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What is a WordPress Theme?

A WordPress theme is a pre-designed template that you can plug content into. I’ve heard a lot of misconceptions about what this means so I want to introduce a new way of thinking about themes.

» I like to think of a website like a house.

The hosting is the land, the URL is the address, and the house is the website itself. In which case, a WordPress theme is like the appliances or the materials you use to build the house.

Yes, there are different looks when it comes to materials (like wood, or brick) and appliances, like stainless steel, but these also vary in functionality and determine in large part how you will interact with your house.

Take a simple light bulb, for example, an energy-efficient light bulb or a Hue light bulb are both extremely different from a regular light bulb. Both with very different benefits and ways to use them.

An energy efficient light bulb will offer savings on your electricity over time. A Hue light bulb gives you the ability to program your lighting and use an app to change the color and intensity.

Likewise, a WordPress theme impacts the functionality of your website. The theme determines how the backend of your website functions and in large part determines how well the content on your website is organized.

WordPress Themes are the Appliances of Your Website

Themes are like the appliances in your home. Do you want a General Electric Refrigerator? That is a strong, reliable company and one you can trust. The fridge will work great, and if it doesn’t you know you can trust the warranty and that a great company is behind the equipment.

Even better – you’ll have someone to call and help if something ever goes wrong. It’s the same thing with a high-quality WordPress theme.

A great theme will come with support and that support will be present, and available to answer your questions. They will help you fix things, or tell you how to do the thing you are trying to accomplish.

When shopping for a theme it is good to ask a few questions.

Is it easy to update the sections you frequently want to change? Is it a responsive WordPress theme? Are there a lot of layout options? Are there frequent updates?

Trusted is Better Than Custom

A well-known WordPress theme with a strong company behind it is better than having an individual custom code a theme. In fact, the very best WordPress theme I know has a huge following, dedicated Facebook groups and charges less than $90 with support included.

» Super custom doesn’t equate quality when it comes to themes.

You want the customization to happen after the theme is installed, not at the theme level itself. It is like a porch swing, you want to add it after you build the house, you wouldn’t pick a house based on whether or not there was already a swing.

In other words, if you are shopping for an architect to build you a new home you wouldn’t see an example of a house they built that has a porch swing and then make your decision based solely on that swing. Because you know there are more important questions to ask – about the foundations, about the materials, about the integrity of the architect and their accomplishments at large – not just if they can include a porch swing.

If you want a porch swing, you better buy a house with a porch or the ability to add one. A great theme comes with the functionality to build that porch (and the swing).

The customizations that are possible with the best WordPress theme I know are really endless and I’ve seen so many websites that look very different from one another because of a robust theme.

If the WordPress theme itself is being custom made for you then you might be missing out on value, time and savings that you could get with a more established, more flexible and less expensive option.

Custom Code is Out,
Custom Design is In

What’s the difference? A custom theme is something coded. A theme that is customized is designed (usually at the graphic design or CSS level). It might have graphically treated images or graphics uploaded and different modules designed to cohesively present your brand.

A custom theme that is coded is less about graphics and design and more about code. That means in order to make changes you will have to work with the original creator which can be more difficult (and expensive), which is why having something standard is so helpful.

There are a lot of resources out there that can explain in detail what a theme or child theme is if that is what you are looking for. For the purposes of this post, I want to emphasize that picking a WordPress theme is not solely about picking out the “look” of your website.

A WordPress Theme is More Than How Your Site Looks

I’ve noticed that it is common to look at a WordPress theme and think that is the exact way your website will look. This simply is not the case. A robust WordPress theme can be made to look in so many different ways, so when you are looking at themes it is not necessarily what your site will look like (because that depends more on your website content anyways).

Just like a brick house is stronger than a wood house, the security and the flexibility of your website is also impacted by the theme. If you choose a shoddy front door, it will be easier to break into. Same thing with a WordPress theme.

If you pick a theme based solely on the way it looks, you risk building a website on a teetering security risk. Like a house built on a ledge, it is not made for security or for solid functionality.

WordPress themes that are frequently updated are engaged in continual improvement. These make great WordPress themes because they are constantly adapting and give you more flexibility.

In other words, they are a great investment, secure and will allow you to create changes.

After all, it is always good to have fresh content.

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