WordPress Themes – A Basic Overview

For most people, creating a WordPress website is alien, very much like fixing a cars engine would be to me.


If you are looking to build a website, but are unsure how to go about this, first and foremost, the biggest thing you should consider is how much is your businesses online presence worth. A large number of companies under estimate how a simple website can affect peoples perception of how successful your business is and how it is run.


The immediate thought is to make a website as cheap as possible, and while this is perfectly possible and sometimes with some fairly decent visual results, you may not be ticking all the boxes under the hood. In most cases, the visuals are poor across a multitude of devices, which degrades the user experience and therefore the impression of your business as a whole.


Building websites with WordPress can be loosely split in to 2 camps;


  1. Using an off the shelf theme for as little as $20 (USD)
  2. Designing and building a custom theme


Using an off the shelf theme is by no means a bad way to go, should your budget and requirements be simply to have a site with information and built quickly – usually, off the shelf themes take about a 1 – 2 days work to configure (content dependant of course). However, they tend not offer much in the way of customisation outside basic elements and within the confines of the theme designs. In essence, once you buy the theme, that’s pretty much what you will end up with.


You can however play around by using a child theme and adding code, changing bits a little it like a custom WordPress theme, but these would be small adjustments, anything more would invalidate the use of an off the shelf theme in the first place.


Using a child theme is something a developer must do when using an off the shelf theme, a lot don’t and this can lead to problems should you ever update the core theme – if you are having a website developed at the moment, or are thinking of doing so using an off the shelf theme, be sure your developer is doing this, if not they probably do not know what they are doing – I have seen the mess this causes several times before.


One major issue I have found in using off the shelf themes are the lack of optimisation they provide. Most seem to suggest using a myriad of plugins just to perform basic functions (which is great if you are not a developer), but any good one should know this can have a seriously detrimental impact on site performance, which in turn will affect user interest and ultimately SEO – this is a bad thing.


Building a custom WordPress theme on the other hand has numerous benefits. Being able to start the code base from scratch, or a basic in house template of optimised code, allows the developer to tailor the theme exactly to your business requirements.


Having knowledge of common functions renders multiple plugins into single figures, sometimes none, depending on the client requirements. All of these tweaks and lean code usage help to keep you site loading quickly and working perfectly.


A major turnoff for most businesses when it comes to custom WordPress themes, is the cost. After all why pay more than $20 USD for the window into your business, right? However, when you consider a website will be live for approximately 5 years (with maintenance), the cost then does not seem so high.


There are of course many more factors that keep a site running fast, which I will get in to on another post soon.


In summary, it’s a mixed bag, depending on budget and business value. I can provide honest advice at no cost, and will tell you upfront if you are worth taking one path or the other. Just drop me a message.