Premade Themes, why we don’t use them…

November 25, 2018

Over the years there have been some incredible visually stunning premade WordPress themes available for free and at a premium. Often we browse some of these designs for inspiration for designs for some of the projects we’re workingnon. However visual aesthetics is often the only thing they have going for them.

Many themes, in particular, the free ones, are poorly maintained and not updated correctly to support an evolving WordPress ecosystem. Often we come across projects that were stunning when they launched, but 12 months down the line things have broken. The hosting company says it’s not their fault. They just kept PHP / Apache up to date for security reasons. The original developer is too busy to make an update promptly. In the meantime, your customers see broken and unmaintained website with broken features.

Other themes based on review may show decent support, four and five-star reviews on TemplateMonster or ThemeForest. The various sample pages on the website look great. Your client loves the homepage layout of a particular template they’ve decided they want you to use. Fantastic, we swap out some images, insert their logo, change the text to piece sent by their copywriter, sprinkle a bit of CSS magic and we’ll be good to go live by the end of the week?

However nine times out of ten the client changes their mind, “Can we remove that block?, We don’t need that part, Can you move that section to the other side?”. We’ve got to keep the client happy, so we delve deep into the PHP files that make up the template comment out sections, copy/paste other sections and the homepage looks kind of the way the client wanted. Now the search function has stopped giving the correct results, the menu on mobile doest show and hide the same as before. You’ve made a child theme, so hopefully, when the core template is updated to support new features the website will remain working?

There will be significantly more time spent battling someone elses poorly written code to try to modify an $80 theme that now resembles some form of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. 20 or more hours bug fixing problems with a theme that never should have happened. That caused the project to overrun!

And if you think this is the worst case scenario is using a premade theme your wrong. Many themes add custom data that is only available to that theme. Sliders, Galleries, Directory Listings, even some eCommerce functionality that is directly encoded to this specific theme. Now say you’ve entered 1000 listings in a directory based theme, and finally you say enough is enough, and ask your developer to scrap the problematic WordPress theme and we go in another direction? It’s entirely possible that all the work in curating this content will have to start again.

What we do differently?

Themes are an excellent source for inspiration for how a great website can look. However, visual ideas are all they are. The experiences above are real-world examples of what we’ve dealt with over the years, and why we won’t use them. Clients will pay far over the odds trying to fix someone elses problems.

Generic themes to suit many uses are full of bloated code. Will you honestly need the facility to display your homepage in 48 different styles? This bloat can cause a website to slow down and eat up resources on your server, resulting in higher hosting costs as well as possible outages.

The best approach is to listen to what you the client wants, and sketch out some layout ideas from our experience of what works best. Start with a thin bootstrapped high-performance theme and start laying out your features to help your business.

 

 

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