If you’re at all familiar with the WordPress content management / blogging system, you’ll be aware that WordPress sites are built around the WordPress application core (this provides the functionality) and a theme (this provides the design and, to some extent, the site structure), with plugins filling the gaps between what the core and theme provide and what you actually need.
All in all, WordPress is a great tool for producing smart, functional websites using less effort than building from scratch, as long as the functionality you need isn’t too outlandish. It also has a thriving theme community, with thousands of themes available free of charge and many more at a price.
But should you use a free third-party theme? Well, it depends. Let’s assume that you find a third party theme that looks roughly how you want your site to look (aside from changing the header image or the odd colour or font). Should you use it?
Advantages of using a Third Party Theme
- Most are free of charge
- It can speed up the creation of your site
- The theme developer may offer some support.
Disadvantages of using a Third Party Theme
- It may be in use by other sites
- It may not include a feature that you need for your site structure or plugins to work
- It may be coded badly making tweaking difficult
- It may not work properly in a range of browsers
- Making it work correctly may require programming skills you don’t have.
Of course, these pros and cons may be more or less relevant to you, depending on the purpose of your site. But if some of the disadvantages are show-stoppers, what alternatives do you have?
Using a commercial (i.e. not free) off-the-shelf theme may solve your problem. Some of the best commercial themes (I’m thinking of frameworks like Thesis) offer a huge level of flexibility, and support is often better, allowing you to get help with adjusting the theme to your exact requirements.
But that flexibility usually comes with a price – namely, a bewildering array of settings and options, often with several ways to achieve the same thing. And you may still find that the particular combination of plugins you want to use is not supported by the design or structure.
Custom theme design – An alternative
Clearly it depends on how much money you’ve got to spend, but going this route has a number of advantages:
- You get the exact design you want
- If you’re comfortable using the WordPress admin console, it can be cheaper than getting someone to build an entire site for you
- Conversely, if you’re not, asking the designer to set your site up for you afterwards probably won’t cost a lot extra
- If you’re clear about your requirements, the theme will come with the ability to work with your desired site structure and choice of plugins
- You get a site that is unique
- You’ll have a working relationship with the developer, making it easier to explain and arrange future alterations.
WisdmLabs can help you with your custom WordPress theme requirement as well as a complete WordPress-based site (theme, setup, structure and initial content). Contact us for further details.