The Anatomy Of A WordPress Theme & How To Choose One

Reading Time: 6 minutes

  • blog
  • blogger
  • blogging
  • WordPress
  • wordpress blog
  • wordpress theme

So far everything we’ve gone through:

But what about the look and feel of your blog?

In this post I will be explaining what a WordPress theme is, how it works and how to choose your a theme for your blog.

Let’s get started.

What is a WordPress theme?

A WordPress theme is the visual part of your blog.

Depending on the theme you use, it can come with extra functionality such as customization options and sometimes even plugins.

WordPress themes are divided into a number of different templates files.

Some of these template files are components and others are page templates.

By using template files, WordPress themes are easier to manage and update.

WordPress is not the only CMS that uses templates for theming, it can be found in almost any CMS.

What are these template files and how they work?

Let’s have a look.

The different template files of a WordPress theme

Every WordPress theme can be different but there are common template files that they all use.

These are the files we are going to go through.

I explain what each file does and where it fits in a theme.

But before we start, I want to show where you can find them in the WordPress dashboard.

Hover over Appearance and click on Theme Editor.

WordPress Theme Editor
WordPress Theme Editor

This is where you can view and edit any of the themes you have installed.

In order to make sure we are viewing the same theme make sure you have selected the Twenty Sixteen default WordPress theme.

WordPress Theme Editor Select Theme
WordPress Theme Editor Select Theme

Stylesheet (style.css)

This is the first file you will see and every WordPress theme needs a stylesheet.

A style has all the CSS styling for your theme, which can range from layout to colors

The stylesheet also has metadata for a theme such as the name, description, author, etc.

If you are familiar with CSS, you can make changes here to your theme.

The stylesheet is used throughout your WordPress theme.

Theme Functions (functions.php)

Each theme can be different in terms of look and feel as well as functionality.

For example, a blog theme will need different functionality to an e-commerce theme.

The theme functions file is where you create and add functionality that is only related to the theme.

This file is used and accessible throughout the theme.

404 Template (404.php)

Unlike the previous template files, this is a page template and it is used for displaying a 404 error.

A 404 error is what you see when you try to access something that doesn’t exist.

You can only have one 404 page on your blog.

WordPress Theme 404 Page Template
WordPress Theme 404 Page Template

Comments (comments.php)

As the name suggests, this is the file used for displaying comments on your blog.

It can be used on any post or page template in your theme as long as the Allow Comments setting is enabled under the Discussions section.

WordPress Page/Post Allow Comments
WordPress Page/Post Allow Comments
WordPress Theme Comments
WordPress Theme Comments

Theme Footer (footer.php)

This is the template file that will display the footer in your theme.

A footer is the section at the bottom of your blog.

WordPress Theme Footer
WordPress Theme Footer

The footer usually displays navigation, social links, and a copyright notice but this can vary depending on what WordPress theme is being used.

The footer template file is usually used on every page and post of your blog.

Theme Header (header.php)

This is the template file that will display header for your theme.

A header is the section at the top of your blog.

WordPress Theme Header
WordPress Theme Header

What your header template file displays is also related to your theme, but it is usually your blog name and logo, navigation, social links and sometimes a search.

The meta tags for your blog will be automatically generated in this file for your blog so you don’t need to worry about updating them.

Meta tags are used mostly for SEO but they can also be used for social media.

The header template file is usually used on every page and post of your blog.

Main Index Template (index.php)

This is the default homepage template for your blog.

If you don’t change the homepage setting in the WordPress dashboard, this is the template that will be used.

Single Page (page.php)

This is the template your theme will use to display pages on your blog.

Some themes can come with other page templates that you will be able to select when creating a page if no template is selected this one will be used by default.

Search Results (search.php)

If there is a search on your blog, your theme will use this template to display the search results.

This template file is for the search results and not the search itself.

Single Post (single.php)

This is the template your theme will use for displaying standard posts.

Take note that there are two different templates for pages and posts.

Other templates will be used when changing the format of your post such as Gallery, Video, Audio, etc.

Now that we have gone through the different template parts of a WordPress theme, let’s have a look at how to get one.

Choosing a WordPress theme or using a theme builder

When you are looking for a WordPress theme, don’t rush, take your time and make sure you are choosing the right one.

There are thousands of places you can go to, to look for a theme.

Some offer free themes and others are paid.

Before downloading or buying a WordPress theme look for the following:

  • Do they offer support?
  • Do they have reviews from others?
  • Do they offer a money back guarantee?

Below is a few places that offer free themes:

If you are looking for a premium WordPress theme, you can have a look at the following places:

If you want more flexibility to the look and feel of your WordPress theme, there is another option, using a theme builder.

Theme builders allow you to create your own theme and change as you want to.

They offer a drag and drop interface making it easy to use and you don’t have to have any experience in coding a WordPress theme.

Below are two of the best options available:

Divi: A visual drag & drop page builder for any WordPress theme

Website: Divi Builder

Elementor: Building beautiful WordPress websites has never been easier. Explore the visual drag & drop Theme Builder that does it all, and works on any theme. Coding skills needed: none.

Website: Elementor Theme Builder

If you are not using a theme builder, you will need to install and active your theme which is what we will go through next.

Installing & activating a WordPress theme

Installing and activating a WordPress theme is similar to a plugin.

You will only need to install and activate a theme if you’ve downloaded one and not using a theme builder.

To get started Hover over Appearance and click on Themes.

WordPress Themes
WordPress Themes

Click on Add New and then Upload Theme.

Select the theme file you downloaded and click Install Now.

Install WordPress Theme
Install WordPress Theme

Once your theme has been installed, all you need to do is click Activate.

Activate WordPress Theme
Activate WordPress Theme

Depending on theme you have installed, you might have extra options in your WordPress dashboard as well as under Appearance.

Your blog will now use this WordPress theme.


In this post, we looked at what:

  • What is a WordPress theme?
  • How a theme works
  • Where you can find a theme for your blog
  • And how to install and activate a downloaded WordPress Theme

Next, we will be looking at Monetizing Your WordPress Blog Using Google AdSense, InfoLinks & Affiliate Programs.

If you want to stay up to date with the Become A WordPress Pro series, make sure you subscribe.

Thank you for reading and please let me know if you have any questions in the comment section below.

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