During the early stages of creating a website on WordPress, you’ll encounter themes. In this guide, we’ll explain what a theme is, what it does for your site, and the differences between the types of themes you’ll encounter.
In this guide
A theme is your site’s visual design and overall layout. It controls how your website’s content is presented to a visitor. Themes include design components like color schemes, typography, page layouts, and other elements that create a consistent and cohesive appearance throughout the website.
Themes provide a starting point for your website’s look and functionality. Instead of building your website’s design from scratch, a theme provides the design framework you need to launch your website quickly. With a theme, you can start creating your content immediately without spending too much time deciding on how the content looks. A well-designed theme does the hard work for you!
You can also change from one theme to another without losing your website’s content, applying the new changes automatically.
With so many options, it can be helpful to think about what you’re looking for in a theme. The main thing to remember is that you are in complete control over your site’s layout. After activating a WordPress.com theme, you can use the Site Editor to change the text, images, colors, fonts, layout, and position of all the elements on your site.
Some factors to consider when deciding on a theme include:
- Do you like the look of the header area? You’ll typically see the site title, menu, and logo here.
- Do you like how the content is organized and presented? While you can change how this looks, choosing a layout you like can mean less work moving things around later.
- Do you like how the theme appears on mobile and tablet screens? To see this, open the live demo and use the selector at the top to switch between desktop, tablet, and mobile. All WordPress.com themes are responsive to all screen sizes, including mobile phones.
When looking at themes, focus on the overall layout rather than the subject matter shown in the demo. A theme’s demo site may showcase an example of a furniture store, a music portfolio, a fashion site, or a food blog. However, your site can be customized for any topic imaginable once you swap out the demo text and images for your own.
The following terms refer to the types of themes in the WordPress ecosystem:
Block themes are the latest and greatest themes available on WordPress. Sometimes called Full Site Editing (or FSE) themes, these themes harness the full power of the Site Editor to create the exact layout you want — no coding experience required.
Block themes offer a greater degree of flexibility in the design of your site, allowing you to use their starting layouts off the rack or as the jump-off point for your own vision for your site. They provide precise control over every element on your site.
Block themes use Styles to configure your site’s colors, typography, and layout, expanding these customization possibilities beyond those available to earlier kinds of themes. They give you the ability to edit the templates that control how your site presents its content, as well as create custom templates, template parts, and patterns to reuse across your site’s pages, posts, and other content, which frees your site from being locked into a single look, color palette, or navigation menu.
Note: Universal themes, described below, will also appear in the block themes filter page.
Universal themes are our first version of themes that were built for the block editor. While mostly similar to block themes, the primary difference is that they still use the Customizer to edit certain aspects, like Menus.
Classic themes refer to themes developed before the WordPress (block) editor was introduced. Their design is edited primarily in Appearance → Customize, but the overall structure and layout are typically set by the theme and can’t be adjusted to the same level of control as what is offered by block themes. Most block editing options (like full-width content) are unavailable in classic themes.
This section of the guide applies to sites with the WordPress.com Business or Commerce plan. If your site has one of our legacy plans, this feature is available on the Pro plan.
Third-party themes are themes developed by a range of third-party developers for use on the WordPress platform. Our guide to uploading a theme provides step-by-step instructions on adding a third-party theme to your site.
No matter your vision for your site, you can find a theme for it. If you are considering a theme from WordPress.org or from marketplaces such as Themeforest, there are extra factors to keep in mind when choosing a theme:
- How often is the theme updated? Frequent updates are a good sign.
- Does the theme have good reviews?
- Is the theme lean and lightweight, or does it rely on a lot of custom functionality (like widgets, shortcodes, and special plugins)?
- Have a lot of people installed this theme? If the theme is popular, it can signify that it performs well.
- Does the theme developer provide a reliable support service to help you with bugs and questions?
While we don’t provide support for third-party themes, we do offer suggestions for how to get help with these themes in our Get Help with Plugins and Themes support guide.
Our dedicated theme guides will help you activate, set up, and customize themes on your site:
Choosing a theme is an important step at the beginning of creating your website. This guide will show you how to find themes and choose one that fits the vision you have for your site.
After choosing a theme, your next step will be to set up your theme to look exactly how you want. If you’re not sure how to get started, follow the steps on this page.
You can change the theme of your site as often as you like. This guide explains how to switch themes and make sure your site looks just the way you like.
This guide will show you how to upload any theme to your WordPress.com site.
If you have knowledge of HTML and PHP, you can make changes to your theme’s underlying code by creating a child theme.
This guide will show you how to remove themes from your site.
Our Premium themes feature intricate designs, exciting options for customization, and dedicated support.
This guide explains what it means when a theme has been retired and what to do about it.
Paid themes are additional themes available to Business and Commerce plan customers.