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.

Themes - An OverviewFlexible web site management applications like the WordPress CMS have effectively improved web design and web development for website owners.

This is a great thing for non-technical users wanting to start a digital presence that is simple and easy to manage.

Before “blogging” and the introduction of easy-to-use content management systems, if you wanted to get a web site for your business, you normally would have to wait until both the web development and website design processes were completely done. This process could take many weeks, even many months!

WordPress themes helped change all this. In this post, you will learn what WP themes are, how themes help you save money, and how WordPress themes allow you to easily customize your site.

Evolution In Web Site Design

More website owners today will benefit from a change in website design that began shortly after websites were first introduced. If you are a business owner, you may want to learn more about this, because it can save your business a lot of time and money on website development and website design costs.

Let’s briefly go over how things typically worked in “traditional” website design before WordPress were developed:

The first step would be to meet with a web developer or web designer for a brief. After that, the design itself would be discussed and agreed upon. This meant time being spent with a professional website designer discussing design elements of your website like the layout, colors, styles, visual elements, content, etc.

Each page of your web site then had to be hand-coded with all the design elements and codes written into the content. All the pages were then assembled together into a web site using hyperlinks 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.

A Basic Guide To Understanding WP Themes

(image source:adobe.com)

Only once everything had been tested and performed how it should (and looking the way the client had wanted it to look), was the site considered to be completed and ready for sign off.

The next phase in the evolution of business web design was the introduction of “website templating elements”. A web template allows design elements of the website to be worked on separately from content on the page. The development of ready-made templates helped make the process of building websites faster and resulted in reduced production costs. This also enabled website development companies to expand their services to include smaller business clients with smaller budgets …

Themes - An Introduction

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

As the number of web site development agencies adopting “template-based” web design services increased, web templates started being introduced to provide clients with a range of customizable options, like the ability to choose different colors, styles, layouts

As websites and web editing tools developed, web templates also started transforming into web templating ”systems”, enabling website owners to customize their website’s design aspects.

Then, a “blogging” software called WordPress was introduced and helped to kick off a new website revolution …

A Newbie's Guide To Understanding WP Themes

(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

A WordPress theme expands the idea of a website templating system much further.

The WordPress theme system controls and integrates the design elements of the website. It allows you to add a “skin” over your site similarly to what a website template system does but it also also gives you more control over the management and ability to customize template settings.

As the official WordPress site explains it …

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, a unique and revolutionary feature of the WordPress theme is that the way your web site looks to visitors externally is kept independent of the management of your content.

Basically, what this means is that a WordPress theme lets you modify the design of your website as often as you want without affecting your site’s content and all the functionality you’ve built into it. For example, if you have set up your site for e-commerce, replacing the theme won’t affect the content or the functionality of the web site. All e-commerce features, settings and product information will remain intact, but your site will look completely different.

Why is this important?

Because with WordPress, you no longer have to wait until your site’s web design is completed. You can get your business website built simply 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 choose … and as often as you like!

Even better, you can easily replace any theme on your site with no web code development knowledge required. Simply pick a theme you want, install it on your website and activate it. WordPress allows you to change your web design and customize elements like header images, page layout, style settings and more in a few seconds …

WordPress Themes - An Introduction

As WordPress is made available as open source software, web designers anywhere in the world can create themes specifically for the WP CMS platform using the WP template system.

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

The WordPress development team keeps a FREE directory of WP themes which gives WordPress users access thousands of great themes completely free of charge …

Themes - An Overview

(WordPress.org – WordPress Themes Directory)

As WordPress becomes more popular, more designers are now focused on creating themes for a wider range of applications.

Themes range from corporate-looking, to exciting designs that are quite impressive and would easily cost thousands of dollars to commission. Surprisingly, themes are quite inexpensive.

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

Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!

(Browse Thousands Of FREE WordPress Themes!)

Benefits And Advantages Of WP Themes

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

Ready To Use In Very Little Time

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

A Basic Guide To Understanding WordPress Themes


  • WordPress has a large community of professional web designers and design companies who, collectively, make thousands of excellent WordPress Themes available to users. And many of these themes are completely free to use!
  • Themes give sites a unified and consistent design across all your site’s elements, i.e. pages, headers, footers, layout, etc …
  • A “theme” works independently of your website’s content. This makes it possible to swap the “look and feel” of your templates as often as you like without deleting your website’s settings.
  • Many WP themes come with built-in functionality and settings that enable you to customize your theme’s style and design properties and create a unique look to suit your needs.
  • Many themes are built using a framework that enables you to upgrade themes to newer theme versions without losing its unique customizations (e.g. styles)
  • WordPress lets you search, import and install WordPress Themes automatically directly from the dashboard.
  • WP themes helps you save hundreds of dollars on website development costs. Free WordPress themes cost nothing and most “Premium”themes are typically very affordable.

Responsive Themes

Many theme designers are now developing themes that incorporate “responsive” design.

A responsive theme enables websites to automatically readjust the web layout to display smoothly across different monitor sizes and screen resolutions, as well as different devices (e.g. PCs, iPads, smart phones, etc.) …

Themes - An Overview

A responsive theme is also optimized for different platforms. Users can navigate, read and display your site on most devices without having to resize anything, or requiring website owners to install additional browser elements.

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 your visitors’ devices, but it also means that the theme is newer than non-responsive themes and therefore complies with the latest standards, practices and techniques of web design.

We hope the above article has given you a good overview of themes, what WordPress themes are, how they help your business save money, and how WP themes make it easy to customize your site.

To learn where to search for great themes for your website, click here:


"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


Originally published as WordPress Themes Explained.