I was talking to a friend recently about using WordPress as a website.
She asked me a great question that I receive often and thought it deserved a detailed response.
The question was: “Can you change your WordPress theme without affecting or recreating your website’s content?”
My answer: “Oh my goodness, yes!”
The fact that you can make such a quick and easy complete website design change with WordPress themes has to be one of the greatest features of the program itself. Let’s compare this feature to your typical ‘old school’ HTML website. When designing a HTML website, you (or a website designer) can spend hours upon hours creating and updating your website’s look, colors, layout and ‘theme’. With a WordPress website however, you can choose from the thousands of themes available. Some themes let you change your entire color layout with the click of a button, others let you keep the overall theme but change the width, or number of columns just by checking a box. Not only that, WordPress designers are constantly working to create new and better professional quality themes that users can purchase for a very reasonable price. Adding the fact that the tradition theme usually requires expensive website design software like Dreamweaver or Microsoft Expressions (where WordPress is free) the choice seems to be a no-brainier.
So how does it work?
Here’s what happens when you change your theme:
Here’s a little description of the anatomy of a WordPress website along with which parts are ‘theme-based’ and which are ‘content-based’:
Header – The header is that top portion of the website and the header changes with your theme.
Columns – Many themes have two or three columns and the layout of these columns is based on the theme.
Footer – The footer is usually theme-based. This means if you do any major customization in the footer (the very bottom of the site) they will usually need to be re-done or copy/pasted when you change themes.
Pages – You can create pages of content within your site. They do not change when your theme does.
Posts – These are very similar to pages and the only major difference is posts usually take comments and pages usually don’t.
Sidebar – If you use widgets to add content in your sidebar then this will be content-based and will have no effect when you change your theme.
Comments – There’s no effect on your comments when you change the theme other than to take on a possible new look of the theme you change.
Plugins – Plugins are not affected by changes in themes.
What’s important to realize here is that your theme is completely separate from your main website content. A theme is like a “dress and makeup”. You can quickly and easily change looks anytime you want.