“What is a WordPress theme?”

It’s a question every WordPress newbie asks. By the end of this post, if I do my job properly, you’ll know the answer.

Think of a WordPress theme as a layer over the software’s framework. The theme is the thing that gives your site its looks and some functionality (plugins add more – read what is a WordPress plugin?); change the theme and you change the look and feel of your site.

Which is both a good and a bad thing.

It’s good because you can change the look of your site with the click of a mouse. It’s bad because changing the look of your site with the click of a mouse can make it look terrible – depending upon the structure of the original and new theme.

Luckily, you can trial a new theme before activating it. And, if you accidentally activate a theme and it looks a mess, all you have to do is revert to the original theme and everything should be back to normal.

Within WordPress, you can store as many themes as you like.

Choosing a WordPress Theme

There are two types of theme; free and premium. If you are setting up or running a personal site, then a free theme is fine. If you use WordPress for a business site, I highly recommend looking at the various premium theme providers to see what’s on offer.

I use Genesis and have no hesitation recommending it.

Why premium? Premium themes tend to look better and usually have a lot of more functionality. There is usually a better support system too, which is handy if you run into problems.

Before choosing a theme, consider how you are going to use it. Here’s a few factors to take into consideration before making a decision:

  • Personal or business – are you using WordPress for a personal or business site?
  • Layout options – does the theme offer different layout options? Can you move sidebars? Can you change the layout on a page-by-page basis? How many sidebars do you want?
  • Extra functionality – what other functions, if any, does the theme offer?
  • Who else is using the theme? – Google the theme’s name to see who else is using it and what they are saying about it
  • No code required – can you make changes to the site without hacking code?
  • Developer support – does the developer of the theme offer any type of support?
  • Mobile responsive – a big thing at the moment is mobile responsive themes, they’re designed to make a site look good on small devices such as smartphones and tablets – you need one if you are running WordPress for business.

Premium themes vary in price (starting at around $20 or so), but they cost a lot less than having a site designed from scratch.

Multiple Themes

WordPress comes with a couple of free themes pre-installed. There are literally thousands more available for free through WordPress or third-party websites. There is also a wide selection of premium WordPress themes.

When you first set up your site you will probably download a few free themes to try out. Doing this makes a lot of sense. All the themes are installed into the Themes section (Appearance > Themes>, so you can swop and change as often as you like.

To fully appreciate how a theme looks, you should create a few test posts and pages, add images, headlines and lists, so you can see how the various formatting styles look.

There is no point in creating genuine content at the testing stage, so generate some Lorem Ipsum (dummy text used by the printing and typesetting industries) and paste it into your posts and pages.

Most WordPress themes use widgets in the sidebars, so be sure to include a few of these too.

When you create a post, add tags, as most themes display them.

Here is a screengrab of the themes area of this site (click the image for a better view):

I hope you have found this post helpful?