WordPress Theme Design: A Beginner Simple Overview

WordPress, a widely used content management system, empowers millions of websites across the digital landscape. One of its key features is the ability to customize the look and feel of a website through themes. In this blog post, I will delve into the fundamentals of WordPress theme design, shedding light on the importance of themes and providing a basic understanding of the design process. I focus on the new generation of WordPress themes called block themes.

Table of Contents

Why WordPress Theme Design Matters

Themes play a crucial role in defining a website’s appearance. They determine the layout, color scheme, and overall aesthetics, allowing website owners to create a unique and visually appealing online presence. Whether you’re building a personal blog, a business website, or an e-commerce platform, choosing the right theme is essential for making a positive first impression on visitors.

The Anatomy of a WordPress Theme

A simple WordPress block Theme folder structure is like the below (next I will describe each):

  • theme-slug (root folder)
    • parts
      • footer.html
      • header.html
      • etc
    • templates
      • intex.html
      • single.html
      • etc
    • functions.php
    • screenshot.png
    • style.css
    • theme.json

A WordPress theme consists of various components, each serving a specific purpose. These components include:

  1. parts: WordPress uses template parts to organize and display different website sections, such as header, footer, and comments.
  2. templates: WordPress uses template files to display different website pages, such as 404, archive, posts, etc. These files work to generate the final web pages.
  3. functions.php: This file houses custom functions and code snippets that enhance the theme’s functionality. It allows for the incorporation of additional features and modifications.
  4. screenshot.png: It is an image that represents your theme and is shown in your WordPress website Admin Area > Appearance > Themes. The recommended dimensions are 1200px width and 900px height, should be .png and a maximum of 2MB size.
  5. style.css:
    • The stylesheet defines information about the theme like name, author, version, etc that is used in some places including your WordPress website Admin Area > Appearance > Themes.
    • It also contains the custom CSS codes that dictate the website’s design elements or blocks that cannot be performed via theme.json or the Site Editor. “You have three places you can put your custom CSS, in order of recommendation: A block stylesheet, the css property in theme.json, and your theme’s main stylesheet (e.g. style.css)” 1.
  6. theme.json: It is the heart of a theme. You can enable and disable features in Site Editor, add font families and sizes, add color palettes, add spacing preset, style WordPress blocks, and much more.

There are other elements that a theme usually has like the assets folder where we put custom CSS, JS, fonts, etc folders and files. I omit them for simplicity and will talk about them at the proper time.

Creating a Basic WordPress Theme

A basic understanding of HTML, CSS, and PHP is beneficial for those interested in crafting their themes. WordPress follows a hierarchy in selecting template files, making it essential to include files like header and footer for a cohesive design.

In the above, the PHP file extension is used. HTML files are used instead in block themes, but the template hierarchy is the same.

If you want a boilerplate empty theme, you can use this: Alvand Blog WordPress Theme v1.0.0. We will complete it as we continue learning in future blog posts. You can install this theme like any other theme. If you have trouble installing themes, see this article: WordPress Theme: How to Download and Install

Customization in WordPress Theme Design

WordPress provides users with various customization options to tailor themes to their preferences without diving into complex coding. The Site Editor allows users to tweak colors, fonts, and other visual elements, providing a user-friendly interface for making personalized adjustments. See the video below that is just a glance at many things you can do with the Site Editor.

The video is from the following blog post I recommend reading:
A Guide to Easy WordPress Theme Customization


In conclusion, WordPress theme design is a vital aspect of creating a captivating online presence. Whether you opt for pre-designed themes or venture into custom designs, understanding the basics of theme components and customization options is crucial. As you embark on your WordPress journey, keep experimenting, learning, and fine-tuning your themes to achieve a website that not only looks good but also resonates with your audience. Stay tuned for more in-depth insights into the world of WordPress theme design in our upcoming posts.


  1. Styles, patterns, and more with the Details block ↩︎
  2. Template Hierarchy – Theme Handbook ↩︎

All Parts of This Series

  1. How to Wampserver Windows Download and Install
  2. WordPress Theme Design: A Beginner Simple Overview
  3. WordPress Themes: How to Design Header & Footer

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