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What Is a WordPress Theme?


The simplest way to answer the question “What is a WordPress theme?” is with this summary:

“The entire appearance of a WordPress site is controlled by what theme it has active.”

A WordPress theme exists as an independent bundle, separate to everything else on your site. This means you can freely change what theme your WordPress site is using as many times as you like without effecting any of your site’s content or underlying functionality.

A WordPress Theme is Like an Outfit

If a WordPress site were a person, its theme would be the outfit it’s wearing.

When a person changes their clothes it’s still the same person underneath, but they can switch outfits as many times as they like to create a different look.

Similarly, when a WordPress site changes its theme it’s still the same site underneath, but a completely new look can be created with every new theme.

For example, just as a person can wear business attire to look professional or sports gear to look athletic:

person can wear business attire to look professional or sports gear to look athletic

So too can a WordPress site “wear” a business theme or a sports theme:

WordPress sites can wear a business theme or a sports theme

WordPress Can’t Be Naked

A WordPress site must always have a theme active.

Carrying on with the analogy of a theme being like a person’s clothes, you cannot go out in public without wearing at least some kind of outfit, or you’ll quickly be told you’ve broken the rules.

In the same way if your site doesn’t have a theme installed WordPress will show you a warning message, and nobody on the public web will be able to see your site.


What Theme is on a Default WordPress Site?

Because a theme is critical for WordPress to function properly, it comes with a default theme that will be active when you first install your site, and will also act as a fallback if there are no other themes available. These default themes are made by the same people who make WordPress itself, and there is a new one every year.

However, as nice as these themes can be, you could arguably compare the default theme to the clothes you wear around the house when you’re just doing your own thing in private. Sure, you could wear these clothes when you go out, but most people prefer to choose an outfit that looks great and is a perfect fit for whatever activity they are about to undertake.

What is a WordPress Theme Made Of?

What is a WordPress Theme Made Of

A WordPress theme is made of four things:

  1. PHP files – these control where your content will show up in your theme
  2. CSS files – these control the style, layout and coloring of your site
  3. JavaScript files – can add extra functionality and effects such as animation
  4. Image files – for additional styling such as background images

When you download a WordPress theme it will be in the form of a zip archive that contain several files of the above types.

If you are learning to make WordPress themes of your own they will need to have PHP and CSS files, with JavaScript and image files being optional extras depending on the functionality and appearance you are aiming to create.

What is a WordPress Theme’s Value?

Why is it important to carefully decide what theme you want your WordPress site to wear?

Again, further extending our clothing analogy, the value of a well selected WordPress theme is the same as that of a well selected outfit:

  • You communicate to people what you are about
  • You make a good impression
  • You inspire trust

Let’s Paint a Picture

Imagine you find yourself in circumstances where you need to solicit legal advice and are considering who to hire. You have two candidates in mind. 

You meet the first lawyer and they are dressed like this:

first lawyer

You meet the other lawyer and they are dressed like this:

other lawyer

Which person are you going to choose?

Obviously if you need a lawyer you’re going to hire the second person. On the other hand if you need a personal trainer you would hire the first person.

The exact same thought process can go on in the mind of a visitor to a WordPress site. 

Which of these themes, applied to a legal firm website, is more likely to lead to a person making an enquiry phone call? The one above or the one below?

themes for lawyers

Clearly, you would be more likely to call the legal firm using the top theme.

Conversely, if you needed to hire a personal trainer, the second theme would inspire more trust.

What is a WordPress Theme? It’s How Your Site Greets the World

The way your site looks, how it communicates to people regarding what your site is about, and whether or not it inspires trust comes down in no small degree to what theme you have active.

Think carefully about exactly what appearance you want to put forward to your site’s audience, then choose the right WordPress theme to make that happen.

Choose From Thousands of WordPress Themes on Themeforest

Themeforest (one of the Envato marketplaces) is home to thousands of WordPress themes for websites of literally kind. Find the perfect theme for your own WordPress website at a great price today!

Choose From Thousands of WordPress Themes on Themeforest
WordPress themes on Themeforest

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