WordPress is a free content management system (CMS) that powers millions of websites around the world.
How does it work? A CMS stores digital information that can be presented in different ways. Some examples of a CMS might be an online store with lots of different products. Or the database of a large company and all its departments and employees.
WordPress does this for websites. It holds all of your website content and then makes it accessible online: articles, images, comments, etc.
A WordPress site has two different ways to interact with it. The front end is what visitors see when they visit your website. The back end is the bones and structure of your site – the admin section – where you work your magic behind the scenes. The back end controls the front end.
WordPress controls the front end (the website’s design and layout) by using themes and templates to control how it looks.
Still, it’s easy to be confused about the difference between WordPress themes vs templates.
In this article, we’ll explain the difference between these two and give examples on how to choose between them.
Table of Contents
What is a WordPress Theme?
A WordPress theme is a collection of files that control the layout and design of your entire site. This includes the header, footer, sidebar, and other design elements.
When you install a WordPress theme, it will change the appearance of your whole WordPress website. This means that all pages on your website will have the same design, color palettes and layout. This saves hours of work on your end, and it gives your website a consistent experience for your visitors – very important!
Themes can be customized using the WordPress Customizer or by editing the theme files directly (not recommended). There are thousands of free and premium WordPress themes available, each with its own unique design and customization options.
The official WordPress theme directory is a great place to start when looking for a new theme for your website. There are WordPress themes that are multi-purpose or specifically created for certain businesses and niche sites.
Every new installation of WordPress comes with a starter theme already installed, but you can access the others through the back end of your WordPress site.
What’s the Difference Between WordPress Premium vs Free Themes?
WordPress has both premium (paid) and free themes available, and it can be difficult choosing between them.
Premium themes are usually more robust and feature-rich than free theme. They’ve been professionally designed for customers who need more bells and whistles.
Premium themes often include extras like multiple page layouts, custom widgets, and special plugins that make it easier to customize your website.
Free themes are generally more simple and less feature-rich. But they’re still a great starting point for creating a website, and often they’re all you need.
When deciding between paid and free themes, think about the features you need. Also, how much time and effort you are willing to put into customizing your website?
Many premium themes offer a free, basic version to get you started. So one idea is to start with the free theme and then upgrade if 1) you’re happy with the theme itself, and 2) the paid version offers more features you need and are willing to pay for.
Also, just a note that often the premium themes require yearly renewal. After that, you’ll still have the paid version, but you won’t receive updates or support for it. Many developers offer a lifetime subscription option at a higher price. You can decide if that makes sense for your budget and your goals.
What is a WordPress Template?
A WordPress template is a file that controls the layout of a specific page, post or section of your website.
Template files are used to create different page layouts for different types of content. For example, you might have a template for your homepage, a separate template for your blog posts, and another template for your contact page.
Templates are typically created by developers using PHP code, and they can be customized using CSS stylesheets and other digital assets (not recommended for beginners).
When you create a new page or post in WordPress, you can choose a template to use for that specific page or post. Templates can be included as part of a WordPress theme or they can be standalone templates that can be used with any theme.
Many premium WordPress themes come with a number of pre-built page templates. They can be used to create different types of pages on your website.
You can also purchase templates separately as standalone items. Unlike WordPress themes, standalone templates are not available through the back end of WordPress.
What Is the Difference Between a Template and a Template Kit?
Templates provide a starting point for a website page or post layout.
A template kit is a collection of templates that are designed to work together to create a complete website. Template kits usually include multiple page templates, plus additional goodies like icons, graphics, and other design elements.
Both template and template kits can be used with WordPress, but there are some key differences between the two.
Template kits typically have more features and options than templates, as they’ve been designed to work together. They also tend to be more expensive than templates.
The choice between a template and a template kit depends on your needs and budget. If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to create a website, a template may be a better choice. (And honestly, your WordPress theme alone may already meet that need.)
However, if you want a more extensive website design with lots of features and customization options, a template kit may be what you’re looking for.
How to Choose Between WordPress Themes vs Templates
Choosing between WordPress themes vs templates depends on your specific goals for your website. Here are some things to consider when making your decision:
If you want to change the design of your entire website, then you should choose a WordPress theme. If you only want to change the layout of a specific page or post, then you should choose a WordPress template.
If you want to have complete control over the design and layout of your website, then you should choose a WordPress theme. If you only need to make minor changes to the layout of a specific page or post, then you should choose a WordPress template.
Specific Page Layouts:
If you need to create different page layouts for different types of content on your website, then you should choose a WordPress template. If you want all pages on your website to have the same layout, then you should choose a WordPress theme.
If you’re creating an online store, then you should choose a WordPress theme that’s specifically designed for e-commerce. These themes will have built-in support for shopping carts, payment gateways, and other e-commerce features.
If you’re just starting out with WordPress and don’t want to spend money on a premium theme, then you can keep the default WordPress theme. This theme is free and comes with every installation of WordPress. You can also choose from thousands of other free themes, right from the back end of your WordPress site. With the huge selection of every type of design, you’re sure to find one that fits perfectly.
What is a WordPress Plugin and When Should I Use One?
We’ve talked about WordPress themes vs templates, which both control the look and feel of your website.
WordPress plugins are used to add extra functions to your website. They control what your website does and how it behaves. Plugins can be used to add things like contact forms, SPAM filters, social media sharing buttons, and more.
Like WordPress themes, there are thousands of free plugins, with the option to upgrade to a paid version with more features. Often the free version is plenty – although many plugins are worth the extra money. Only you can decide.
Plugins are easy to install from the WordPress back end, and they’re a great way to customize your website without needing to write code. Plugins are also a great way to add additional features to your website without having to create a custom theme.
When choosing a plugin, make sure that it’s compatible with your version of WordPress. (The plugin itself will state this.) It’s also important to consider the reputation of the plugin developer and read reviews from other users.
Will Using a Plugin Slow Down My WordPress Site?
While using a plugin won’t necessarily slow down your WordPress site, remember that plugins add extra code which can affect your site’s performance.
Also, some plugins don’t play well with others. So monitor your site and check its speed after installing each one.
To keep your WordPress site fast and light, only use plugins that are needed for the functions you want. And always keep them up to date. This is important both for site speed and site security, as hackers like to manipulate old, outdated code.
To keep your WordPress site fast and light, only use plugins that are needed for the functions you want.
5 Top Website Features to Look for in a WordPress Theme
With the thousands of available WordPress themes out there, how does a person narrow down the choices? An eye-catching website isn’t enough.
To have a quality website that performs well, here is a list of website features that are essential:
Unless you’re building a very simple website, most themes have a lot of code running behind the scenes. But some themes are more bloated with unnecessary code than others. Choose a theme that uses lightweight code so your site loads quickly.
The theme should have a simple design so that it can be easily customized. Many people start with a theme that has lots of bells and whistles, but it’s usually better to choose a simple theme with clean code so you add your own features.
A responsive design is one that changes automatically to display correctly on computers, tablets, and phones. (We’ve all seen websites that look great on a desktop computer but are wonky on smaller screens.) This is a must for any theme you choose.
Since so many people are browsing the web on mobile devices, your website needs to be responsive. Try the demo site on your phone or tablet to make sure the theme looks great on mobile.
Modern themes include customization tools that let you change the color scheme and layout of your site. These tools are built into the back end of your site, so you can preview the changes before they go live. (Some older themes still require you to edit CSS files to change the theme’s appearance, which can be tricky if you’re not familiar with coding.)
If you want to translate your website into multiple languages, choose a theme that supports translation tools. This makes it easy to convert your text into any language.
Well Coded with Active Support
If visitors and customers can’t find your website, none of this matters. Many themes are coded to be search engine friendly, and that is a must. Make sure to choose a WordPress theme that is optimized for both speed and SEO.
10 Excellent and Popular Themes for WordPress
With over 10,000 WordPress themes available, the following list doesn’t even scratch the surface of genuinely awesome themes you could choose. Some of my favorites aren’t even on here. But we had to start somewhere, right?
- Astra: Over 2.3 million sites use Astra, making it the most popular WordPress theme ever. Astra’s website says: “Astra is made for speed. It is the most lightweight theme available in the market and offers unmatched performance.” Astra is highly customizable and comes with a full library of starter templates. Available in both free and premium versions.
- Divi: A versatile and customizable theme that is great for beginners and advanced users alike. Divi’s website says it’s: “The most popular WordPress theme in the world and the ultimate WordPress page builder.” Divi is made by Elegant Themes, a long-standing and well respected developer who’s known for good products and great support. Divi is a premium WordPress theme.
- Avada: More than 845,000 people are avid users of Avada. It’s a multipurpose theme that can create any type of website, from blogs to e-commerce stores. Arvada’s website says: “Avada is the #1 selling WordPress Website Builder on the market and has been continuously for more than 9+ years. 800,000+ beginners, professionals, agencies, businesses, and creatives trust Avada for total design freedom.” Arvada is a premium theme, with a one-time purchase that covers lifetime updates.
- Be Theme: A multipurpose theme that is perfect for creating any type of website, from corporate sites to online stores. It continually makes the top ten lists of best and popular WordPress themes. Be Theme’s website says: “BeTheme is a multipurpose website builder and best-selling WordPress theme with 650+ pre-built websites.” Be Theme is a premium theme.
- Kadence: Quickly becoming a new favorite, Kadence has over 300,000 happy users and an active, engaged development team. It’s a fast, lightweight, multipurpose theme that’s highly customizable and comes with several starter templates for many types of sites. The Kadence website says: “No Bloat, No Limitations: Create and customize professionally designed websites in minutes with no compromises on performance, zero limits on what you can design.” Available in both free and premium versions.
- Schema: A highly optimized and SEO-friendly theme for any type of website. Schema’s website says: “Schema theme helps blow your competitors out of the water by having an ultra SEO-friendly website that’s elegant yet simple, advanced yet user-friendly and loads so fast that your users (and Google) will love you for it.” Schema offers both free and paid options.
- OceanWP: A heavy hitter in the WordPress world, with almost 6-million downloads and over 5,000 5-star reviews on WordPress. The OceanWP site says: “OceanWP is the favorite choice of thousands of developers, website designers, eCommerce store owners and hobby users. OceanWP is the only real multi-purpose theme – versatile, complete and flexible. For websites with no limits.” Available in free, personal and business options.
- GeneratePress: A highly popular, lightweight and customizable theme that’s all about speed. The GeneratePress site says: “GeneratePress is a lightweight WordPress theme that focuses on speed, stability, and accessibility. Start your website off in the right direction whether you’re a hobbyist, freelancer, or agency.” Available in free, premium and lifetime options.
- Neve: A super fast, easily customizable, multi-purpose theme. Designed by ThemeIsle and with over 300,000 websites, they’ve got a great following. Neve offers 100+ starter templates and lots of features. The Neve site says: “Neve’s mobile-first approach, compatibility with AMP, and popular page-builders makes website building accessible for everyone.” Neve has both free and paid versions.
- Storefront: The only theme in this list specifically created for your online store, built by the WordPress giant WooCommerce. This popular theme is easy to use and has 7-million downloads. The Storefront site says: “WooCommerce Storefront is an intuitive & flexible, free WordPress theme offering deep integration with WooCommerce. It’s the perfect platform for your next WooCommerce project.” Storefront is a free theme.
Today’s WordPress has been built to be light and speedy-fast – the perfect fit for any website. The choice between WordPress themes vs templates ultimately depends on the design and function you need.
With so options to choose from – and endless features besides – you’re sure to find just the right ones to help turn your vision into reality.
Hopefully this article has helped explain the difference between WordPress themes vs templates. No matter which design you choose, WordPress is an excellent choice for powering your website.
Do you currently have a website? What theme are you using? I’d love to hear why you chose it and how it’s working for you!