As WordPress themes continue to evolve. The features and complexity of building and maintaining themes become a key issue. Do you build a custom theme or choose a market theme typically found at places like Themeforest and Mojo Themes?
I’ve meet web designers, business owners and IT managers who have different opinions on the use of themes. They range from only wanting to develop custom themes for their organizations to those that find it easier to simply buy a theme for a client install. If you ask the question “What the best CMS platform” on a web development forum, you’re likely to get multiple answers on why this tech is better then the other. In the end, this has been the root problem of the industry. It’s failure to say whats best for my client, not me is usually a case of preference than applicable need.
I started using WordPress in 2007 as it provided a way for quick installs of blogs and evolving website needs. I didn’t like it at first as it had serious security issues and was a simple blog platform. Over the years as CMS platforms competed for the crown of “who’s the best”, WordPress clearly outperformed the rest of the pack like Joomla, PHPNuke, Concrete5 in core development and support services like theme building, plug-ins and ease of use.
As developers argued over what platform was the best to work with. I concentrated on the questions that mattered most: What was best for my client. This is where web designers and(or) agencies have failed to address the needs and concerns of business owners. There lack of understanding the nature of business and viewing things with a technological set of goggles only leads to limited results now and in the future. What we need in the web development industry are providers who understand not just the technological need, but understand what their advice may lead to in the long term. Unfortunately, this is rare because most developers or designers are one-dimensional in their view to create the best website.
WordPress themes have begun getting extremely advanced and will only increase in features and complexity. These professional theme builders are not individuals anymore, they are full fledged development houses dedicated to creating great themes and evolving it as WordPress updates, plugins update etc… This is a major point to understand because typically people that tend to use any theme or any plugin simply have not been involved in continual development of the service and(or) have not worked with the same clients through evolutionary needs that involved web technology spanning a decade.
I once was discussing WordPress development work with an IT manager at a well known and respected agency. At once I got an uneasy feeling when they told me that all their client sites were hosted on Godaddy servers (another conversation). I really began to see their work quality come to light when I realized they simply were showing a gallery of themes built at markets like ThemeForest and Mojo Themes to clients as a menu for them to pick and choose. This approach instantly tells me many things about the caliber of thinking the agency had. It’s not the fact that they were reselling themes. That’s common business practice and I support it, BUT not every theme built is worth installing. Only a professional WordPress developer can open up the theme, inspect the details, view the history of evolution, the support the theme builder offers and say this is a great theme dependent on the needs and goals of the client.
If you don’t do that, you are setting yourself up for potential failure. The same goes for the occasional “I develop custom themes” only person. This person tends to only focus on their technical aptitude that they can create a custom theme from scratch. While this is great, this can be a very stupid decision in the long term for the client. It has been in many cases in my lifetime when fixing previous client websites. The former developer/designer was so gung-ho on what he could technically achieve that he forgot to address fundamental questions about the company he works for and the future of what his decisions will cost them.
The best development houses and agencies understand that they need to interview and intimately understand the client, their needs today and what goals they are trying to achieve. From there, the questions of time, budget, labor and need will determine…should I deploy a custom theme or pre-scripted theme?
Note about themes!
Not all themes are alike. many people tend to go for a theme that “looks” great. This flaw in thinking leads to headaches, especially if you run a business providing WordPress websites. The biggest issues you need to understand when deploying themes is that some may cause security issues, are poorly written, have load issues and the biggest… are limited in support where if you can’t open up the WordPress core and fix things, you are off on the wrong foot when WordPress or plugins update. All this fixing and editing is time…and time is money.
In the end, if you don’t have the “business” eye of using and deploying themes, then you are simply an amateur in my eyes.