• Quick Summary: Since I've been in the theme business I've had a hard time explaining what I do to other people. In this article I'm going to explain exactly what a WordPress theme is. What to look out for in a quality WordPress theme and how to pick the best one that'll suit your specific business website needs.

  • What is a WordPress theme?

    If you haven't already, first read our blog "blog20". You just have to understand the basics about WordPress before we dive into WordPress themes.

    With that out of the way let's start with the main question: "what is a WordPress theme?". Simply speaking a WordPress theme defines the overall look-and-feel of your WordPress powered website. You need more than just a bundle of pages to make up a website. You content needs to be displayed in such a way that the website visitor can easily digest the information. Things like spacing, layout, fonts, colors etc. are necessary to achieve this. And it's the WordPress themes that takes care of this job.

    How many WordPress themes are there?

    There are tens of thousands of WordPress themes, both free and premium. WordPress itself offers several thousand WordPress themes for free in their repository. And their are literally thousands upon thousands of paid version on marketplaces like Themeforest and Templatemonster. Enough choice. Too much choice probably.

    Should I use a WordPress theme?

    Yes, it's a requirement if you want to operate a WordPress powered website. Without a theme your content cannot be shown on the internet.

    What's the difference between a WordPress theme and a template?

    There is no difference. A template is a synonym of a theme. Another open source CMS like Joomla uses templates instead of theme, but they function exactly the same. There are also online website builders that use the word template.

    What is the best WordPress theme?

    There is no clear answer to this question. It all depends what your overall needs for your website are. Wordpress themes try to achieve different things. Do you run a restaurant and want a theme with an integrated booking form? That's totally different from running a webshop for vintage video games? And that's totally different than running a car dealership. Or do you just want to run a blog about your hobby? Different business owners with different websites for their business.

    A good indicator of quality has been the total amount of sales a certain theme has. However if you use this metric you'll probably end up with a business generic WordPress theme that will not suit your needs. You can spot these type of themes very easily since they usually bear "multi purpose" in the name. My advice would be to stay away from these themes, since it will take you a lot of work to bend them to your wishes.

    Which WordPress theme is best for blogging?

    Again, this is a difficult to answer question, because I don't know the specific requirements of its intended user. That being said, WordPress has a new default theme every year, that's really barebone and lightweight. This WordPress theme makes it easy for newcomers to quickly start with their own blog with a free theme. And since the theme originates from Wordpress itself, you can be sure it's thoroughly tested, will be very future-proof in terms of updating, and a lot of people will make video tutorials about how to use them.

    Can you change a WordPress theme without losing content?

    Technically speaking you never "lose" content. It might just no longer be visible after changing from one theme to another. Content is not stored in the theme but in the WordPress database. Changing a theme does not change content in the WordPress database. However, content stored in the WordPress database may no longer be accessible and displayed with the new theme.

    This is especially true if the content is created with the theme itself and you change to a theme from another theme supplier. It is highly unlikely that the new theme author stores theme data in exactly the same database records, unless they have some sort of cooperation. But in truth, I've never before seen this happen in the industry. This could create a "lock-in" where valuable website data is only available if you stick with a certain theme developer. That's not necessarily a bad thing (we work that way to some degree), but at the same time it's something that people hardly ever realize when going for a certain theme provider. Even though it can lead to some nasty compatibility issues in the future.

    Does a WordPress theme affect SEO?

    Yes. But before I dig into this point any further, I want to stress that I wouldn't worry about it as much, granted you buy your theme from a supplier you deem reputable by your own standards.

    According to the article " Google's ranking factors in 2019" there are about 200 ranking factors. And WordPress themes implement the rules they have an impact differently from each other. Some do a better job of optimizing your content from a technological perspective than do others. That being said I've always been a great proponent of focusing on the content itself and especially focusing on the keyword research necessary to write content about. Not so much about how some tool (a WordPress theme) presents it to the Google search engine from a technical standpoint. It does matter, but it's by far not the most important aspect of SEO.

    Are all WordPress themes mobile friendly?

    They aren't but they should be. Any professional theme supplier worth his salt provides mobile-optimized themes. It's what we do.

    Can you have more than one theme in WordPress?

    Yes, but you can only activate one for your website at the same time. An active theme is not a goal in of itself. It's a means to an end. If you want to have more than one theme active at the same time, it's because you want to achieve something that you feel can only be done with the help of that WordPress theme. Try to isolate what you want to achieve, make a decision what you feel is more important between themes, pick one and try to fill the functionality gap of the other with one or more WordPress plugins.

    What's the difference between free and premium WordPress themes?

    Within a theme you can't really pinpoint something that's always going to be premium or free. A theme is created by a certain individual who may choose to offer it either for free or asks a certain price for it. The services for which you pay usually surround the theme itself. If you look at what "paying" us yields, it's access to the particular theme, access to future updates of that theme and access to email support.

    Getting people to look at the challenges that confront theme users, takes precious resources. Keeping a certain theme working inside the an ecosystem comprised of servers, browsers, Wordpress plugins and the like, takes an enormous amount of skill and hard work. Somebody has to pay for that hard work. Getting a theme in the market is almost the easy part. Keeping it working and providing support in a sustainable manner is where the pros separate themselves from the amateurs.

    That's the reason why there are so many WordPress themes out there. It's easy to build a theme and sell it. Once, twice, maybe even a couple of hundred times. It's much, much harder to make a living off of it.

    Is it worth buying a premium Wordpress theme?

    Again, it totally depends on your personal goals and in what way a certain themes fulfills that goal. Are premium themes better than non-premium themes: no. I would argue that if you're serious about your business website, and are thinking you're in it for the long run, you should go premium. The reason being that professional theme suppliers have the biggest chance of still being around a couple of years from now.

    If you go for some random free theme, you have no contract, no license and zero reasons to expect the theme author to work in your best interest in the future. There's no financial incentive for the person to do so. And why should he or she cares what happens with your business website? Because you ask...? I run a premium theme business, that pays the bills and puts a roof over my head and my family. That's a big personal incentive to give it my all when it comes to providing high-quality WordPress themes. It's a big reason to keep on improving my business in the future. Yes, I love Wordpress and WordPress themes. But that love is grounded in a solid financial foundation that is the business I'm running.

    So if you're serious about your personal website, go premium!

    The biggest challenge facing business owners when using a WordPress theme

    I have said this in a post about " online website builders" but it's absolutely worth mentioning again. And that is this. What tool you use does not determine your online success. It's what you do with the tool that really matters.

    The best tool in the world unused is a missed opportunity. And a lot of times that's exactly what happens with tools, including website builders. A great website that brings in new clients for the respective business owner doesn't just falls from the sky. It takes hard work to create a compelling online presence that builds trust with the intended audience and make them take the action you want them to take. And no website builder in the world will do this for you.

    Also a lot of website builders if not all focus on design versus content, while content is much more important than design. Design is not something that can be indexed in Google, content is. So where content is the first step in online marketing, design might increase the likelihood of people doing what you want them to do when they finally reach your site. But an incredibly percentage of website owners fail in the first step: marketing. They fail to attract the relevant eyeballs so they never get to the point of actually selling what they have to offer.

  • About the Author

    Johan van Seijen


    Johan van Seijen is co-founder of Nexus Themes and our lead designer. After gaining a Master's Degree in Information Science he decided to try his luck in the illustration industry, working for clients as Avantgarde, Cosmopolitan and Glamour. With the return to the software industry grew the desire to create something to be truly proud of and which could spearhead his ambition of having his own company. And this company is what followed. He lives with his wife and daughter in Amsterdam.