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What’s best for your needs: Stock, from scratch, or customized WordPress ?
Whether you’re developing an off-the-shelf stock WordPress (WP) theme, or customizing the skin, the user experience, or building it right from scratch, there are going to be many things to consider. And depending on the extent of your needs and depth of your budget, different sites are better suited to one or another solution. This is a summary of pros, cons and things to think about in choosing what approach to use for your site.
Existing ‘Stock’ WordPress Themes
The pros of an existing theme are that it is relatively inexpensive. It’s “easy” to set up, or simpler to set up, in terms of the design, and then later on, the structure of the dashboard behind the scenes. But the cons are going to be that you’re relying on the source developer for updates, for support, for any questions and answers. You have no one that you’re working with. It’s you and whoever supports the theme on the site you downloaded it from. You are on your own for all you have to do from here on in.
Problem areas I’ve seen: There is the possibility that a theme that you’re picking up has extraneous code that’s not necessary. You don’t have a developer there to lend good counsel for you. And other companies are going to be using that same theme, so you need to be just cognizant of that.
Customized WordPress Themes
By opting to customize an existing WP Theme, less design work is required on an existing theme, but it’s only as good as your programmers understanding of the author’s original structure when you start customizing. They need to know and be able to extrapolate from the original code, where to play with, where to leave alone. So, you don’t have this issue; inadvertent code that ends up breaking a function of your original theme. Now your theme is not delivering something that you selected it for. Sometimes those things are very basic, like I said. Other times they are behind the scenes issues, and things just aren’t feeding where they should, in terms of data.
WordPress Themes from Scratch
When you build a WordPress theme from scratch, the upside is no one else is ever going to have that except you. And the business objectives are all being met. You’re also looking at more efficient code with the skill of your developer working for you. A lot of customization is going to be done. But you’re looking at longer development time and higher cost at the front-end for that.
People ask me, “How much can we push it?” And it really comes down to about how much you want. My reply is, “As much as you want to stay inbound of the themes general character”. That way, your theme structure remains strong and solid. And then your modifications feed off of that. We’re not turning a Ferrari into a moving van. We’re not trying to race the Indy 500 with a 1997 VW Jetta.
So, remain within the construct of that theme. Look for, what are things that are within the boundaries? Things like the responsive nature. If it doesn’t have responsiveness, it’s going to have to be built in somewhere. You’re pretty much rebuilding the theme.
Fluidity of the layout; how it responds back and forth, and what elements appear or disappear at different sized browsers. And don’t expect a theme to be able to do everything that you need and be happy with it without being ready to pay for customization, add-ons or repair.
Who needs to be aware of these issues? Approvers, Content-writers, Brand Guardians
This is the interesting part. Culturally, everybody needs to be aware of this within an organization. It’s really important when it comes to setting expectations for approving and reviewing stakeholders. Especially client brand guardians, or reviewers who may have a very strong ownership of a brand, but who are outside or not involved with the WordPress site development process. They may have something in their mind that’s on the wish list that that theme is not always going to accommodate. Nor is it necessarily the right thing for the business. They need to be aware of that, if they’ve not been in this sort of development environment before.
So, approving parties also fall into that category. We could change its color, but we’re not going to be changing the way everything on the page looks, because we really should just build a new theme. We should go a different direction with that.
And it’s not just because I say so or because I’m a creative that doesn’t want to make changes. It has nothing to do with that. It’s because you’re working within, and these are the reasons I state, you’re working within a CMS-backed website. We’re not building each and every page from scratch. But the good side is, we’re not building each and every page from scratch. We are using it and leveraging it. It’s worth it later for all these reasons. And like any kind of Web design, when I migrated from print to Web, I had to learn about the concessions that one must make when you don’t control the viewing set that someone is using.
Whether someone is using one kind of computer screen or another, or one device or another, they have more control. And we don’t always have it as designers.
So you never want to get the wrong themes because this is where you end up going. You’re going to be paying a lot more. You don’t get what you need. Your choices go away. Things start breaking, and downtime, or they become susceptible to outside issues you cant control.
As a marketer, your choice in creating your WordPress Website using stock, from-scratch, or customized WordPress themes is important for a lot of reasons previously discussed. Overall, not focusing on it early on risks diluting your brand experience and the chance that more visitors will abandon your site too soon.