Eleonora Zolotarova
Content Marketer
Updated on

WordPress Theme, WordPress Template, and Other WordPress Animals

We know that many people don’t get the difference between a theme and a template much. And by the way, there is also a concept of a design template and a dynamic template! The fact that this issue causes so much misunderstanding is quite consistent as WordPress has existed for quite a while and the way of creating sites on it has been undergoing some changes over time. This article will help you figure things out.

Long story short

  • Theme is the backbone of any WordPress site. On top of it, we can install templates. There are complex multifunctional themes with a large number of functions and designs, and there are light themes that do not contain any functions but simply act as a skeleton for the site.
  • Template is part of the theme. Usually, themes come with a set of templates for different parts of the site – header, footer, grids, portfolio, pop-ups, etc. You can install as many templates as you like on one site.
  • Dynamic template is a pre-coded and styled template. Installing it adds both design and functionality to the site – custom post types, taxonomies, and custom fields. It’s quite similar to what themes do but dynamic templates still require to be installed on top of the theme.  
  • Design template is a ready-made website design. It does not contain any functionality but only adds design elements to your site.

And before we go deeper, I’d like to explain what other WP terminology you’ll meet here means. 

  • Post types are groups of content within WordPress. The default WordPress system contains several different post types stored in the database under the wp_posts table – Posts, Pages, Attachments, Revisions, Navigation Menus, Custom CSS, Changesets. 
  • Custom post type is a post type that is not provided by default, for example, car or property post, etc.
  • Custom fields expand the power of WordPress by allowing you to create fields and forms to manipulate metadata.
  • Taxonomy is a way of categorizing related posts together. Any standard post by default has two taxonomy types – Categories and Tags.

What is a WordPress theme?

A WordPress theme is a foundation for building a WordPress site. Without it, you simply cannot create a website, because WordPress itself does not provide for any other logic.

After installing a theme on your WordPress site, you get a specific design with different elements and additional functionality. Additional functionality stands for an extended amount of custom post types, custom fields, and taxonomies.

For example, if you install a real estate website theme, then you will get an additional post type, Properties. If you choose a car dealer theme, then a post type Cars appears, and so on.

Previously, developers tried to find a theme that would be ideal for business purposes, had a perfect design, and so on. However, over time, plugins like JetEngine have appeared so we can create custom post types without being tied to any theme. Now experienced developers usually choose lightweight themes that don’t include any design or pre-configured functionality since they prefer to build websites manually and not adapt to the framework laid down by the themes.

What is a WordPress template?

Typically, themes come along with different templates. You can install and use any number of templates, unlike a theme which you can only use one on the site.

WordPress templates are single-page layout, it’s a part of a theme that defines how a site will look like.

You can set various templates for each part of the website. For example, select different ones for header and footer, etc. We have Popup Templates and they also refer to templates.

What is a WordPress design template?

The difference between theme and design template in WordPress is probably the most confusing thing. Many people refer to design templates as themes, but these are completely different things.

A WordPress design template is a pre-designed whole-website layout.

Unlike a simple template, which usually means some part of the design, such as a pop-up or a header, a design template defines how the entire site looks at once.

It differs from a theme and a dynamic template since it does not carry additional functionality. Developers choose a design template just when they want to build site functions from scratch on their own, but to not bother with the design.

What is a WordPress dynamic template?

As you already understood, before there was only the concept of themes and templates. Custom post types were PHP files inside the theme and while developing a specific site, it was necessary to choose a strictly defined theme that provided PHP files that you needed.

Now everything has changed. Now we have templates that contain custom post types and run on top of the theme. These templates are called dynamic ones.

By the way, did you know that dynamic templates for WordPress are a unique development of Crocoblock? Therefore, the following definition can be considered official. 🙂

A dynamic template is a pre-designed and pre-coded kind of template. It can be installed on the top of any theme, and it adds additional functionality that includes easily and flexibly customizable custom post types, custom fields, and taxonomies.

It may still seem confusing to define the difference between a theme and a dynamic template. So let’s dwell on this topic a bit.

  • A dynamic template is the logic and structure of the site. 
  • A theme is just a ready-made solution.

When you install a theme, you get a lot of different pages, templates, CPTs, taxonomies, fields, skins, grids, and so on in the kit. This is a large and voluminous archive of data, most of which you will never need. Therefore, having installed a theme, the first thing a developer will do is to spend lots of time removing all unnecessary elements. However, sometimes this does not help much and the site remains heavy and slow.

Also, the themes are not flexible enough. What is provided by the logic and structure cannot be changed. For example, if a certain order like color, quantity, and quality, is specified in the custom field, you cannot swap these values or remove one of them.

At the same time, by installing a dynamic template, you don’t get anything superfluous. All you see are custom fields corresponding to the selected theme of the template, etc., as well as a set of plugins to customize everything else. Nothing needs to be removed or adjusted. In the case of dynamic templates, you define the structure and functionality of the site yourself from the very beginning.

A theme is a good option for beginner developers. It has a lot of restrictions and it slows down the speed of the site, but you can simply install it, change the text, pictures and get a   finished site.

A dynamic template is an excellent option for experienced developers. They are able to customize everything manually and create the logic and structure of the site exactly the way they want.

Hope now everything became much more clear on this point! If you have any questions, I’ll be glad to answer them in the comments below.