WordPress Theme vs. Template: Understanding the Difference

Written By:Callum
Last Updated: February 29, 2024
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Powering around 810 million (43%) websites as of 2023, WordPress is one of the most widely used open-source content management systems (CMS) that serves as a platform for building and managing websites. When building a website with WordPress, a few terms like WordPress theme, WordPress template, and plugins are continuously used throughout the development. Since these terms are a bit technical, laymen may not understand the meaning and differences and often get confused with their role in website development.

Awarded as the best Web Design Agency in Sydney, Creato is here to clear all the confusion regarding WordPress and website development. I (Callum Humphreys, owner and creative director at Creato) will assist you throughout the blog, clarifying the fundamental differences and highlighting the distinct roles that themes and templates play in shaping the WordPress experience.

Themes dictate the appearance of your entire website, setting its visual tone and style. They offer diverse design choices, allowing effortless customisation to make your site look unique. Conversely, templates focus on structuring individual pages or posts within the chosen theme. While themes are praised for their user-friendly nature in shaping a website’s aesthetics, templates, especially complex ones like template kits, might appear more difficult due to their complexities.

To know more, let’s dive into the detailed differences between WordPress Themes and WordPress templates!

What is a WordPress Theme?

A WordPress theme is like the style and layout of your website. A WordPress theme comprises files such as templates, stylesheets, and code, determining your website’s front-end’s visual appearance and layout. While it doesn’t alter WordPress’s core functionality, it dictates how your content is showcased and how visitors interact with your site, and ultimately, it shapes the overall user experience.

They dictate the layout, navigation, and design elements, profoundly influencing user interaction and ease of accessing information. Design considerations such as font size, contrast, and responsiveness directly impact the readability and accessibility of the site’s content, ensuring a user-friendly experience. Additionally, well-coded themes optimise the website’s speed, performance, and compatibility with plugins, enhancing its capabilities without sacrificing its performance quality.

Key Features of WordPress Themes

  • Variety: Themes are available in free and premium versions, catering to various budgets and requirements.
  • Customisation: Many themes provide options to personalise colours, fonts, layouts, and features to match your brand’s identity.
  • Widgets: Themes often include built-in widgets for adding functionalities like sidebars, social media buttons, or contact forms.
  • Page Builders: Certain themes offer bundled page builders to create custom page layouts, enabling drag-and-drop functionality.
  • Responsiveness: Modern themes ensure responsiveness, adapting your website for optimal viewing across diverse devices.
  • Support: Free themes generally offer limited support, whereas premium themes often provide users with dedicated support forums and documentation.

Types of WordPress Themes

WordPress themes come in diverse types, each tailored to specific preferences and website needs:

  • Free themes, cost-effective for personal sites, lack advanced features and support.
  • Premium themes boast superior design and support but entail an investment and learning curve.
  • Niche-specific themes, tailored for specific industries, excel in SEO but might limit future expansion.
  • Multipurpose themes offer versatility but demand more setup time and may be overwhelming for simpler sites, occasionally facing plugin compatibility issues.

Overall, free themes suit budget-conscious users, while premium and multipurpose themes offer extensive features but require careful consideration for specific needs and potential drawbacks.

Selecting the Right WordPress Theme 

Choosing a WordPress theme is not just about looks; it’s about finding the ideal balance between functionality, user experience, and performance. To navigate the multitude of themes available, consider these factors:

  • Responsiveness: In today’s mobile-centric era, your theme must adapt seamlessly to diverse screen sizes and devices. Ensuring users a consistent and enjoyable experience across desktops, tablets, and smartphones is essential.
  • Browser Compatibility: Ensure your theme is compatible with major browsers like Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. This guarantees accessibility for all visitors, preventing rendering issues and broken functionalities.
  • Plugin Support: Your theme should harmonise with essential plugins that power specific features on your website. Compatibility with plugins related to SEO, contact forms, or eCommerce enhances your site’s capabilities.

Creato’s Expertise in WordPress Theme Design

We at Creato believe in building websites that reflect the brand’s message and ethos and, therefore, always opt for customised themes for our clients. Our web design team precisely reviews the brand details, including their industry, niche, offerings and purpose, and creates a theme that aligns well with their message.

Creato’s attention to detail ensures themes not only look appealing but also function seamlessly, enhancing user experience. Moreover, our proficiency extends to enhancing themes with additional features, contributing significantly to the overall improvement of websites.

What is a WordPress Template?

WordPress templates are essential files containing HTML, PHP, and CSS code dictating how specific content appears on your site:

  • They define the structure and layout of individual pages or post types, acting as blueprints guiding content display.
  • These template files reside within a theme’s “templates” folder, forming a vital part of a theme’s architecture.
  • WordPress dynamically selects the suitable template based on the viewed content, ensuring a consistent presentation.

Different WordPress template types include –

  • Page Templates: Tailored layouts for specific pages, like full-width landing pages or customised contact pages.
  • Post Templates: Different displays for individual blog posts, highlighting featured images or author bios.
  • Archive Templates: Structured presentations for archive pages, such as blog archives or category pages.

Steps to Create and Edit Templates in WordPress

  • To craft or edit custom templates in WordPress, visit your website’s dashboard and click “Appearance.”
  • From there, select “Theme Editor” to modify existing templates.
  • Use a file manager or FTP client to access your theme’s folder to create new templates.
  • Design a new file using HTML, PHP, and CSS in line with WordPress naming conventions. This file should go into the “templates” folder within your theme.
  • Ensure proper naming and include necessary code elements like WordPress functions to showcase dynamic content.
  • Once you’re done, upload these files to your theme’s folder.

These steps grant you control over how your WordPress website looks and operates, tailored precisely to your preferences.

Quick Comparision Between WordPress Theme and WordPress Templates 

Feature WordPress Theme WordPress Template
Definition A collection of files that determine the overall appearance of a WordPress website. A single file that controls the layout of a specific page or a group of pages.
Scope Applies to the entire website, influencing design aspects like layout, colour schemes, font styles, and overall aesthetics. Targets a specific part of the website, such as a single page, post, or a specific type of content.
Impact on SEO Significant impact on site ranking Directly influences content presentation
Best Practices Customizable for SEO-friendly design Controls the layout of individual pages/posts
Integration with Creato SEO-integrated design strategies Customization for optimal content display
Synergy Between Elements Influences site structure and user experience Defines how content is displayed
Upcoming Innovations Future-ready features for SEO optimisation Evolving layout innovations
Building Brand Identity Offers brand-centric design customisation Customizable for consistent brand messaging
Local Context Customization Tailorable for regional SEO and audience Enables local content presentation
Components Include templates, stylesheets, images, JavaScript files, and possibly PHP code. Usually, it is a single PHP file that includes an HTML structure and WordPress template tags.
Examples Twenty Twenty-One, Astra, OceanWP, etc. Page templates like ‘single.php’, ‘page.php’, ‘archive.php’, etc.
Installation Installed and activated from the WordPress admin dashboard. Typically, part of a theme can be added or modified within a theme’s directory.
Functionality: It can include custom post types, shortcodes, widgets, and other functionality beyond mere appearance. Primarily concerned with the layout and presentation of content, not adding new functionality.
Variability Each WordPress site requires one active theme. A theme can include multiple templates for different purposes.


WordPress themes shape your website’s presence, whereas WordPress templates shape the presence of a particular page or post. Our WordPress website design in Sydney will assist all those looking for a successful, SEO-optimised WordPress website.

We have a team of experts specialising in WordPress design and development, following the approach that prioritises innovative design strategies to ensure an engaging and functional website tailored to your needs.

Partnering with Creato assures secure payment methods, a 100% Satisfaction Guarantee, and a commitment to meeting deadlines. Your satisfaction and website success are our top priorities.

Connect with the experts to begin your dynamic and successful WordPress website journey with us!

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Hey, I'm Callum. Here at Creato we re determined to produce creative Web Design. My only questions is, will it be yours?

About callum

Callum is the founder of Creato, a Sydney based design agency that specialises in creating holistic brands for Aussie businesses.

With a talent for crafting memorable and effective branding solutions, Callum has built Creato into a respected and successful agency. His work has been featured in various publications, including The Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, and Entrepreneur.

If you re interested in working with Callum and Creato to bring your brand to the next level, don t hesitate to get in touch!

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