Is a custom WordPress theme really necessary?
So you met a new client, they liked your portfolio and the design references you sent them, and you were chosen to do the job. Awesome! You agree on a design both of you think will be perfect for the website. So the day arrives when you open a new project in PhpStorm (for example…) and are getting ready to get busy. Now comes the big question: Should you buy a template and tweak it or build a custom WordPress theme especially for this project? I believe it is always better to build a custom WordPress theme and here’s why.
The long slow template of death
In order to understand the advantages of a custom WordPress theme, we must first understand the disadvantages of a bought WordPress template. WordPress templates are all over the web and they offer a great usability to those of us who do not know how to code. They are also a good (not great) solution for people who don’t know how to design websites. Because the developers and designers who built these templates were aiming at the largest audience possible, they built the themes with an abundance of options. “Full Page”, “One Column”, “Two Columns”, and on and on. Many of the templates support portfolios, Ecommerce websites, personal blogs, or review websites. That is a lot of code, code that you don’t need. That is the reason websites that use bought templates tend to be sluggish and slow, and basically suck.
Lean mean web surfing machine
When you build your own custom WordPress theme it consists only of the code that is needed (optimally), and you have the ability to identify and fix any addition that you feel is causing the website to load slower. But I know what you are thinking: “But building a custom WordPress theme from scratch is a lot of work”. Well, not necessarily. If you build your custom WordPress theme based on one of the excellent “skeleton” themes out there, you already get all the basic structure files like “header.php” and you just build on top of them. It really is not that different from tweaking a bought template but the performance is immensely superior.
Be all that you can be
Another great thing about building your own theme is that it makes you grow as a developer. In each project, there is that one request that makes you go on a “Google Hunt” after the solution. And with your own themes, this will happen more frequently. One cool thing about it is that you will be programming according to the actual need of your client and not force your client to fit into the solutions of a previously developed template. The second cool thing is that you will learn a new thing each time you find a solution and that will increase your ability as a developer and your value to your future clients.
Reuse for your future projects
One of the greatest advantages of building a custom WordPress theme for your projects is your ability to later reuse that theme in other projects. These can be projects for other clients, personal websites, or you can even convert your theme into a premium theme for sale in order to create another source of income. I have several themes I built from scratch for projects I now use frequently as the base theme when starting a new project.
Building a custom WordPress theme is by far the best approach when starting a new project. Building it will make you a better developer, will add to your experience as well as to your inventory of reusable themes. The website you build will be faster, leaner, and more efficient. You might think that the process will be longer but in fact, in many cases, building something from scratch takes less time than tweaking something that already exists. Feel free to let me know in the comments if you feel the same or mabe you advise differently.
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