WordPress is a Content Management System (CMS) used to drive dynamic web sites. It is open-source software, installed on a web hosting server. It uses a web-based control panel called Dashboard that can be securely accessed from any internet browser. From the Dashboard, you can add/delete or edit content, menus, pages or posts, adjust settings, or access built-in functions
WordPress uses a template system called Themes to set website styling and add advanced functions. The chosen theme greatly determines how the website will looks and act. Function can be further enhanced through the introduction of Plugins, programs to perform a specific job (ie. forms, ecommerce). A WordPress website is a combination of the CMS, theme and plugins with additional style instructions, all working together.
WordPress Theme Options
There are a few different ways to approach WordPress themes depending on requirements and budget.
It’s possible to write a custom WordPress theme from scratch, but practically no-one does this. Even if a developer wanted a fully bespoke website design and functionality, they would likely build upon a minimalist framework to manage basic WordPress functions. This approach has commonly been referred to as a “10,000 hour head-start”, and nobody wants that invoice! Frameworks differ from Themes in that they are usually only concerned with the function of a website with very little styling.
WordPress.org maintains a free directory of approved themes submitted from developers worldwide: https://wordpress.org/themes/. Many of these themes are quite generic, while others are more focused on use (eg. magazine site, ecommerce, restaurant, etc.). These themes are intended to be a basic “starting point”, open for additional customization and design to create a unique website. Most of the sites I build are based on themes from this library and I can suggest a select few that I am very familiar with, should you choose to go this route.
Another option is to select a more complete theme from a commercial theme library, like ThemeForest: https://themeforest.net/. ThemeForest is part of the Envato marketplace, an Australian company that markets web/code, graphics, audio, and other multi-media content through their website. From the themeforest.net website, you can view hundreds of very detailed WordPress themes, each with a demonstration of highly designed page elements and functions for your review. From the ThemeForest index page menu, select Web Themes & Templates > WordPress and choose a category to view. Choose any theme from the resulting list and click the “Live Preview” button to see the examples.
Scrolling through ThemeForest theme samples should give a much better idea of what is possible from a WordPress site, or at the very least some design inspiration for customizing a free theme. There is a LOT to look at and it’s easy to become overwhelmed with options. My best advice is to note exactly what you find appealing about a specific theme when you find it. As you build your notes, you’ll be forming a list of design options that you want to implement in the new site. Or you might get lucky and find just what you’re looking for, all in one neat package!