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WordPress 3.9 Crash Course – Part 20 – Understanding WordPress Themes

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Themes Present Content in Different Ways

Next in this WordPress 3.9 Crash Course, we’re going to talk about WordPress themes. The difference between this site, beside its content, and this site and this site is the theme. The theme takes content and presents it in a specific way.

Change the Theme – Changes to Expect

In fact, here we are looking at this site and our content looks a certain way. Well, let’s change the theme and see what happens. We’ll come over here to Appearance and Themes.

When you come to Appearance and Themes, it shows you the themes that you have installed. We have Twenty Fourteen which is active, we have Twenty Thirteen and we have Twenty Twelve. These three themes were all installed when we installed WordPress.


Let’s activate Twenty Thirteen and come back over to take a look at the site now. We didn’t change anything about the content but the whole appearance of the site changed. It’s completely different now. And in fact, our menu went away because we haven’t assigned a menu to this menu theme location.

Menu Location

Let’s set up a menu for this one. We have to come back over to our Manage Locations and this only has one menu available for it so we just select main menu. Now the menu that we created before gets used here.

Featured Image

Let’s go over to the Google Docs page. Everything looks different. You can see what this theme does to the featured image. This one doesn’t have that overlapping stuff on the featured image, this one shrinks the featured image down to this size and on the left it actually pokes the images out.

In fact, for both left and right aligned images, it sticks the images out beyond the edge of the text on either side. So you get a little bit of an idea of what happens here when you change things up with different themes.

Change the Theme – A Second Example

Let’s look at the other default theme, Twenty Twelve. When we refresh it looks kind of odd. In this case…I don’t know what that is. Was that a background image I was playing around with or was it a header image I was playing around with?

Image Sizing – Theme Dependent

Let’s see, I’ll remove the header image, save changes and refresh it. So here’s what Twenty Twelve looks like. Again, it does something entirely different with the featured image. It makes it the same size as the content. And now our content area is bigger. It’s now 625 pixels wide so 238 is no longer half which shows you how the image sizing is very clearly linked to the theme that you’re using.

Existing Menus Persist, Just Not Their Locations

Let’s go back to menus and Manage Locations. This also only has one menu location so I’ll just set the main menu to that and refresh it. And now you have the menu showing. This is that page where we pasted the text from the plain text editor so the text doesn’t wrap and that still works the way you expect it to work.

The menus themselves are not dependent upon the theme you’re using, just the menu locations. The menus themselves don’t change if you’ve already created them. The theme just may not place the menu in the right spot for you. You may have to do that.

Recap of the Effects of Switching Themes

So a theme is just a different way of displaying the same information or same content. It’s essentially the visual blueprint for what you do. You just saw how I switched themes. I just went to Appearance and Themes and then activated the theme I wanted to try. You can also do a live preview of the Theme as well.

What Doesn’t Change

There are some things that don’t change when you change themes. Your page titles don’t change, your site title and tagline don’t change and your menus don’t change. The menu location may change because different themes have different menu locations but the actual menus themselves don’t change. Also the content that you placed here and the images that you’ve inserted don’t change. You can change themes back and forth all day long and none of that changes.

They may be displayed differently, they may go to different spots but the actual content that you inserted in the WordPress text editor does not change when you change themes.

What May Change

Things that do change are the existence of sidebars or the existence of widget areas and the content of those widget areas. Whether or not you can add header images or background images, where menus are located, the size of featured images, the size of content areas and whether or not a theme has a footer and what goes in that footer.

Those kinds of things do change from theme to theme which is why this looks so different from this one. These website here I’ve shown you are all WordPress websites but they all look different because they are using different themes.

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