your site similarly to what a template system does but also provides you with more control over the management and customization of all template options.

As explained in 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, a unique and revolutionary feature of the WordPress theme is that the way your web site appears to visitors externally does not affect the way your content is managed.

Basically, what this means is that WordPress themes let you change the appearance of your site as much and as often as you want without modifying your website’s content and all the work you’ve put into it. For example, if you have set up your site for e-commerce, changing the entire look of the site with another theme won’t affect the content or the functionality of the web site. All e-commerce features, plugin settings and product information will remain intact, but your site will look completely different.

This is important. Why?

Because when your website is powered with WordPress, you no longer need to spend weeks or months waiting for your website to be done. You can get your business website built simply and get started with any WordPress theme you want, and then completely edit 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 replace any theme on your WordPress site without needing web design knowledge. Just pick any theme you want, upload it to your site and activate it. WordPress allows you to change your website design and customize elements like headers, layout, style settings and more in minutes …

A Basic Guide To Understanding WordPress Themes

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

This means that thousands of high quality WP themes are made available to WordPress users. Themes are generally distributed freely under the terms of the GNU License Definition, or they can be purchased as Premium (paid) themes.

The WordPress development team keeps a FREE theme directory which gives WordPress users access thousands of excellent themes for free …

WP Themes - An Introduction

(WordPress.org – WordPress Themes Directory)

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

Themes vary from bare-looking, to designs that are stunning and would normally cost hundreds to thousands of dollars to create. Surprisingly, most premium themes can be bought quite cheaply, especially when compared to what you would have been charged if a web designer had to develop it from scratch.

You can see several theme galleries containing many examples of great WordPress themes here:

Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!

(Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!)

Benefits Of Using Themes

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

WordPress Theme Installation Is Easy, Quick & Simple

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

Understanding WP Themes


  • WordPress has a thriving online community of commercial website designers who contribute thousands of quality WordPress Themes available to users. Many of these themes are completely free to use!
  • Themes give sites a unified and consistent design across all of the blog’s elements, like pages, headers, footers, menus, layout, etc …
  • A “theme” works independently of your site’s content. This means you can change WordPress themes as often as you like without modifying your blog information.
  • Many themes come with built-in functionality and options that enable you to easily customize your theme’s layout and design properties and create a unique look to suit your preferences.
  • Many WP themes are built using a framework that enables you to upgrade the theme to newer versions without losing any unique customizations (e.g. styles)
  • WordPress lets you search, import and install WordPress Themes automatically within your dashboard.
  • WP themes allow WP users to save thousands of dollars on web development costs. Free WP themes cost nothing and most “Premium”themes are normally very inexpensive.

Responsive Themes

Many theme designers are now developing “responsive” themes for the WP CMS.

A responsive theme allows a website to automatically readjust screen size to display smoothly across different monitor sizes and screen resolutions, as well as across different devices (e.g. computers, tablets, smart phones, etc.) …

Understanding WP Themes

Responsive themes are also optimized for each device type. Users can navigate, read and load the site on various devices without having to resize anything, or requiring website owners to have installed additional browser tools.

Note: When searching for WordPress themes, it’s a good idea to choose a responsive WordPress theme. Not only will the theme ensure that your web site works across all devices, but it also means that the theme is newer than most non-responsive themes and therefore complies with the latest standards and practices of website design and web coding.

We hope that this post has given you a better overview of WP themes, what themes are, how themes help your business save money, and how themes let you easily customize a web site.

In the next article in the article WP newbies on helping you understand WordPress features, we show you where to search for the best WP themes for your blog.


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Originally published as WordPress Themes Explained.