WorPress Plugins & Themes
Revolutionary Tools of Web Design and Development
A WordPress theme changes the design of your website, often including its layout. Changing your theme changes how your site looks on the front-end, i.e. what a visitor sees when they browse to your site on the web. There are thousands of free WordPress themes in the WordPress.org Theme Directory, though many WordPress sites use custom themes.
What can themes do?
Themes take the content and data stored by WordPress and display it in the browser. When you create a WordPress theme, you decide how that content looks and is displayed. There are many options available to you when building your theme. For example:
- Your theme can have different layouts, such as static or responsive, using one column or two.
- Your theme can display content anywhere you want it to be displayed.
- Your theme can specify which devices or actions make your content visible.
- Your theme can customize its typography and design elements using CSS.
- Other design elements like images and videos can be included anywhere in your theme.
WordPress themes are incredibly powerful. But, as with every web design project, a theme is more than color and layout. Good themes improve engagement with your website’s content in addition to being beautiful.
A WordPress plugin is essentially a bit of code that “plugs in” to your self-hosted WordPress site. In human terms, that means a WordPress plugin is something that adds new functionality to your WordPress site or extends existing functionality on your site.
One of the benefits of WordPress is that enterprising developers have written tens of thousands of WordPress plugins that you can add to your site.
Plugins can make everything from small tweaks to massive changes to your site. For example, some plugins can even turn your WordPress site into a fully functioning eCommerce store, social network, or forum.
Or, they can also add smaller features like an Instagram feed. Some WordPress plugins don’t even have front-facing effects. For example, you can install plugins to improve your site’s performance or help it rank better in search engines like Google.
Difference Between Themes & Plugins
As a platform, WordPress is designed to be incredibly flexible. It’s used to create all types of websites, such as small one-page landing sites, large e-commerce stores, and everything in between.
However, if the platform’s software included everything needed to build any kind of website you could imagine, it would be bloated and confusing. Therefore, WordPress’ ‘core’ is kept deliberately streamlined. It includes only features useful to the vast majority of users.
To shape your WordPress starter site into the website you want, you can install a unique collection of themes and plugins. These are add-ons to the platform – small pieces of software that can be downloaded and installed on your WordPress site. They include new features and functionality, ranging from the simple to the complex:
WordPress themes are designed to make large-scale changes to your website’s appearance. This includes its design, layout, colors, navigation, and everything else involved in its overall look.
Your WordPress site can only have one theme active at a time, while you can use as many plugins as you want.
This means they include customizations and options for a wide range of site types. Others are ‘niche’ themes, designed for a specific purpose (such as business themes or photography themes). Either way, you can almost always customize aspects of your chosen theme, such as its color scheme and even sidebar placements.
While themes alter your website’s design, plugins are meant to add new features and functionalities. In simpler terms, themes affect what your site looks like, and plugins affect what it can do. This means plugins can’t be as easily summarized, since there are solutions for just about any functionality you can imagine.
Some plugins focus on adding one specific feature to your site. Contact Form 7 is a perfect example, letting you build customizable forms and embed them on your pages.
Other plugins, such as Jetpack or Wordfence, provide a variety of helpful tools and functionalities. No matter what you’d like your site to do, there’s a plugin to help get the job done.