WordPress Themes

A Quick Guide To Making Your Site Beautiful

WordPress themes control how your website is displayed. These powerful templates determine what your visitors see and how they navigate pages when browsing your site.

Adding a theme is the best way to update your sites aesthetic appeal and user experience.
Choose from thousands of themes in the WordPress directory to update the look and feel of your site. Since WordPress is built to create all kinds of websites, themes are available for every website niche imaginable. There are plenty of free and premium options to improve engagement in addition to looking beautiful. For anyone using our managed WordPress hosting service, a wide variety of free themes have already been tested for you.

On this page, we'll cover all there is to know about WordPress themes and templates. Choose from free and premium versions of the most sought-after varieties including blog, website, business, and e-commerce. We'll talk you through themes and page templates plus advice on selecting the right theme for your website from the thousands available.

The WordPress theme system provides different ways to design and present material on your website. Use a theme on your WordPress site to:

  • Add different layouts: choose static, flexible or responsive, more than one column, etc.

  • Display your content anywhere you want it displayed.

  • Customize your typography and design elements using CSS and add other design elements anywhere in your theme such as images, and videos.

WordPress Themes vs. WordPress Templates

There is a lot of confusion surrounding WordPress themes and templates, and the seemingly interchangeable terminology does nothing to help this. Put simply, themes take care of WordPress website design, and templates take care of the layout of a single page on your site.

  • An XHTML page - contains the structure of the page.

  • The CSS Style Sheet - holds presentation styles of your page.

  • Template files - holds content by various template files.

The template files and style sheet are stored together to form your WordPress theme.
Since templates are dependant on themes; you can't install a single template, and If your theme includes templates which don't fit your expectations, you need to install a new one.

WordPress templates

We've discussed the difference between templates and themes. Let’s consider how templates work. Each template in a standard WordPress theme is made up of three building blocks:

Most themes want to offer more than the basic three blocks. More complex structures include a variety of other templates such as search, sidebars, and comment forms. The table below contains the types of templates you’d expect to feature in advanced WordPress themes.

Default WordPress templates
Section Display
Main Displays the main page
Header Displays the header
Sidebar Generates HTML for everything included in the sidebar(s)
Footer Displays the footer area
Theme Functions Contains code for the functions used in your theme
Single Post Displays a single post page
Comments Displays comments and a comment form

To truly customize your site, WordPress lets you add templates to as many pages as you like. If you wish to build something from scratch, you may create custom templates, but this is quite advanced, and we wouldn't recommend beginners attempt this.

WordPress website design

Themes are as much about website design as they are about navigation, and how visitors will access pages on your site. Themes are key to creating the right design and feel to your website. They set the tone of your pages and guide your user experience. Building your WordPress website starts with a theme. Begin by selecting one to display your site, add some content to promote your brand, and customize your pages to bring them to life.

Choosing a WordPress theme

It can be quite overwhelming selecting a theme from the thousands of free and paid options available. It can even seem that the more you browse, the better each looks, but, keep in mind that picking a theme is more than simply choosing the nicest looking one. Before browsing themes directories, try to narrow down your options. The best theme for your website not only suits your taste and meets the requirements of your site, but it also features SEO and mobile optimization to boost your rankings.

For a step in the right direction, we've put together a list of things you should consider before adding a theme to your WordPress site.

  • Go for a theme that compliments your website content, for example, if you are setting up a blog on free speech or other social issues, a theme that improves readability goes hand in hand.

  • Search for the features you need by selecting Apply Filters in the Theme Directory, and use the subject categories to narrow the results.

  • Feature-wise, the layout is as important as the design. Think about it; the layout defines how your site is used. The most common layout styles are blog, magazine style, website, and photoblog. Remember your primary goal, for example, if a theme facilitates in getting new business and subscribers, it's a good theme. If your users find obstacles to reading your content or getting around your website, avoid it.

  • Mobile friendly – this is a no-brainer, most WordPress themes are mobile ready to meet the vast amount of traffic generated from mobile and other handheld devices.

  • WordPress is nothing without plugins. Make sure your theme supports the most popular plugins including e-commerce if your site sells goods and services.

  • Multilingual ready – if you're creating a foreign language site or have plans to expand into international markets, go for a translation ready theme that supports multilingual plugins.

  • Keep it simple – don't let your head be turned by complex layouts, flashy animations and such if you don't need those things. They may look good but can compromise usability and simplicity if not used correctly.

  • SEO friendly – your theme plays a vital role in your sites SEO. Most WordPress developers let you know a theme is designed with SEO in mind. Make sure to check a themes blurb to confirm this.

  • Theme support - check for available support. It's one thing to have a good looking theme It's another to struggle to make it look how you want with no one available to answer your questions.

  • A solid indicator of a theme's quality is user reviews and ratings. Each theme in the Theme Directory includes a rating section. This area includes how many people have installed the theme. If your chosen theme is for sale on a third-party marketplace, check their customer reviews.

Managing themes in WordPress

The Themes tab in your WordPress admin holds themes currently installed and available for you to use. The WordPress basic install includes three themes to get you started. You can switch between these, or install more from the WordPress Themes Directory.

The WordPress Themes Directory displays all official WordPress themes. These themes are checked, inspected and best of all, free to use. Use the Themes Search area to browse and preview how they will look on your site. Third party themes are similarly straightforward to install. Upload them to the Themes section of your admin area to install and activate.

Free WordPress themes

Free themes can do wonderful things for your site design. There's an overwhelming number available for WordPress. Choosing just one can put your head in a tailspin. To alleviate some of the options, consult the list above and make sure your theme is above all, safe and reliable.

  • Shapely - One of the most popular free WordPress themes blends high functionality with astounding graphics.

  • Ascendant - This multi-purpose theme can create anything from blogs to business websites. It’s also compatible with WooCommerce, allowing you to set up an online store for free.

  • Sparkling - Add sparkle to your website with a site based on bootstrap technology. Sparkling includes stacks of features you find in premium themes at no extra cost.

Premium WordPress themes

Premium themes come with extras to propel your website, think advanced features, more support and, user-friendly designs. You can find premium themes in the WordPress marketplace under Commercial Themes. These include the WordPress seal of approval. You may look further afield to third-party theme marketplaces. These also hold a vast selection of premium themes with desirable features. There are also these sites that offer high-quality themes with support for a price:

  • ThemeForest - Find thousands of WordPress themes and website templates from just $2.

  • Array - Provide a small selection of beautifully designed WordPress themes that come with speedy support and hassle-free updates. Their themes are suitable for all skill levels.

  • WooThemes - This market-leading platform extends standard WordPress powered sites via a range of powerful themes. Every theme in their catalogue is designed to work seamlessly with the hugely popular eCommerce plugin WooCommerce.

  • Anariel Design - Specializes in developing premium niche WordPress themes. All their themes are built matching unique and fresh ideas with simplicity and user friendliness.

Business themes

Setting up a business website for your company or organization is light work with WordPress. Take advantage of themes for pretty much any business approach imaginable to feature your products or services. Display your contact information, location and anything else relevant to your site visitors.

The following themes are just a snippet of what’s available for WordPress business site developers:

  • Divi – Clean and responsive, Divi is suitable for both corporate and creative businesses.

  • Nectar – This stylish theme has sections to add portfolio items and testimonials.

  • Venture – premium business theme that comes with a widgetized dynamic page builder.

  • Executive Pro – For a glossy, corporate look, look no further than Executive Pro.

  • Total Theme – Feature packed business theme that allows you to get your site up running quickly and with ease.

E-commerce themes

If you fancy yourself as an entrepreneur, selling products online is one the simplest ways to run your own business. WordPress is a great platform for launching an e-commerce venture. Thanks to a bountiful selection of e-commerce themes, WordPress provides a fast and easy way to build your online store. Free and premium e-commerce themes come packed with features to amplify sales. Add dedicated sections for sales and product information and much more.

The following themes are optimized to work with a variety of e-commerce plugins, including the ultimate e-commerce plugin: WooCommerce.

  • Shopkeeper - A premium theme designed to showcase products or build an online store for your business. Shopkeeper includes a fluid and responsive layout to make sure visitors have an excellent viewing experience.

  • Shop Split – A pixel-perfect theme combining user-friendly layout with plenty of e-commerce relevant features like shop template pages and assistance with pricing plans.

  • The Gem – This premium theme designed for e-commerce is modern and very stylish. Made for high-performance websites and optimized for SEO.

  • Illdy - A professionally developed, elegant and reliable theme, available for free.

Blog themes

WordPress started out as a blogging platform, and to this day is the world’s most popular choice for online bloggers. Bloggers have the pick of blog-friendly themes covering any niche imaginable. Blog designs available on WordPress cater for everyone from journalists and creative writers to amateur bloggers.

The following blog themes include templates focused on the written word plus extensions to help grow your blog faster.

  • Newspaper - The best-selling WordPress news theme.

  • Divi – Creatively bold and visually stunning, this innovative theme is also highly customizable. Divi designed their templates for efficiency and speed making them a good choice if you plan to scale up your site in the future.

  • Magazine – For something completely different, check out Magazine. This striking theme can grow with you, into a website or fully blown shop for example. Uncode offer a range of powerful blog themes that will give yours a competitive edge. Don’t just take our word for it; here’s a preview of a Uncode theme in action for home audio brand Sonos' blog.

  • Soledad – Enjoy all the bells and whistles of this best-selling premium blog theme.

Still haven't found the right theme? Just turn to your favorite search engine, and browse through sites that have the look and feel you want. When you identify your top choices, use a WordPress theme detector to discover what theme the sites are using, and which are available for WordPress. 

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