In our two previous posts, we detailed five things you need to know about WordPress shortcodes and plugins. In keeping with that same idea, this post addresses five things you should know about WordPress themes. This is a very important topic for new WordPress users inasmuch as they tend to be unfamiliar with how themes work.
As an introduction, you should know how the WordPress platform interacts with themes. As a content management system, all the information displayed on a WordPress site is stored in a database and retrieved only when needed. The only purpose of a WordPress theme is to tell web browsers how to display that information. As such, the theme is completely separate from any information you input (e.g., blog posts, videos, charts and graphs, etc.).
With that explanation out of the way, here are the five things you need to know:
1. Themes Can Be Modified
Any WordPress theme – whether a free theme from the WordPress catalogue or a paid theme provided by a professional developer – can be modified. The extent to which you can modify only depends on your knowledge of HTML, CSS, and other coding languages. Themes are modified by editing the configuration files that dictate their behaviour.
2. Modifications Can Be Protected
Learning to modify your WordPress theme is all well and good, but what happens when the developer updates the theme? All your modifications could be lost. The good news is that there is a way around this. You can protect your modifications by creating a child theme. The best way to do this is to use a child theme plugin. The plugin combines the original theme with any modifications you made to create a completely new theme that remains unaffected by developer updates.
3. Not All Things Behave the Same Way
If you have experimented with multiple WordPress themes in the past, you know how true this statement is. Not every theme displays information the same way. Therefore, you may find that switching themes drastically changes what your website looks like. Switching can also render some of your plugins non-functional.
4. Theming Should Fit Content
Your choice of WordPress themes should be influenced by the content of your website. With thousands of themes to choose from, you should be able to find at least a few that are well matched to your content and messaging. There are custom designed themes especially for writers, photographers, restaurant owners, bloggers, tech companies, and on and on.
5. Backups Should Include Themes
Finally, when you create a WordPress backup you are given the choice to decide how much information you want included in the backup. For the sake of thoroughness, backup everything – even your theme. A complete backup will restore your website to its last stable condition should anything go wrong. Yes, backing up your theme does require extra storage space, but it’s far better than losing all of your modifications and having to start over.