I am building my own CMS, and it's time to work with front-end stuff. I do research and am confused why Wordpress uses a folder named theme while Joomla uses template instead. (Can anyone explain this?)

What is the difference between a web Template and a web Theme?

How do you, as a web designer, distinguish them?

  • As an aside, I always wonder why CONTENT management systems insist on trying to be DESIGN management systems. ;)
    – DA01
    Jun 4, 2013 at 15:57
  • To add to the confusion, Wordpress has 'Page Templates' which basically let you apply a different theme to a specific page. Interesting that they used the term 'template' instead of 'Page Theme.'
    – smoca
    Jun 4, 2013 at 16:46

2 Answers 2


Template - Something that serves as a model for others to copy: "a template for change".

Theme - Give a particular setting or ambience to (a venue or activity): "themed menus".

So in essence, looking at the definition, a template usually refers to a frame. A set of building blocks grouped in a given way which lets you fill it with your own content. A template usually infers more than merely the aesthetic feel, different templates usually involves different layout, different means of navigation etc.

A theme however usually revolves around the same frame ("template"), and merely sets the aesthetic shell of the website. A theme usually sets the colouring, fonts, style etc. Another term you usually see used for theme is "Color scheme".


In this context, a template defines the structure of the output, while a theme defines the look.

In reality, these two concerns are not always clearly separated. In the Joomla! world, many professional templates are themable, since one can change the styling with configuration options. So themes are often part of a template, and a template can be themable.

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