Support » Themes and Templates » Noob question about designing a site

  • This is my first time using WordPress so naturally I have a few questions about building/laying out my site. I have been building web sites for over 7 years now and would consider myself an expert in XHTML & CSS. When working with WordPress do I have to design my site using a “Theme” or a “Template”? I’m not looking to have a typical WordPress Blog layout and those methods seem very cookie cutter to me. Maybe I just haven’t researched them enough yet but at first glance that’s how they appear to me.

    Can anyone give me any pointers on building a site that doesn’t use Themes or Templates? Below is a list of sites that use WordPress that I really like and similar to stuff I’m interested in building.

Viewing 15 replies - 1 through 15 (of 16 total)
  • For the most part, xhtml and css won’t help you. The entire site is written in php and built upon mysql databasing. You’ll need to learn at least the former in order to design these sites well. and are both good resources for beginners.

    However, to find the files and take a look at the codes anyway:

    Go to presentation > theme editor and click on the links on the side. From there, you can copy them into Dreamweaver etc.

    Now, those codes only show you that template and they don’t let you mess with the mysql databases. I’m pretty new to this all too, but if you can download the entire WordPress folder on your directory, that’s probably best.

    I dont really agree. For the most part CSS / XHTML is all you need. Php is pretty optional. If you are an expert you will find it a stroll in the park to take say the Classic theme and adjust it.

    Those sites you linked are still using themes – just custom themes. Themes are built out of templates.

    In wordpress, the “theme” is what runs your Presentation. This helps you keep your content in the database, separate from the presentation. Usually CSS type of people love this.

    I know what you mean — templates meaning pre-made, pre-fabricated layouts — but WP uses the word a little different. A template is an important part, for example, all your single-posts show using 1 template, while all your Categories show using a different template (if you want). You can design the templates yourself to build your own theme, and/or borrow them from existing themes.

    So, yes you must use Themes with Templates. But yes you can design it yourself.

    usually the best way to learn is to find some existing free themes, and deconstruct the code in your favorite code editor. Reverse-engineer it. You’ll see the CSS divs, and you’ll see the WordPress stuff in PHP — some that you can change, and some that you obviously want to leave in there.

    By changing only the CSS, you can radically change the look, so if you know some CSS you’ve got a solid start.

    Awesome. Thanks everyone for all the pointers, I really appreciate it. I think I’ll take your advice DGold and download a theme and reverse engineer it and see how it goes. Looks like I’m going to have to brush up on my PHP skills too that I haven’t used in a few years. Thanks again everyone.

    Oh one more question I forgot to include in my last post. Is it truely necessary to include comments in the top of the style sheet like below. I usually put a few comments in there but never that much. Unless it actually serves a functional purpose I’d prefer to just ditch it if I can. Thanks for any info.

    Theme Name: WordPress Default
    Theme URI:
    Description: The default WordPress theme based on the famous Kubrick.
    Version: 1.6
    Author: Michael Heilemann
    Author URI:

    Kubrick v1.5

    This theme was designed and built by Michael Heilemann,
    whose blog you will find at

    The CSS, XHTML and design is released under GPL:


    The wordpress theme browser relies on some comments in order to show your theme’s files in it. Check the “writing a theme” docs as to what you need to put where.

    The CSS is the first file WP looks for. Without the minimum info the theme wont load at all. 🙁

    OK now I’m a bit more enlightened and a bit more confused. The sites that I linked to in my first post at the top don’t have a shred of that comment info in any of their style sheets yet Dgold pointed out that they are in fact still using Themes. So either that comment info can be omitted or they are not using a Theme to present their site correct?

    No. Not correct. WordPress always needs a theme to function. No theme = no interface at all.

    OK cool, thanks. Sorry for the somewhat repetitive questions but some things just weren’t making much sense. Thanks again.

    I don’t who the guy is with Dreamweaver but most of us avoid such monstrosities like the plague. Being an expert – I am sure you do as well. 🙂 And a final tip: For back engineering it is best to avoid Kubrick and all deriviatives. We start with Classic every time. Then its just hunt n peck. 🙂

    Thanks for the tips Root but I think I’ll stick with Dreamweaver. I’ve been using it since version 3 and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. I have BB Edit as well but it just doesn’t hold a candle to Dreamweaver. I know lots of other designer/developers that used to share that same opinion of Dreamweaver you have but once they actually used it and worked in code view they changed their minds in minutes. To each their own though.

    Thanks for the tip on using the classic theme for my starter though as I was just getting ready to copy the default/Kubrick theme and start plugging away at it.

    used it and worked in code view

    Ah, you must be in the 1% that does that 🙂
    Most people who come here asking about WP and DW… they want to “design” their theme in wysiwyg mode – and royally screw up their theme files.

    Sorry I thought you were an expert. Well everybody now says they use it in code view. And for ftp natch. 🙂

    LOL ahhh I had no idea I was going to run into some coder elitists here. It’s all good though. Thanks for the tips.

Viewing 15 replies - 1 through 15 (of 16 total)
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