Why Do You Need a Theme to Build a WordPress Site?

WordPress by Creative Mouse Studio
I answer questions in Facebook Groups that I belong to from time to time. I thought it might be helpful to take some of those questions and start curating them here to help others out that might just be wondering the same thing but afraid to ask or post it somewhere.

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I answer questions in Facebook Groups that I belong to from time to time. I thought it might be helpful to take some of those questions and start curating them here to help others out that might just be wondering the same thing but afraid to ask or post it somewhere.

The Question

Why do you need a page builder AND a theme to build a site in WordPress? Why can’t I just use Elementor to build a website from scratch?

The Answer

First, let’s start with the basic info and break this down. Logically we need to answer the question, what is WordPress anyway?
WordPress is the world’s most popular tool for creating websites. WordPress is capable of creating any style of website, from a simple blog to a full-featured business website. You can even use WordPress to create an online store.
WordPress is also a fantastic content management system (CMS) to run your website on and now powers around 30% (if not more) of all sites around the globe. It’s simple to change the look and feel of your site with themes, easy to extend functionality with plugins, and updating content like website pages or blog posts is simple for even non-techies.
WordPress Website
A WordPress Website

What is a Theme?

In WordPress, a theme is a collection of templates and stylesheets used to define the appearance and display of a WordPress powered website.

Themes can be changed, managed, and added from the WordPress Admin area. There are free and paid versions of WordPress Themes available.

Each theme comes with a different design, layout, and features. A user needs to choose one that suits their taste and requirements for their website. There are themes that are designed to serve specific kind of websites. A photography theme will be designed for photographers and photography websites.

Themes generally consists of three parts in addition to images and JavaScript files. The three parts are the style.css file, the WordPress template files, and an optional functions.php file that will allow changes to be made to the theme.

What is a Page Builder?

Now let’s understand what a page builder is.

A page builder is a tool that will help you create dynamic layouts without having to know any custom coding. Before page builders, you could only enter text based content and insert media, but was pretty basic and boring. If you are not a designer or coder it would be very difficult for you to create a website for yourself.

Now we have page builders that offer a whole new experience with building a page as it is all done visually. Creating columns, adding images, moving content around your page is now a breeze. There are free and paid versions of page builders. By far, the best free page builder available is Elementor. Elementor is referred to as a front-end page builder. This means you get to design your site and see your changes in real time – just like how you work in Microsoft Word or Google Docs.

The following video by Adam Preiser shows a good example of how we built websites prior to the page builders coming on the scene.

WordPress has been updated from what you see in this video with a new feature called Gutenberg blocks which is moving toward something similar to the page builder but not exactly there yet. Hint: Don’t get attached to your page builder if you’re going to use one.

So now you know the basic building blocks of WordPress, a WordPress Theme and a Page Builder. Now we can answer our first question. Here’s a reminder of what was asked:

Why do you need a page builder AND a theme to build a site in WordPress?

The short answer is you don’t NEED both. But you do need a theme. WordPress’ basic installation will install three themes for you to start with if you don’t want to go to the trouble of looking for a one.

You can select one of these pre-installed themes and get underway with creating your website. But these themes may not fit the design esthetics for your site brand or fit the goal of your site’s purpose.

Astra has a great free starter theme. It is a fast and beautiful theme with elegant and stylish desgn. It is suitable for blogs, business, and personal portfolio websites. This fully customizable theme is built with SEO in mind. It also has a great plugin called Astra Starter Sites that has other templates to choose from.

Astra Theme for WordPress
Astra Theme

You don’t have to purchase the free versions of Astra and Elementor. Even then, you can add the plugin for Astra starter sites that give you other options.

If you choose to go with one of the Astra themes (or any others for that matter), it is the design you will build your site around. And if you don’t have design experience, choosing a well-designed theme is the better option for you.

What about Elementor?

Elementor is a drag-and-drop page builder plugin for WordPress. You can use it to create any content layout or page layout you can imagine – regardless of what your current WordPress theme allows you to do. It is now the World’s leading WordPress page builder.

Referring back to Adam’s video, you can see how simple it is to use the Elementor Page Builder as opposed to just writing in your content. With Elementor, you have creative choices which is an A+ in my book!

Elementor Basic Widgets
Elementor Basic Widgets

There is a Pro version of Elementor which adds another set of 50+ widgets, 300+ Pro templates and includes the following builders:

If you can afford it, I would definitely recommend purchasing the Pro Version for your website. With the ability to create templates, you can create the templates you need for your Pages and Posts. I use templates extensively when creating sites for my clients. Templates allow me to create the header/footer customized to the client’s brand, style and purpose for their site. Creating the Page and Posts templates keeps everything intact so clients only have to add their content and not worry about making a mistake to the design. Definitely a win-win for both parties.

The Rest of the Answer

We have just one more piece to finish out. The second part of the question.

Why can't I just use Elementor to build a website from scratch?

Well, that’s not entirely impossible. If you have a design background and, am comfortable working with WordPress and, know how to create templates, I say go for it. I would recommend using the following setup:

The Elementor Hello Theme is 100% Elementor. It works out of the box and offers consistent compatibility with Elementor. The Hello theme will load faster because it is lighter than most themes with almost no styling and scripts. It also touts to be the fastest and most SEO-friendly.

Well, that wraps it up for this Q&A session. I’ve listed the resources I’ve mentioned in this post below. For any questions, feel free to post a comment and I’ll be happy to extend my knowledge.

Help Me Out, Leave a Comment

Leave a Comment

If you have any suggestions or things that you’ve encountered and couldn’t find a solution, comment below and I will create a post for you and anyone else who might have the same issue.

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Sharon Yates

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