When it comes to starting or redesigning a businesses website, everyone it seems is a designer and has an opinion they think is valid, business owners who otherwise have no idea how online marketing works suddenly want things incorporated within the design. Now unless you are involved in the day to day running of your website and have access to those mystical numbers that show you where people are coming from, what they are viewing and what they are doing… and provided you understand all of this then your opinion counts, otherwise it is perhaps best left to someone that knows what they are doing.
Saying that however, there are an awful lot of web designers out there, that have no real idea of how online digital marketing works, they can undoubtedly design great looking websites but if it fails in its attempts to marketing your business successfully it’s basically a lemon as you will never get that return on investment or have something that truly generate leads and business for you.
WordPress has become one of the most popular blogging and website platforms because it offers so many free features that can help create a really awesome looking website. Many of these items (thousands) are free and include thousands of templates, or themes, to help even complete beginners design a great looking website in a matter of minutes.
However, some businesses are interested in getting a custom design for their WordPress website because they feel branding is important, and simply because they believe it is best.
There are pros and cons to using templates versus getting a custom design. Let’s look at each of these in turn and then I’ll share my opinion.
The Pros of Predesigned WordPress Themes
The main advantage of using a WordPress theme for your site is that it’s quick and easy. You can literally launch your site in a matter of minutes provided you’ve organized the content in advance, know what you want your site to look like, and are quick at copying and pasting.
Many of these themes are very attractive and offer a range of functionality in the form of widgets, these are small mini-programs like calendars, tag clouds and more.
You can find themes by clicking Templates -> Add New.
Use the filters, such as Custom Header or 2-column navigation, to sort through the many free choices available. Some are more customizable than others, so if color and so on are important to you, set those filters. Install, make active, and you should be done.
The Cons of Templates
The disadvantage of using WordPress templates is that you are locked into the design. It can also take ages to find a good design even with the filters set. There might be a feature or two you would like to tweak. However, unless you have any cascading style sheet (CSS) coding skills, it can be rather difficult to make any changes to the existing design.
In addition, some of the designs are very clunky and do not load fast. This causes problems with Google, who reward fast loading sites versus slow.
Once you install it and start adding content, that is the time you might spot things that were not obvious problems at the time you first checked out the template, forcing you to start your search all over again.
The Pros of Custom Design
Custom design is just that, a design that will have the look and all of the features that you wish to have at your website/blog.
The Cons of Custom Design
The most obvious con is that it will cost money and also take time compared to a pre-made theme. Your vision and the designer’s might differ. You might not be able to tell if the designer is really doing the work himself/herself and is any good, or if they are just using the base code of a (not very good) free theme and just adding a few minor tweaks.
Hints on Getting the Best Value for Money
Before choosing any free template, make a wish list of what you really want in a template. For example, do you want right-hand navigation, two columns, and a particular color scheme?
Visit some of your favorite blogs and look down at the bottom. It should say “designed in WordPress” and will often mention the template, such as Nucleus. Search for the templates you like best to see if they are free.
Or, click the contact information to see where it was purchased. If it is a paid template, see if they also offer custom design to make any minor tweaks to the template you might like.
Make a smart choice at the start; it will be tough to change it later because it might bother your visitors to make a switch. Launch your new blog with a great theme and see how impressed your visitors will be.
Pro Tips on WordPress Themes
Custom Designed Themes
Over the years I’ve developed what I consider to be the most comprehensive and best way to get the very best custom designed theme. To do this you simply run a design contest on one of the many web design contest websites… by doing this you post your website design specification online, designers interested in the work present you with a design and you select the winner who wins the prize (money) from typically more than twenty or so entrants. Once you are happy with the design you can then have this converted into a WordPress theme, I like to base them on a generic theme that is regularly updated as this aids future security issues.
I love predesigned WordPress themes, I tend to not use the free ones, instead I will purchase one from one of the many commercial theme marketplaces. By doing this you gain some measure of support and as these themes are often regularly updated, any issues related to security are often fixed without anyone knowing.
Unless your business is turning over millions and already generating lots of online revenue you do not need a custom designed theme in fact a predesigned WordPress theme in the hands of someone that know what they are doing is almost impossible to detect from a full custom theme…