Were you ever wondering what is a WordPress theme?
Yup, it’s something that makes your website look amazing.
But A LOT is going on behind the scenes to create that shiny appearance you get after you install your brand-new theme. (We also have a full tutorial on how to install a WordPress theme.)
This post covers:
- What is a WordPress theme and how does it work?
- Benefits of using a WordPress theme
- 5 elements of a good WordPress theme
- Multipurpose vs. niche WordPress themes
- Free vs. premium WordPress themes
- What is the difference between a WordPress theme and a template?
- What is the difference between HTML and WordPress?
- What is the difference between a parent and child theme?
- What’s the difference between a theme and a page builder
- What is the difference between a theme and a plugin?
- Where to find a quality WordPress theme
- How do I find out what theme a website is using?
- FAQs about WordPress themes
Let’s start with a slightly boring definition of a WordPress theme.
What Is A WordPress theme And How Does It Work?
A WordPress theme can change everything from your website’s layout to the typography, colors of your fonts, background colors, design of your widgets, and much more.
It’s important to note that the WordPress theme MODIFIES how your website is displayed without making any changes to the WordPress core files.
That is very important as it allows seamless switching between themes without any impact on the overall functionality of the website and its content.
And any beginner can do it!
WordPress can’t work without a theme.
So, when you install WordPress core on your website, it will come with a default WordPress theme.
This ensures your website works properly from the start.
But most users won’t keep the default theme as it’s very basic with a plain design. I have never.
HEY (!), no one wants a website with a similar design to thousands of other pages.
Benefits Of Using A WordPress Theme
There are many benefits of using a theme and WordPress in general.
Stability and security
WordPress has been around since 2003 and has a long history of improvements and security updates.
So far, we have witnessed 5+ major releases and 100s of small releases with bug fixes, security improvements, UI redesigns, and much more.
The professionalism of the team behind WordPress grew with each passing year and it’s now one of the most trusted CMS platforms.
One BIG advantage of WordPress is its open-source code, which created a huge community that helps with the development process.
The more volunteers you have working on the system, the more bugs they will find and fix.
Constant development and improvements
The WordPress community has 1,000s enthusiastic developers and designers that are constantly improving the overall design and functionality of WordPress.
And that helps a lot with the workflow and makes the job easier for developers.
You can also check the WordPress roadmap that shows how the platform will evolve in the future.
All the facts above make WordPress a stable, secure, and overall strong platform.
If you are developing your website for years to come, that is the most important factor you should look for.
Search Engines Optimization
WordPress has been around for almost as long as Google.
That’s why a BIG PART of the WordPress development process was always ensuring its top-notch SEO optimization.
Everyone should always build their website with search rankings in mind. After all, we are all making content so people would find it and read it – and BENEFIT from it.
A very important part of SEO are permalinks.
WordPress allows you to set different types of link structures to have “pretty” URLs for better search engine optimization.
These allow Google to crawl your WordPress website much easier.
Because their format helps the search engine know what your content is about.
In case you’re wondering, we also have a tutorial on what is a WordPress slug.
5 Elements Of A Good WordPress Theme
While WordPress is a great CMS, not every theme is good enough for your website.
You should research a bit before you buy a WordPress theme and the focus point should be on the following elements.
I’ve SEEN a lot of unreliable themes, so make sure you always check for at least the following five features first thing:
1. Responsive web design
The mobile-ready layout is one of the most important aspects of today’s web design.
It’s not only important design-wise but also for search rankings.
That’s why you should pay a lot of attention to it.
Check every WordPress theme you intend to buy on your mobile devices and with online responsiveness checkers.
Tip: It’s also important that you choose a fast WordPress theme (because it contributes to SEO, like responsiveness).
2. Search engine optimization
SEO optimization is perhaps more connected to your content and WordPress plugins, but it’s important that the theme also follows the correct SEO semantics. (I’m speaking about technical SEO here.)
ALWAYS check the typography page on live demo pages of the WordPress theme you are about to purchase.
Make sure the heading size is displayed properly in the hierarchy (headings H1 to H6).
Are the core of WordPress so it’s important that themes use this to their advantage.
Ensure you always check how theme options are designed in the WordPress theme you are checking out.
Usually, theme authors will prepare a short video presentation or at least a good image presentation in the theme’s description.
Changing the typography, colors, layouts, social networks, etc. should be an integral part of the WordPress administration panel.
Of course, a WordPress page builder is a big part of customizations because it makes the process user- and newbie-friendly.
4. Technical support and updates
Support and updates will play an IMPORTANT role if you want to stick with the theme for many years.
Some website owners like to change themes often, but most will want to keep using the same one for(ever).
My advice: If you choose a solid theme, you can comfortably use it forever. Why? Because you can change it however you want.
It’s vital that the theme is updated often and that bug fixes are applied promptly.
Hint: Don’t pick a theme without regular updates.
5. The theme’s overall design
The overall design is one of the most important aspects that you should look at.
Most of the popular premium themes will PERFECTLY take care of all the elements described above.
It’s important that you review a lot of WordPress themes before you decide which one to purchase.
Remember, your design will stick with you for years to come, so choose wisely.
But don’t complicate this part too much because you can customize the look anytime.
Multipurpose vs. Niche WordPress Themes
There are a lot of doubts when it comes to choosing between a multipurpose and a niche WordPress theme.
So let’s make it very simple.
Multipurpose WordPress Themes
A multipurpose theme has many features and 100s of layouts and is suitable for any website.
Niche WordPress Themes
You might ask yourself, why even consider a niche theme if the multipurpose can do anything?
If you only want a simple blog or a nice clean presentation of your business, then there is no need for such complex themes that will only intimidate you.
And all the scripts that a multipurpose theme uses can slow down your page significantly.
Go with a niche theme if you don’t need to develop a diverse website with many different purposes and options.
It will make your life EASIER.
Free vs. Premium WordPress Themes
Free WordPress themes
It might sound funny, but free WordPress themes usually load faster. The reason lies in the lack of extra features.
That can be enough if you just want a blog or a simple online business presence.
Just make sure you download a popular theme from WordPress.org so you know it’s regularly updated.
Premium WordPress themes
Of course, users today are used to getting a lot more functionality out of the box. Most premium WordPress themes come with a one-click demo installation which is great for new users.
Your new website can look exactly like the theme’s live preview in a few minutes.
Then all you have to do is swap the demo content with yours and you’re good to go.
The biggest advantage of premium themes is dedicated technical support.
Support staff from the most premium theme providers will take care of your issues within hours, which can be of paramount importance if you need to follow a deadline.
What Is The Difference Between A WordPress Theme And A Template?
Every website consists of several pages, categories, or posts.
WordPress themes affect the design of your whole website so the design is consistent on every page.
A WordPress template, on the other hand, only affects a certain page within your website.
It is a single file in your WordPress theme that determines the layout and design of a page, post, or category within a theme.
That is especially viable in multipurpose themes described above.
They can have 100s of templates for all kinds of niches within a single theme.
There is no limit on how many templates a theme can have.
What Is The Difference Between HTML And WordPress?
HTML is a coding language used to create websites from SCRATCH; some pages are still made with HTML only.
But is it still worth doing them this way?
The short answer is no; only in very specific cases are the websites still built with HTML only.
WordPress is a CMS (content management system) that allows you to build websites WITHOUT coding knowledge.
You can manage your content within a nice UI framework that takes care of everything.
The only advantage HTML has over WordPress is in the page load time.
HTML websites load faster and if you only need a simple static page with no content updates, then you can give it a go.
But it requires a lot of technical knowledge that most users lack.
Do I recommend HTML? No.
What Is The Difference Between A Parent And Child Theme?
A parent theme is the main theme that includes all the files that are necessary to run the website.
On the other hand, the child theme only contains the stylesheet file (style.css) and needs the parent theme to run and function properly.
Some premium WordPress themes already contain the child theme out of the box, so you don’t have to create it yourself.
They also include the functions.php file in the child theme and the style file, so you can customize the theme’s functionality and not just the design.
I recommend you use a child theme when you’re doing heavy customizations to your website and you want to keep the changes after the theme update.
What’s The Difference Between A Theme And A Page Builder
People today often confuse a WordPress theme with a page builder and vice versa.
They are indeed two VERY different tools that complement each other.
Instead of selecting a theme and then making slight customizations to your overall theme, a page builder allows you to customize the individual pages and posts within your WordPress theme.
A theme is a collection of templates created by a WordPress author that you can load to your website and tailor to your needs.
You can change the website’s typography, logo, colors, images, and other design aspects.
It still depends on which theme you use, but these are the common changes you can make. Some advanced premium themes also MANY EXTRA layouts that you can use.
WordPress page builder
Page builders usually come in the form of a plugin and need an active WordPress theme to unleash their full potential.
They allow you to build your customized theme with different page layouts. You can design each page individually, giving you more freedom and control over your design.
And it doesn’t STOP there.
You can design every website element separately, like your header, footer, blog, portfolio, shop, product pages, etc.
This allows you to create an unlimited amount of unique layouts.
What Is The Difference Between A Theme And A Plugin?
Themes are used to modify your website’s design and layout. They take care of your typography and present your content beautifully.
But plugins add new functionalities and features (like a booking system, for example).
It’s hard to imagine a WordPress website without any plugins.
Well, at least I can’t.
There is no limitation on how many WordPress plugins you can install on your website.
But make sure you deactivate and delete any plugins that you don’t need.
A few examples of plugins:
- WordPress booking plugins
- Image slider plugins
- WordPress gallery plugins
- Forum plugins for WP
- WordPress eCommerce plugins
- Google Maps implementation for WP
- And 1,000s more
Where To Find A Quality WordPress Theme
Best premium WordPress themes
There are several markets where you can buy premium WordPress themes. The most known is ThemeForest, where you can choose from 1,000s of themes.
I vouch for ThemeForest.
Because every theme I submit to the marketplace goes through the endless review phase, ensuring it’s high-quality. (They check every smallest detail!)
However, some authors that used to sell themes on ThemeForest created their subscription-based WordPress stores with high-quality themes, like:
- Elegant Themes with their flagship theme, Divi
- Themes Kingdom
- Mojo Market
(There are a lot more, but these are the most prominent ones.)
Why did they decide to go “solo?” Because it gives them more control over the business.
Best free WordPress themes
The best place to get a free WordPress theme is directly from WordPress.org.
Please note that many of the most popular themes have a lite version of the theme.
This means you get a free version of the premium theme with basic features. (Like the Anariel Lite theme I developed for PremiumCoding.)
But, that is ENOUGH to thoroughly test the theme to see if it’s a good match for you.
You can check in the theme’s description which functions of the theme are limited to premium users only.
How Do I Find Out What Theme A Website Is Using?
Let’s take a look at a premium tip for the conclusion of this tutorial.
Did you ever stumble upon a website that looked amazing and thought how great it would be to have a website like that?
There’s a high chance this website was built with WordPress.
And if it was, there’s a nifty little tool that you can use to find out which.
Head to WhatWpThemeIsThat website and simply enter the website’s URL into the search field.
As you can see from the result, our website is built with a Sitka WordPress theme from author SoloPine that sells themes on Themeforest.
Note: WhatWpThemeIsThat won’t show every theme because some webmasters mask it.
FAQs About WordPress Themes
What is a WordPress theme?
How do I install a WordPress theme?
You can install a WordPress theme from the dashboard by going to Appearance > Themes > Add New, where you can choose from free themes in the WordPress.org directory or upload a theme from a ZIP file.
Can I change my theme without losing content?
Yes, you can change your WordPress theme without losing content. Posts, pages, and most settings are retained. However, theme-specific features and settings may not transfer.
Are all WordPress themes mobile responsive?
Not all WordPress themes are mobile responsive, but most themes developed in recent years are designed to be responsive. It’s best to check the theme description or test it on different devices to ensure responsiveness.
How can I customize my WordPress theme?
You can customize your WordPress theme by using the WordPress Customizer (Appearance > Customize), where you can change various settings like colors, fonts, and layout. For more extensive changes, you might need to create a child theme or use custom CSS/plugins.
What’s the difference between a free theme and a premium theme?
Free themes are available at no cost and are typically more straightforward with fewer features. Premium themes require payment and usually offer more design options, features, and dedicated support.
What is a child theme in WordPress?
A child theme in WordPress is a theme that inherits the functionality and styling of another theme, known as the parent theme. Child themes are the safest way to modify existing themes without losing the ability to update them.
How often should I update my WordPress theme?
You should update your WordPress theme whenever a new update is available, especially if it includes security patches, bug fixes, or new features. Remember, always backup your site before updating.
Can I use multiple themes on one WordPress site?
WordPress does not support using multiple themes for one site simultaneously in a standard setup. You can, however, use different themes for a multisite network or apply different themes to different pages with plugins.
What should I look for in a WordPress theme?
Look for a theme that is responsive, compatible with your version of WordPress, supported by the developer, has good reviews, and offers the features and customization options you need.