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WordPress Themes vs Plugins: What’s the Difference?

WordPress Themes vs Plugins: What’s the Difference?

If you’ve ever worked on a WordPress site, you probably know that there are two main things that determine how your site works: themes and plugins. Every WordPress site has the same core features, but themes and plugins let us add new features and designs that make our particular WordPress site unique.

But what’s the difference between a theme and a plugin? Which one should you use to customize your site? The answer depends on what you want to do. If you want to change the way your site looks, you probably want a new theme. If you want to change what your site does, you may need to install a new plugin.

What’s a WordPress theme?

Every WordPress site uses a single theme. WordPress themes determine the look and feel of your website. The main purpose of a theme is to provide a cohesive design for your site, and traditionally they don’t focus on adding new features. However, as WordPress has evolved, themes have become much more robust.

Many of the most popular modern WordPress themes cross the boundary of design and add new features to your site as well. Some WordPress themes have a list of “required” plugins that must be installed for the theme to work correctly. Overall, it is much more common today to see themes that do much more than simply change the design of your site.

What’s a WordPress plugin?

Whereas themes provide the form of a website, plugins provide the function. Plugins change the way WordPress sites work, and lets them do new things. While you can only have one active theme on your site, you can have multiple active plugins. You can even combine plugins in interesting ways to create completely new site features.

There are thousands of plugins that add new features to WordPress, from creating contact forms to selling products in an online store. If you’ve ever wondered if your WordPress site could do something, chances are there is a plugin to make it happen.

Depending on what a plugin does, it may be able to adapt to your WordPress theme’s design, or it may incorporate its own stylesheet to provide a default design for new features. Some of the most popular WordPress plugins even have entire themes built specifically around them.


All the different combination of themes and plugins make for an endless possibility of unique WordPress sites. The platform is built for customization, but the wide array of options can be overwhelming. If you’re having trouble deciding on the best combination of themes and plugins to build your site, Watermelon is here to help.

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