So you’ve taken the plunge and decided that your business needs a brand new website, and you’ve focused your efforts on having a WordPress site built. And why not, as a CMS it’s fantastic; totally flexible but powerful enough to cater for everything you might need from your site and being open-source means it’s mostly free and continually developed. It also powers most of the world’s websites currently!
Most people probably realise that WordPress is a template based CMS (Content Management System) and as such it operates using template files with the entire framework utilising a “theme”. The theme is the collection of files, scripts, images and CSS that tell WordPress how it should operate and there are many ways of building the theme.
You could opt for a totally bespoke theme, completely tailored to your business and hand-written from scratch. You could go down the framework route such as the Twitter Bootstrap framework, or HTML5 Boilerplate or lastly the fully paid up premium theme route where you purchase a ready made theme and then tweak it and customise it to match your brand or business.
But how do you know which route you should take? Here we try to explain the differences, the pros/cons and potential pitfalls.
Read on for more, or if you want to talk about it get in touch, we can chat about this stuff all day long!!
If you want to be unique and stand out from your competitors you are going to want a bespoke theme. These tend to cost more to develop as everything has to be done from scratch, so if you are on a stricter budget it might not be the route to take. Your designer/developer will spend most of their time creating the design, layout and CSS elements to make your bespoke design work on multiple devices.
The sky is the limit with a bespoke design in terms of the layout you go for. You can be as unique and wacky as you like, or go for something understated, clean and simple.
Because it is a bespoke design you can have it exactly as you want it, and you can choose which features to offer your visitors whether that be animation, user experience features and more. Nobody else will have this design and it will be unique to your business/brand.
Pros: Unique to your business, flexible layout/design, limitless design possibilities
Cons: Takes longer to build, developer focus is on scripting/coding rather than content, can cost more
There are several frameworks available, all used by agencies to varying degrees. Bootstrap (developed by Twitter staff to help their dev team deploy new features) is one such framework along with other feature packed frameworks such as HTML5 Boilerplate and myriad others, Bones, Underscores and so on.
They are a bundled set of scripts, layouts and templates that you can tweak for your own needs but they don’t have any styling elements built in, you just use the framework to quickly develop the site.
Pros: Quicker development, comes with some good basic functions and modules.
Cons: Still need development time to create the look/feel and layout, design/functions can start to look similar.
Premium Paid for Theme
Premium themes are normally around the £50 – £100 mark after taxes and are a complete solution in one.
The biggest advantage to paid for themes is that they generally have all of the features, animations, bells & whistles that you could ever desire built straight into them. So they are very quick to deploy as they just need to be installed and then tweaked to match your business – colours, logos, layouts, pages.
They tend to have had thousands of hours poured into the design and layout and have every possible feature and technology available, from carousels to accordions through animation, FAQ’s, testimonials, portfolios and more. As a quick analogy, you could compare this to a mass produced car – a Ford Focus is not as unique as a hand built Morgan sports car, but you can correctly assume that the millions of pounds of development gone into the Focus is way above that put into the hand-built Morgan, and as such the tolerances, quality and attention to detail on the Focus will be much higher, but then not many people have a Morgan, the same can’t be said for the Focus!!
With just a few settings changes and the addition of logos, colour schemes and images you can have your base website up and running within hours and from there you can go on to tweak the layout and design as much as you like. Using advanced custom CSS you can easily make the design look unique to your business.
And that leads us onto the main downside of premium themes – they are not unique and anyone, including competitors, can purchase the theme and utilise it. They will still need to tweak the settings, CSS and layout but in essence the design will be similar.
Pros: Very quick to deploy, you can install a theme and have it customised to match your brand/colours within a couple of hours. Comes with all the features you would ever need, animation, modules, page builders and more. This means we can spend a lot more time on your content design and SEO.
Cons: Can be dependant on paid for plugins which need paying for annually, can sometimes be bloated, not unique to your business.
As with most web projects, there is never a right or wrong answer to this question, which is why it’s important to discuss the project at the start so everyone knows which way to go.
There are lots of factors to consider before you decide on a theme choice.
So if you need to chat further, get in touch and we can talk through the options with you.