What is a WordPress Theme?

So you are thinking of getting a WordPress site? Then you will want to have a basic understanding of what a theme is and does, which is what we will be looking at in this article.

WordPress began as a blogging platform but today it is a powerful content management system (CMS) used by millions of websites across the world. So while you can still use WordPress for a simple blog, you can do almost anything else you want with it, too, from small personal sites to large business sites, and even large, multi-vendor, ecommerce sites. Uses for WordPress are almost limitless.

Much of the flexibility of WordPress comes down to its themes and plugins. We covered plugins in another post so, for now, let's just look just at themes. A theme is a collection of files you can install on your WordPress site to change the way your site looks without changing its underlying structure. Some other website platforms call these "templates" but template has a different meaning on a WordPress site.

Anyway, by changing your website's theme you can change its colors, page layout, fonts and more, but features such as your site's content and structure, and features added through the use of plugins, will be unaffected.

Because WordPress is open source software, anyone can create and sell WordPress themes. This means there is a huge range of themes out there to choose from. As with plugins, there are both free and premium (you pay for them) themes. There are themes for online stores, photography or art portfolios, lead generation, brick-and-mortar businesses, dentists, lawyers and many more including, of course, themes designed for blogs.

You can install a new theme without any coding skills, although changing your theme could get a little more complicated if your site was set up by a web designer who has customized it. If someone has set your site up for you its best to check with them – or another expert if they are no longer around– before changing your theme. After all, you don't want to damage your website!

Themes will not only affect the look of your site, though. Some come with other features such as widgets, which allow you to add features to your web pages such as a search box or links to recent posts. Some widgets are available on all WordPress sites, but others may be features of your theme or plugins. Themes can also control your widget areas, which are the places you can place your widgets. These may include the sidebar, header and footer.

As mentioned above, WordPress themes can be either free or premium (paid for) and you can find many of them at the WordPress Themes Repository. The repository also gives you reviews of each theme and the date it was last updated. As WordPress itself is updated regularly, it is generally best to pick a theme which has been updated recently.

There are also several well-known premium theme developers to choose from including Elegant Themes and StudioPress. Or you could try the Themeforest marketplace.

Now you know the basics of WordPress themes why not take a look around and find one you like?

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Steve Henry

Stephen B. Henry, known to many online as the Wiz, and just Steve to his friends, is a published author, WordPress developer, online presence guide, and personal mentor who works from an office in his home or a laptop when he travels. He is a guest blogger on may sites.

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