Nowadays, having an online presence, be it to make one’s business or one’s views go viral, is a decision that more and more people have made or have been making as I write.

Once made, however, what’s the next step? How would you go about making the move to the World Wide Web?

A choice that’s becoming more and more popular is that of browsing established templates and themes websites, offering either free or premium products, to set up a website quickly and at a convenient price.

However, we’re spoiled for choice: too many places, too many products, and few tools for the inexperienced user to make an informed choice.

First off, what’s the difference between a CSS, or HTML, template and a theme? When it’s best to go for one rather than the other?

CSS Templates: What Are They For?
CSS templates, or HTML templates, are usually made of static pages, that is, pages where the content is added manually via HTML mark-up, rather than being automatically pulled from the database. CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheet, and is a language that defines the look and feel of a web page.

Contemporary CSS templates can be quite sophisticated, both because HTML5 and CSS3 have added native interactive capabilities to the browser, and because of the use of powerful JavaScript programs and libraries, such as jQuery, that make it a pleasure to add fancy bells and whistles to a web page.

When is it better to choose a CSS template?
Pick a CSS template if you’re in one or more of these circumstances:

Your website’s purpose is to establish a web presence for your brand or at the most sell a few products or a simple service via a third-party like PayPal;
You just need a splash page to launch an event or a product;
You’ve gone for an e-commerce or a blog template, but you want to hire a web designer to further work with it and add custom features;
You’re a web designer yourself and want to have as much freedom as possible to tweak, customize, and convert the template for your CMS (Content Management System) of choice.
WordPress Themes: What Are They For?
There are themes for a number of CMS, but my specialty is WordPress, and that’s why I write about WordPress themes on this blog.

If you want to easily manage content without going into HTML mark-up, if you’d like the world to know your ideas through blogging, or if your purpose is to sell an online catalog of products or a service, then WordPress is an awesome choice.

Here’s what the people behind it have to say about it

The core software is built by hundreds of community volunteers, and when you’re ready for more there are thousands of plugins and themes available to transform your site into almost anything you can imagine. Over 60 million people have chosen WordPress to power the place on the web they call “home” — we’d love you to join the family.

When is it better to choose a WordPress theme?
If your online requirements are more complex than those outlined above, then a CMS is a great option, and WordPress is one of the most popular choices.

In this case, your website will need a theme to define the structure, look and feel, of your site.

The theme is made of different parts called templates (not to be confused with CSS templates), that WordPress dynamically puts together when the web page is loaded into the browser.

Unlike CSS templates, you need to have some familiarity with the CMS, perform some steps to install the theme properly, and most likely need some expert help if you’d like to make heavy modifications to the theme. However, once this light learning curve is over, adding fresh content to your website and making slight changes to its look and feel, will be a breeze.

To Sum Up
If your website just needs a few pages, you don’t need to manage a products catalog or a great quantity of content, and if your website doesn’t use complex functionality like a login system, a blog, or a forum, then by any means go for a light-weight and sleek CSS template.

However, as your online needs become more complex, a CMS is best, and therefore a theme will be your best option.

What do you think, have you tried CSS templates for your website?

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