WordPress is a powerful CMS (Content Management System) whose popularity is only increasing. Multimedia Designs, uses it for many of our client’s websites that we develop. We love it for its flexibility, robust features and that many clients can add blogs, photos, videos and other content themselves. That is worth a lot to a small business, who can not afford to hire a website manager. We also love the fact that we can quote a price that is lower than our competitors.
And we are not alone.
- As of 2021 there are 455 million websites that use Wordpress in a pool of 1.3 billion
- 37% Wordpress Market share as a percentage of all sites.
- 62% Wordperss Market Share of CMS systems
- WordPress is Free
- WordPress is supported by the WordPress organization with frequent security upgrades.
- WordPress development is 1/4 of the time and significantly lower budget than a custom develop site. Read Custom-Built Site vs. WordPress +theme. Which is better? For a comparison.
- WordPress has the #1 Ecommerce solution in the world: Woocomerce.
With the ease at which WordPress presents, that frequently results in the growing trend of beginner web designers or business owners, to develop the site themselves. OR, they hire a developer, whose talented in the PHP realm, but have no understand of how the CMS system works.
We want to help warn you of emending fiscal danger. Dramatic statement, well not really. An uneducated implementation today, can lead to big buck down the road.
THE WORKPRESS HACK
Many developers, of PHP specialty, still think of WordPress as an annoyance or jumping off point. Often the reason is that they use the CMS system as if it was a operating system rather than a API with rules and regulations the guide safeguard performance. The most common error, is the idea of designing their own theme, and packing that theme with lots of features, including controlling the viewers visual, flow and media. Worse, all if this is unknown to the business owners footing the bill.
Nothing could be more unnecessary. Any business owner has to ask their developer one question: What am I selling that is SO unique from similar products on the market that I can’t use a ready-made theme?
What am I selling that is SO unique from similar products on the market, that I can’t use a ready-made theme?
To answer that question, let’s review what ANY Wordpress theme should and should not do.
WHAT YOUR WORDPRESS THEME SHOULD NOT DO
Some developers will try to lure you into developing a custom theme by indicating that they can add all sorts of features and functions to the theme. They might have sliders, custom post types, short codes, photo galleries, built in templates, audience monitoring or any other numbers of eye candy that looks really good.
It looks good on the surface, but in reality it is bad idea. Why? Because a themes’ ONLY purpose is to give the web designer, not the developer, the ability to layout the visual appearance of your website. That appearance is going to change, constantly, sometimes as fast as a business quarter and driven by marketing trends.
….a themes ONLY purpose is to give the web designer, not the developer, the ability to layout the visual appearance of your website
Programming fonts, colors, images and 3rd party code, into a theme, will remove the ability of the Web Designer to do their job. That job is to change the look and feel of how the site is presented to the user at any time.
SO WHY DO WEB DEVELOPERS RECOMMEND IT?
It is a classic mistake of the inexperience or bias web developers.
Let’s face it, some developers simply do not like a CMS system. The prefer the open possibility of coding from scratch and the great payday they will get for doing it. They feel they want control of the code and the only way, they feel, they can do that, is code it themselves. Depend upon no one especially a free piece of code that dictates how a website shall be presented. In essence, they prefer re-inventing what others have already done. Be dammed to the budget, marketing department, creative producer or business owner’s long term budget, customers and schedule.
The hick-up comes when the business owner wants to use a CMS system, for all the reasons we listed previously. The developer then takes the next best thing…develop the theme from scratch and the business owner naively complies, because his/her product or service is truly unique! They need special features! Do it right!
Everyone likes to think that what they are doing is very unique. Yet, while the product or service, may truly be special, the presentation of that product or service, on the web, is usually not.
….Everyone likes to think that what they are doing is very unique. Yet, while the product or service, may truly be special, the presentation of that product or service, on the web, is usually not.
The honest truth is, with hundreds of off the shelf themes already available, unless you are doing something extremely cutting edge, that no theme can handle, there is no reason to develop your own theme. Further it violates the premise of what a theme is suppose to do within WordPress. Including how a theme’s features is are expanded ….. cutting edge included.
That feature is a WordPress tool called a “Plugin”. (More on that later). Any developer that says otherwise…run. Danger danger to your pocket book and customer support.
The honest truth is there is no reason to develop your own theme
WHAT ARE WORDPRESS THEMES & WHAT ARE THEY SUPPOSE TO DO?
Google the words: “WordPress theme” and you will see hundreds of hits talking about design, drag and drop, looks and colors. Not one of them have have sliders, galleries or other eye candy”. As it should.
WordPress themes are only a tool. They “present a page to the viewer” in terms of adjustable color, select-able fonts and varied layouts. It is a tool, for a Web Designer to use. Nothing else. They do not determine user flow.
WordPress themes are only a tool. They “present a page to the viewer” in terms of adjustable color, select-able fonts and varied layouts. Nothing else.
Themes can contain local code in order to control how a site looks. They also work with Plugins to modify that presentation, should the Web Designer choose to do so.
Your theme should only contain an interface to the design tools via plugins, settings to turn off defaults and suggested layout of your websites via pre-designed pages. It should be “responsive”. A quality where the theme adjusts the display of a webpage based on the hundreds of different display devices available. Desktop, tablets and mobile. Each device having a different size of displayable real estate.
Doing so, keeps the website code as clean and flexible as possible, which in turn, helps your website to run smoothly and load quickly. Why this is true, will be for another article, but suffice to say, ANY code you put in your theme, regardless of whether it is used by a page, will be loaded by every single page on your site. That slows down any site’s performance.
In essence, you are trusting your website reliability and performance to the stability and speed of a 3rd party server and the code and/or images, to an unknown person. That server may go down. That person who may change the code and images, at any time. All without your permission.
ANY code you put in your theme, regardless of whether it is used by a page, will be loaded by every single page on your site
WHAT IS THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THEMES AND PLUGINS TO WORDPRES?
In extremely simplistic terms: WordPress->Theme->Plugins
WordPress runs on the server, the theme runs inside WordPress and the plugins run inside the theme. Although a plugin can frequently communicates with WordPress core code and the associated database.
This is how a website should be organized. All the power goes to the plugins, which can expand the capabilities of the theme, while keeping the code isolated within WordPress. On rare occasions, a plugin may have to communicate via the internet to another domain, however, it should be noted, that this communications does not change how a web page shall be displayed! Rather, it communicates to gain permission or verification only, such as if a plugin is licensed.
WEB DESIGNER = WEB DEVELOPER. ARE THEY NOT THE SAME?
So why all the difference of opinion? These are two different types of individuals who develop websites.
- Web Designer
- Web Developer
The more technical arm of web implementation. They are the folks, who know how to “program”. They know how to make the server perform a task. They build “tools”. Tools are what the Web Designer uses to create the site. A theme is a type of “tool”.
On rare occasions, a web designer, may have the technical skill to also be a web developer. But that is am extremely rare individual. If you find one…hold on to them tight. They are a special individuals who can perform two different roles.
WHAT DO WORDPRESS PLUGINS DO?
Glad you asked! This is the power of WordPress. The ability to add all sorts of tools to a website, that a Web Designer can use in their creation process.
The main goal of WordPress plugins are to add functionality. There are thousands of free plugins in the WordPress Plugin Repository, and there are many paid plugins that we use and recommend. Woocommerce being the #1 eCommerce tool, to add workable ability to sell products or services. It is a known and comfortable purchase experience, by thousands of users on the web.
There are thousand of plugin instantly available, and growing.
But a word of warning, don’t find plugins by simply “Googling” a search term. Not all plugins are built by reputable plugin developers. Some can even have malicious code set upon stealing your data. So what do you do? When in doubt, stick to the WordPress Plugin Repository. They test all the plugins that are listed there and re-test on every WordPress update.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER: THEMES
- Provide a interface between the WordPress Core (Engine) and the Web Designer
- Themes can provide pre-built pages and posts
- Themes provide a way to adjust the color, fonts, sizing and general layout of the website
- Themes should be easy to use via a page builder plugin
- Themes should never require any programming
- Themes should be as small and clean as possible
- Themes should leave all features to a plugins.
- Themes should have settings, giving access to all features of the theme, that a Web Designer can turn on and off at will.
- Themes should allow the over-riding of any default template.
- Themes should use a bootstrap within a plugin, for reference to 3rd party styling and interactive control.
- Be “responsive”. Responsive is a self-adjusting webpage that adapts it’s display based on the hundreds of different display devices available. Desktop, tablets and mobile.
Themes Should NOT:
- Themes should not force a design on any Web Designer
- Themes should not build in pages that are not adjustable by a Web Designer
- Themes should not “hard code” pages, aka non-adjustable
- Themes should not “hard code” templates, aka change which template is used
- Themes should not build 3rd party links into it’s code
- Themes should not limit what fonts are available
- Themes should not reference or load source code from other domains
- Themes should not directly code features into the theme. (Sliders, galleries and other eye candy)
- Themes should not be dependent on any plugin in order to operate.
- Themes should not be bloated with inbuilt features.
So why so many themes on the market? Mostly because most themes are not unique. Instead they ready-built websites, supplying pre-built web pages, rather than a tool set to create a site. Each of the major pages have been pre-designed, layout and fonts chosen. With minor modifications, they are easy to install, modify and launch. Each theme is typically based on an industry, giving a Web Designer a head start on getting a site from design to launch. Find a design you like, tweek and launch. It is quite a time saver.
….most themes are ready-built websites, supplying pre-built web pages, rather than a tool set to create a site…..
Then there are the themes that are less about pre-designed and more about features and eye candy. These features are not removable and that creates a huge website. Developers have different ideas about what is essential and what is not. This goes back to our previous discussion on why developers do what they do. Tools and features within a themes are not bad, as long as they are built as plugins to the theme, rather than embedded. Supplied as plugins, gives the option to the web designer to install or uninstall any extension and not break the website. It is the concept of need, rather than enforcement. Trusting the designer to make the decisions, rather than pre-determining.
That is the high level basics. Of course there are more details and technical information that could be discussed, but that is more information than any one article can handle. We don’t want to overload you!
If you are in doubt about your own site or just want a second opinion on a recommendation you received, contact us. We will be happy to give you our honest opinion….and the good news, we are that group of rare Web Designers and Web Developers in one package. We see both sides of the issue including your budget.