They can have different names, depending on who you’re talking to. Theme, template, layout, skin + design are all options that I’ve heard used before. Whatever you choose to call them, the quick explanation is that you affect the look of your website with your WordPress theme.
I stick with the lingo that WordPress uses too. Which is why I talk about themes + not templates or skins. Notice that when you click on “Appearance” in your left hand menu, the options are Themes and Theme Editor?
WordPress vs WordPress Themes
When you build a site with WordPress, you are using the code they bundled together to display content (images, text, videos, etc) on a website. The theme impacts how that content looks to anyone visiting your website.
If you’re not sure what WordPress even is, start here to learn the basics.
Themes are required in order for your website to function. Which is why WordPress installs one of their themes when you first set up your website. There aren’t many requirements for what a theme can do, but you must have an assigned theme in order for your site to display.
Have you seen a blog with a sidebar on the left side of the content? The theme did that.
Have you seen a website with a menu that follows you down the page as you scroll? The theme did that.
Have you seen a site with a large full-size video on the homepage? The theme did that.
Choosing a good theme
Picking a theme for your site can be tricky. We recommend sticking with secure options that give you room to grow your business. That means choosing something regularly updated + built by someone with a solid reputation.
If you’re choosing a theme on your own, start by writing a list of everything that you want your website to have. Maybe it’s a blog sidebar, hero images, a sales page template (the option to make a page without a header or footer), and a menu with sub-menu items.
Once you have your wishlist, you can look for options that fit the bill — instead of picking something that looks cool + realizing it doesn’t do what you want.
Keep in mind, that WordPress themes are not collectibles. And once you settle in on a theme, you can clear out all but 2 or 3 themes you have installed on your site.
Custom vs Customized WordPress Themes
The two main ways that we work with WordPress sites is by installing custom or customized themes for our clients. The decision between the two options is made based on timeline, budget + web wish list.
A custom theme is one that is “built from scratch” with your brand + your specific site design in mind. Often times it’s not coded with a blank white screen as the starting point. But most developers use a starter theme that has the basic functions — a blog post contains the title, image, text + sidebar, for example.
When someone customizes a theme, it means they took an existing theme — or a theme builder — and refined it to feel more unique. The best way to accomplish this is by using child themes so that your changes don’t get scrapped when an update is released.
Often we use the customized theme option for clients that want a website to launch their business online. We give them a well-branded website with easy-to-use layouts so they can build their business with experience.