What Are WordPress Themes?

This is the sixth in our WordPress and Web Development series. Click here for the previous article and here for the next one .

W hen proceeding through the installation process, you are promped to pick a “theme.” We will discuss this concept here a bit and explore it later in greater detail. It doesn’t matter what theme you pick at this stage - you can always modify it later.

The “theme,” broadly speaking, is how your website looks. As you become more familiar with Wordpress, and with web coding in general, you will find that this can be an over-simplification of what a theme does, but it will suffice for now.

Typically, the “look and feel” of a website contains some key elements, that are similar to what we mean by “look and feel” of printed documents, like:

Others examples of “look and feel” are more specific to how web pages work, and to the fact that content has to be displayed on a variety of devices, of different sizes. Because most screens are rectangular, the easiest way to layout content on a webpage is in a grid-like, or tabular, format. The specifics of this grid are usually also coded into a theme.

One way to think of a grid is that there are a certain number of columns laid out across the screen - as in the front page of a newspaper, for example. Another grid-like layout is one that has a header in its highest spot, a footer at the lowest spot, and the main content in-between. Typically, in this second layout, the main content is itself laid out in its own grid layout.

Another style of a grid layout is more like a book or a presentation - there’s a portion that looks like a header (a book might have a chapter title here); a footer (page number); and the main body. Again, each area might be split in a grid-wise fashion.

Can you break out of a grid when designing a webpage? There are some great examples of where designers try to do this, though if you look under the hood in all these designs, there’s still a grid in the way the code is laid out. Visually, an illusion is created that images or text flow outside a “regular” grid or tabular fashion, but as a front-end coder, you have to figure out how to use the grid’s building blocks to achieve this.

Once you have selected a theme, your blog is ready to be configured further. We now move on to the next part - the WordPress Dashboard.