What is a WordPress Theme – Your Non-Technical Guide


Category: | Reading Time: 5 minutes

The introduction of website publishing technologies like WordPress has truly simplified web design and web development for web users.

This is also great for business owners that want to own a website that they can manage by themselves.

Prior to “blogging” and the development of powerful and simple CMS applications, if you wanted to build a professional website for your business, you would have to wait until both the web development and website design processes were fully completed. This could take many 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 website design costs, and how WordPress themes help you easily customize your WordPress site.

Website Design Revolution

More businesses will benefit from a tremendous revolution in web design that began shortly after websites were first introduced. If you are a small business owner, you may want to know more about this, because it could save your business thousands of dollars on website development and web design costs.

Let’s briefly go over how things used to work in “traditional” web development before CMS systems like WordPress came along:

First, you would meet with a website development agency or web site designer for a brief. After this, the design of the site had to be decided upon. This meant time being spent with someone with web site design skills going over elements of the site such as the, colors, formats, visual elements, content, etc.

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

What is a WordPress Theme - Introduction

(image source:adobe.com)

Only after everything had been tested and was performing how it should (and looking the way a client had wanted it to look), was the website considered as being completed and ready for sign off.

The next stage in the evolution of business web design was the introduction of “website templates”. Web templates allow “look and feel” elements of the website to be worked on separately from content on the page. The introduction of ready-made templates helped make the process of website creation faster and resulted in reduced costs of production. This also enabled web designers to expand their services to include businesses and clients with smaller marketing budgets …

What is a WordPress Theme - An Overview

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

As more small businesses started choosing “template-based” web design services, web templates were designed to offer various custom options, like the option to switch colours, styles, layouts

As websites and web building applications developed, web templates also began transforming into web template “systems” that allowed users to control the design elements of a website.

And then, WordPress came along and helped to start a new online publishing revolution …

What is a WordPress Theme - Understanding Themes

The WordPress Theme

WordPress themes expand the idea of a website templating system much further.

The WordPress theme system controls and unifies every aspect of your web design. It lets you add a “skin” over your site much like a web template system does but also provides you with complete control over the management, appearance and customization of template features.

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 stated in the quote above, one of the unique and revolutionary features of a WordPress theme is that the way your site looks to site visitors on the outside is a completely different system from your site’s functional aspects (e.g. content management and functionality).

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

This is huge! Why?

Because with WordPress, you no longer have to spend weeks or months waiting for your site to be done. You can get your website built quickly and start with any WordPress theme you like, and then customize the entire look, feel and design of your WordPress site in seconds, whenever you decide … and as many times as you like!

Even better, you can easily replace any theme on your WordPress site with no website code programming skills necessary. Simply pick any WordPress theme you like, upload it to your site and activate it. WordPress lets you change your website design and modify elements like headers, page layout, style settings and more in a few seconds …

Understanding a WordPress Theme

Since WordPress is made available as open source software, thousands of website designers can design themes specifically for the WordPress platform using the WordPress templating system.

This means that thousands of great WordPress themes can be downloaded by WordPress users. Themes are generally distributed freely under the terms of the GNU General Public License Definition, or they can be purchased as Premium (paid) WordPress themes.

The WordPress development team keeps a FREE directory of WordPress themes which gives WordPress users access thousands of excellent website templates at no cost …

WordPress Themes - An Introduction

(WordPress.org – Theme Directory)

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

WordPress themes vary from corporate-looking, to designs that are beautiful and would typically cost hundreds to many thousands of dollars to design. Surprisingly, most premium WordPress themes are very inexpensive.

You can see several WordPress theme galleries containing many examples of great premium WordPress themes in this article

Benefits Of WordPress Themes

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

Really Easy To Install

Themes are very easy to install on your site. Simply upload it to your Plugins folder via your WordPress dashboard and activate. Even easier still, you can install any of the themes listed in the WordPress themes repository at WordPress.org) directly from your WordPress admin’s “Theme” section.

What is a WordPress Theme - How to install & upload

Additionally,

  • WordPress has a large community of commercial web developers and development companies who, collectively, make thousands of great-looking, high quality WordPress Themes available to WordPress users. Thousands of these themes are 100% free to use!
  • Themes give sites a consistent design across all your site’s elements, i.e. pages, headers, footers, layout, etc …
  • A “theme” works independently of your site’s content. This makes it possible to replace the “look and feel” of your templates as often as you want without modifying the website’s settings.
  • Many themes come with additional features and settings that enable you to easily customize your theme’s layout and design elements and create a unique look to suit your needs.
  • Many WordPress themes are built using a framework that lets users upgrade themes to newer versions without losing its unique customizations (e.g. styles)
  • WordPress allows you to search, upload and install WordPress Themes automatically from the admin panel.
  • WordPress themes lets you save hundreds, even thousands of dollars on website development costs. Free WordPress themes cost nothing and most “Premium”themes are normally very inexpensive.

Responsive WordPress Theme Design

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

A responsive theme allows websites to automatically resize to display smoothly over different monitor sizes and screen resolutions, as well as across different platforms) …

What is a WordPress Theme - An Overview

Responsive themes are also optimized for different platforms. Users can navigate, read and load a site on different device browsers without having to readjust their browser settings, or requiring website owners to install additional display elements.

Note: When selecting, WordPress themes, it’s a good idea to choose a responsive WordPress theme. Not only will the theme ensure that the content and layout of your site works on all devices, it also means that the theme is newer than most non-responsive themes and therefore should comply with the latest standards and practices of website design.

I hope that the above article has given you a better understanding of WordPress themes, what WordPress themes are, how themes help you and your business save money, and how themes make it easy to customize your WordPress site.

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


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