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When NOT to use a prebuilt WordPress theme

Nyla Smith | Wednesday, May 28, 2014

If you do a Google search for "WordPress themes", you'll be inundated with results. In the days of the ever-present WordPress theme, why would you ever need to have a custom solution developed? Two reasons.

  1. By virtue of the fact that WordPress is now so popular as a website platform, you start to get themes that look a lot like each other. It's to the point where I'll visit certain websites and can say, "Yep, that's a WordPress theme." If you spend any time at all on the internet, you'll start to noticed certain "trends" that are common to Wordpress themes. This isn't inherently a fault with WordPress; in fact, you can have a very customized theme that looks nothing at all like anything out there. It's important to keep in mind that WordPress is just the platform, it's only the engine. It can be customized as much as you need to. The problem is that a number of prebuilt themes just stick with the defaults, or a very slight variation of the defaults, and so they end up looking similar to each other. If you want to use WordPress, but don't want it to "look" like WordPress, get a custom theme built by an experienced designer who can give you exactly what you want.
  2. Finding a theme that gives you exactly what you need can actually be very time-consuming, and may take a bit of trial and error. Themes don't just control the look of a site, they also usually have plugins or custom code included for specific functionality. While prebuilt themes offer a quick and easy way to get a nice looking website, if you want to do something that the theme doesn't natively support, it can be like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Over time, you may end up paying more than you anticipated for a web developer to try and modify your theme to make it do what you want. If you have a specific look or functionality already in mind, it will likely serve you better in the long run to get a custom theme designed and developed for you.

Don't get me wrong; I like WordPress themes! I utilize prebuilt themes when the situation calls for it, and they can cut down on development time dramatically. (Work smarter, not harder, right?) If you've found a theme you like, I can customize it for you. But you should just be aware of what implications it presents for you — and know that if you can afford it, there's nothing quite like having your own custom solution made just for your business it. I love to design websites that stand on their own, starting with the design and then turning it into a template or WordPress theme, instead of the other way around. Your site should not be designed for a platform, it should be designed for your business. Unfortunately, you'll come across many "website designers" now that don't actually know how to design — they simply know how to tweak the colors of an existing WordPress theme. Trust me, there's a big difference. Know who you're working with!

Do you have a favorite WordPress theme? Have you had a bad experience with a theme? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Nyla Smith is a Graphic Designer, Web Designer, and Front-End Web Developer with over 11 years of experience. She is the owner of n-Vision Designs, LLC in Hampton, Virginia, which exists to provide marketing support to small- and medium-sized businesses that need creative solutions. Contact Nyla if you'd like to discuss your next creative project. She can usually be bribed to a meeting with a cup of green tea and an oatmeal cookie.
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