Here are two things that a lot of people confuse when it comes to WordPress.
They interchangeably use the words “theme” and “template” to mean the same thing. In WordPress, they are related to each other but there’s quite a bit of difference between a WordPress theme and a template.
All WordPress Sites Start With A Theme
Every WP site has one – and only one – active theme. It sets the appearance characteristics (style) of every page of a WP site. Typeface, color, background, and layout are all coded within the theme. It’s also where the specifications are set for mobile design.
Themes can also have built-in features that make one theme different than another. For example, a theme designed for members might include pages that are for members only. Another theme might have SEO settings built in (not a good idea). Yet another theme may have social icons built in. Bottom line: many themes will include features that you might otherwise get from a plugin.
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Templates Are Part Of A Theme
Traditionally, (I’ll get to what is changing in a minute) templates are a part of a theme. Typically, they are pre-formatted layouts for different kinds of pages or posts. For example, many themes may include templates for sidebars on the left and/or right with the main content in the middle. Or there may be specialized templates that you’d only use once on your site, like a testimonial template or contact template.
Where Do You Find The Templates?
The templates which are available for your theme are found in every page editor. With Gutenberg they are located in the Document tab under Page Attributes. You’ll find the templates drop down which will show you which templates are available in your theme.
If you are using the good old Classic Editor, you’ll still find the templates under Page Attributes but it will look a little different.
One of the really cool things about WordPress is that it is pretty easy to create your own template. At minimum, you’ll need to know CSS. You can create your own template from scratch or use an existing template and modify it to suit your needs.
Enter A New Template Era
I did say that, “Traditionally, templates are a part of a theme.” But since the introduction of the Gutenberg block editor in December 2018, that is changing.
For starters see “The Age Of Gutenberg Templates Is Here.” You can now create your own templates without knowing any code. Yeehaw!!
Something even more dramatic is the Gutenberg Template Library. All you need to do is copy any template from the library and paste it into a page on your site. What a time saver!
We’ve come a long way but more road is still ahead.