What’s the difference between a WP theme and a WP plugin?  Do you know when to use each one?  Do you know the purpose of each?

If you’re starting a new website or revamping your current one, it’s essential to know the difference.  I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of new themes being offered.  And many of them come with excellent new features all bundled together.  Sometimes that bundle includes features that might be better served with a plugin.

Learning the tech terms while building your website can be almost as challenging as the actual tech itself.  (See my earlier post about domains and hosting.)

  • Themes control the appearance of your site – the design, color, layout, etc.
  • Plugins add functionality – a scheduling calendar or backup service.

Think of this as it relates to your house:  WP itself is the foundation, the ground on which it’s built.  The theme is the structure of your residence – maybe it’s brick, or stucco, or wood siding.  Your plugins are the way your home is decorated – the paint or wallpaper, lighting, furniture.

WP itself is very flexible.  And that flexibility is enhanced with various themes and plugins.  When you’re choosing a theme, here are 4 things to consider:

  1. Can you select more than one layout? For instance, can your home page have a different appearance than the others?  Can you add a sidebar – or not?
  2. Can you incorporate your own brand colors?
  3. Do you have multiple widget options? Widgets allow you to add text to different areas of your site, for example, you could add a sidebar to your blog page showing your different categories, or you could add specific text to your footer.
  4. Is it responsive? That means that it will look as good on a smaller device (phone or tablet) as it does on your laptop.

By choosing an adaptable theme, you’re ensuring flexibility; plugins provide even more.

But, many of the newer themes already include a lot of functionality, so why not choose one of those instead of adding more plugins?  The biggest issue comes when you’re ready to make changes to your site.  If you’ve built your site using a theme with a specific built-in function, and then you change your theme, you could lose your hard work.  For instance, if your current theme allows you to remove headers and footers on your page, which in turn gives you the flexibility to a simple landing page within your site, and your next theme does not, you will have some work to redo.  The same would be true if you prepare your testimonials with a built-in theme function instead of a stand-alone plugin.

To ensure your peace of mind, it’s generally best to let each process function independently:  let your theme to perform the tasks needed for its appearance and allow the plugins to work towards better functionality.  Download a list of our favorite plugins right here.

Please share in the comments below what your favorite theme and/or plugin is.  Why do you like them?



I’d love for you to pin the image below to Pinterest.

And if you’re just getting started building your site, (or revamping a current one) don’t forget your Website Planning Toolkit.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *