What is a WordPress Theme

What is a WordPress Theme

A theme in WordPress is what what determines how the blog looks to visitors. As I describe what themes are and how you can make the best use of them it will be helpful to understand that nearly every website has three parts which are:

  • Logic
  • Design
  • Content

A theme has very little (ideally nothing) to do with the logic or programming of your blog. A theme serves to frame the content that you put on your website, but it is not the content.

Design is the sole focus of theme development and WordPress has made if very easy for non-technical designers to create a new theme quickly. That can be both good and bad. The bad comes in the form of poorly written themes that don’t perform well in SEO and website load time.

The HTML bummer

You only have to look back on the first websites ever built to begin to appreciate the power of themes for websites. Creating websites out of HTML, JavaScript and CSS was a major bummer. Why?

Imagine you have a website with hundreds or thousands of pages and you wanted to change how the header looked, but the content would remain the same.  This shouldn’t seem too far fetched. It would be like painting your house or putting a new sign up in the window of your business. Everything stays the same inside, but the ‘theme’ changed. With the original HTML approach to creating websites, you would have to hand modify every single page and try to keep them consistent with one another.

WordPress makes this type of change easy and very fast. To help it all make a little more sense I made this video for you.

Cell phone faceplates

Blogs aren’t the first place to use the idea of a theme. For example, cell phone manufacturers have been doing the same thing with their phones for years. Just like this Superman Cell Phone Faceplate. It doesn’t change which contacts are in your phone or your caller ID history. It just changes the way it looks to everyone. It’s the same story with a WordPress theme.

Other considerations

As you think about what theme to choose for your blog, you want to look deeper than just how it looks. The fact is that the theme can have a very significant impact on where the search engines place you in search results. It can also affect how visitors interact with your site.

SEO Friendly

One big factor in choosing the right theme in WordPress comes back to Search Engine Optimization. While the content may not change, the theme can make it easier or harder for the search engines to find the content on the finished page. That means the your theme can have a big impact on your search engine ranking. This tends to be a big differentiator between free and premium WordPress themes.

Easy to customize and tweak

Since most people aren’t programmers (and don’t really care to be), the best themes offer a range of customizations and tweaks that the blog owner can do without needing to write any ‘code’. These are browser based tools that you can use from your WordPress dashboard. The more control you have without needing to modify the theme code the better.

Visitor experience

The experience a visitor has when he arrives at your site is influenced by two theme related characteristics. The first is speed, or load time. The second is ease of navigation.

In the first place, if the pages take too long to load, then the user is very likely to bounce off your site. To ‘bounce’ means that they clicked through to your site and then immediately left. You want to make sure you choose a theme that will load quickly.

Ease of navigation is very relative. It’s relative to the content, your conversion goals, the visitor expectations and even the visitor state of mind. There aren’t really any general rules here, but there are some guidelines, like this post about one page, one job. As you choose a theme, think about what your visitors are expecting, where they’re coming from and what your end game goal is. This will help you choose the right theme.

Now you can see that themes make it easy to change the way your website looks. In my next few posts on WordPress themes I’ll tell you which free and premium themes I like best and why.

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