Differences Between Plugins and Themes In WordPress

Many people ask us what the difference is between a WordPress plug-in and a wordPress theme. This may seem fairly obvious to some people, but the differences can be pretty minor in some cases.

This can be especially confusing to people who are just starting out with WordPress.


A theme in WordPress generally controls the Aesthetics of the website. The theme effects things such as the layout, the colors, the visuals, the placement, and other features similar to these.

The theme is responsible for taking the data that you put on the website and organizing it nicely. The theme adds in title placement, widgets, columns, etc…

What team is also responsible for things such as the appearance of the header and footer on your website, which can significantly affect the aesthetics overall.


Plugins are an easy way to extend the WordPress platform. They allow you to do things which would be very hard to do with the core code such as adding contact forms, adding email subscribers, and optimizing your website.

You can think of the theme as more of a core, and the plug-in as additions to the theme to accomplish specific tasks you have in mind.

There are some times where it can be hard to distinguish between a plug-in and a theme. Some of the very Advanced plugins out there can be so comprehensive that they have even more options and settings than a basic theme would.

There are also plugins allow you to alter visuals of certain themes. While these are still considered plugins, they are definitely a bit harder to distinguish from themes.

A general rule of thumb is that plugins effect more of the functionality, while themes alter the visual appearance.

It can sometimes be quite confusing for someone who is just starting WordPress to figure out the differences are between themes and plugins, but by using the guide above you should be able to get a grasp of the differences quickly.

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