7 reasons why we don't use ready-made WP themes

7 reasons why we don’t use ready-made WP themes

They come in blue or green, for money or free, minimalist or full of features… What are we talking about? From WordPress themes, of course! Again and again, customers come to us who would like a specific theme to be the basis for the development of their website – and every time we refuse. In this article you will find out why we generally do not work with ready-made themes and would also advise you not to do so.

What is a WordPress theme?

The theme of a WordPress website determines its look’n’feel: which individual elements belong to the design, the layout of different pages and their user interface, the font, menu bars, etc. It represents something like the personal style of the website.

More specifically, you get the following when you download a theme: An archive containing a CSS file, several php files and possibly images or similar. The CSS file defines general specifications of the design, such as font, typeset and colors. The php files, on the other hand, contain code that specifies the layout of pages, posts and individual elements such as headers or footers – accordingly, these files are usually called page.php, post.php, header.php, etc.

A finished theme is basically nothing more than the code for a Website frontend, which some developer wrote and put online. In theory, even laypeople can “build” a stylish, functional website with just a few clicks.

Free versus paid

The theme landscape is divided into free and commercial themes. on wordpress.org you can get a good overview of this. What is the difference between the themes, apart from the price? We don’t want to generalize, but usually free themes offer fewer functions, no support and are on average less cleanly programmed than their commercial counterparts. Sometimes the extra functions of a free theme are also hidden behind a paywall – you should pay attention to this before downloading.

Self-developed themes

Of course, third-party downloads aren’t the only way to get themes. You can also develop a new theme from scratch – just like those providers did. That’s what we as WordPress agency do, only that we tailor themes to the wishes of our customers.

7 reasons against ready-made themes

WordPress themes provide almost the complete design of a website – so what speaks against such a theme as the basis for the web development to use? Wouldn’t that save quite a bit of time? The short answer to that is: no. We’ve broken down the long answer into seven reasons.

1. Code ballast

Since a theme should be downloaded as often as possible, it must appeal to a wide audience. The consequence? Different style options and features to choose between in the customizer.

At first glance, that may sound great. “You can customize the theme, that’s great!” But if you take a look at the source code of the site, it looks completely different. Whenever a theme gives you the choice between two components, this means that these components can be found in the code, but only one of them is needed. Such a bloated code base makes it extremely difficult to make customizations to the functionality.

2. Lack of originality

This point goes without saying. A website that uses a freely available theme has some very similar-looking siblings on the web. An important USP is lost, especially for companies in highly competitive markets. It is also better for the corporate identity if the website is unique. Since we as an agency Website as the center of a company’s digital strategy see, we don’t want to produce mass-produced goods, but make a custom-made product out of every project.

3. SEO deficits

It was a long time search engine optimization of websites is limited to the right keywords in the content. But today there are many other equally important factors. It is precisely the flawless technical implementation that is rewarded by Google with good rankings: Responsiveness, high page speed, a sensible website structure – a must for the first SERP! In some cases, however, fundamental changes to the code of the theme must be made to eliminate deficits on this front.

4. Lack of support

The web is constantly evolving: privacy rules, SEO Factors, UX trends, new user behavior, outdated software components… Many things force site operators to constantly develop their website and adapt it to new circumstances. We are always happy to assist our customers in such matters. However, if we haven’t programmed most of the website ourselves, the support role isn’t ours, it’s the theme creator’s. This can lead to several problems:

  • There is no support: Especially with free themes you are often alone with problems. With commercial themes, on the other hand, support is often what you pay for when you download the theme.
  • Update issues: Support is available and the theme is updated regularly, but this causes problems. If no so-called “child theme” has been created, updates can overwrite changes made to the theme. But even with “Child Theme” it can happen that the innovations in the theme are not compatible with your own changes. The support is thus a curse and a blessing at the same time.
  • Insufficient support: Since your website uses a modified version of the theme, support may no longer be able to help with questions.

5. Awkward adjustment

It has already been hinted at several times: Downloadable themes are not intended to be rewritten by a professional developer. The “done” already implies it. Accordingly, the adjustment becomes extremely troublesome for various reasons. The developer must…

  • … must be able to understand the code first,
  • … remove the code ballast and
  • … add compatibility with new features retrospectively.

6. Prone to errors

Speaking of errors: Such a patchwork theme is particularly prone to errors. Basically, developing a WP website can be compared to playing a Jenga game. If you want a stable tower, build it from scratch. However, if you are given a finished tower and have to rebuild it, then with every stone removed and added the risk of everything collapsing increases.

7. Loss of quality

The perfect process of website development? For us, it looks like this: Together with the customer, we develop concrete corporate goals. Then we plan a website that achieves those goals. After all, we develop search engine-optimized from the start with a precise idea of ​​which features the site needs and which do not. In this way we can ensure that everything fits perfectly in the end.

However, as the previous arguments have shown, developing with a ready-made theme looks completely different. Part of the development was already done externally and without a plan. The design is not ours. New features have to be implemented in a cumbersome manner. And even after massive changes, the end product will not be fully aligned with customer goals.

When finished themes are worthwhile

After all these counter-arguments you will ask yourself at this point: “What, now there should be something positive to say?” Yes! Because actually we don’t want to demonize ready-made WP themes. Really not! We think that such themes are a great way for laypeople to create a stylish website with little effort. In our opinion, they are not only suitable as a basis for the development of complex websites. So we want to mention two more cases where themes are a great option.
Ready-made WP themes are great…

… for smaller, private projects

If the site isn’t a business site, some counterpoints don’t matter as much, such as SEO optimization and originality. The range of functions of private websites is also usually not very large. This means that the theme does not have to be edited or only slightly and there are fewer problems.

…when you find the PERFECT theme

Purely hypothetically: If you find a theme among thousands that ticks all of the following points, you can go for it without hesitation:

  • The theme fulfills your wishes for page structure and design EXACTLY.
  • There are no hidden premium features.
  • The technology is SEO-optimized.
  • The code is clean and easy to understand.
  • No code ballast spoils the performance.
  • Nobody else is using the theme.

Well, the last point is of course impossible. The problem of the lack of originality always remains with themes. In theory, however, the other points are conceivable. In this case, you would only have to download the theme, maintain the content and that’s it – you don’t need a digital agency for that.

Conclusion: Better to develop professional WP websites from scratch

Off-the-shelf WP themes offer a quick way to create your own website. A nice thing, especially for people without development experience! But they are not suitable for high-performance company websites, because: They are not intended to be arbitrarily adapted and further developed. If you do try, all sorts of problems can arise that wipe out the initial savings in time and money. In addition, SEO deficits, a high susceptibility to errors, a lack of support and unoriginality reduce performance.

As a WordPress agency with a focus on tailor-made websites, we therefore develop our customer projects from scratch. Everything is in our hands and we can do our best to achieve concrete corporate goals. If you have any questions about WordPress websites or would like to realize your own project, you are welcome to contact us using the contact form. We look forward to hearing from you!

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