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Underneath the hood (behind the curtain) in WordPress, all your words, some basic markup, and pointers to your images and media files are stored in a database comprised of several tables. It’s pretty boring stuff really (unless you subscribe to the WordPress Community motto “Code is Poetry”), lacking any personality or intelligible structure. What gives your content some personality and tells Web browsers how to lay things out on various pages is a theme you select. A theme in turn is comprised of a group of files that govern queries to your database and style sheets that dictate how things will be laid out on a page, what type faces will be used, what colors, letter spacing, line spacing and all those things associated with style and design.
Thousands of WordPress themes are freely available, and thousands more can be purchased. So how do you make an intelligent choice about a theme to use?
Selecting a theme
Things to consider are esthetics, functionality, cost, maintenance, and security. On the first two points, you simply ask, does the theme do WHAT you need it to do and does its appearance please you esthetically? On costs, a wide range of themes is available for free. “Premium” themes range in cost typically from $15 to $70 and more, especially if you have to first purchase a framework for that theme.
Maintenance and security
You need to consider security and ongoing maintenance in your selection of a theme. Like the Web itself, WordPress is continually evolving. A WordPress theme must evolve as well, or the theme may simply cease to function, or even worse, present a security risk through which spammers and pirates may use your site – and your good name – to achieve their ends. Themes that were freely available just two or three years ago at the wordpress.org website have disappeared. Why? Because the persons who created the theme have failed to update it in a way that guarantees the theme is current and safe. Some theme developers have argued that no one should rely on free themes because the author has no incentive to keep the theme current.
The implication is that only purchased themes are safe. If only it were that simple. Purchasing a theme is no guarantee it will be safe in the future. In fact, we have had unfortunate experience with themes purchased from themeforest.com in part because those themes have not had traditional, regular update paths. You want a theme that is updated regularly and that lets you know through WordPress that you have updates ready. In turn, those updates should be handled through an automatic process requiring of you only that you authorize the update. We have had the unfortunate experience of purchasing a dazzling, attention-getting theme only to find out that the only path to updates requires you to totally uninstall the theme (and all customizations) and install a fresh, new version (without the customizations).
Getting a theme installed
Several customizable themes are already installed, including the WordPress native themes “Twenty Ten,” “Twenty Eleven,” “Twenty Twelve,” “Twenty Thirteen,” “Twenty Fifteen.” If you decide you want another theme, request it using the site contact form.