In order to really understand Thesis you have to understand how Thesis 2 and skins work together. If you’ve watched any of my basic WordPress videos you know that WordPress uses themes to display the pages of the site and in fact, WordPress requires a theme. If there wasn’t a theme active WordPress wouldn’t be able to display anything.
How Themes Work in WordPress
WordPress gives you the ability to switch back and forth between themes and when you switch themes, the content doesn’t change, it just changes the display of the content. So it changes colors, layout of pages and it adds widgets or removes widgets and it changes menu layouts but the actual content of the page never changes from theme to theme.
An additional layer added on top of that is a child theme and WordPress uses child themes to modify themes and so a child theme requires a parent theme. If you’ve looked at Genesis you’re familiar with this concept where you buy the Genesis theme framework and then you can add on one of the StudioPress child themes.
The Genesis itself doesn’t require you to use a child theme but the child themes require you to use Genesis and that’s the way it is in the wider WordPress world. There are all kinds of child themes available for regular themes. The parent theme itself doesn’t need a child theme but the child theme does need the parent theme in order to function.
Thesis Skins act Similarly to Themes in WordPress
Well in this context, Thesis is a theme but not really. Thesis really is a theming engine. It provides you with all of the tools necessary to completely customize the appearance of your site. And in this context, it uses a skin rather than a child theme to display your content and all the customization that you do happens inside of the skin.
So you can switch back and forth between skins just like you can switch back and forth between themes. Switching back and forth doesn’t change the content, it just changes the way the content is displayed.
Difference Between a Thesis 2 Skin and a WordPress Theme
One way to think of it is that Thesis 2 plus a skin equals a WordPress theme. Thesis 2 itself without a skin doesn’t function in the same way that WordPress without a theme doesn’t function. Thesis requires the skin and in that way, skins are similar to child themes or skins are Thesis’ application of child themes.
Thesis Customization Starts with a Skin
In this way, all Thesis customization starts with the skin. The Thesis Skin Editor exposes the entire structure of an HTML template to your ability to change it and to modify it. You can drag one part in and drag another part out and you can make all kinds of stylistic changes to it. Whenever you do that, you are changing the skin. You are not changing Thesis but you’re changing whatever skin happens to be activated.
A summary of that idea is essentially that a skin is to Thesis as a theme is to WordPress. In Thesis the skin is the component that contains all of the information necessary to display the content. So we’re going to spend most of our time today talking about Thesis 2 skins.
So that’s how skins relate to Thesis. They’re similar to child themes in WordPress except that Thesis actually requires a skin whereas a typical parent theme does not actually require a child theme, the parent theme can be used alone. So Thesis in that regard is not like any other theme for WordPress but because of that it is an exceptionally powerful and customizable theme.