I read an article recently that caught my attention on the topic of pre-built WordPress themes. Bannered with the bold headline “WordPress Themes Must Die,” the write-up went through some perceptions about pre-built themes and how they’ve led to the “cheapening of the web industry.”
In this article, I’ll address some of the points brought up in the article mentioned above and why pre-built WordPress themes are here to stay.
Diversity Doesn’t Cheapen an Industry
The just-add-water appeal of pre-built WordPress themes has undoubtedly allowed many businesses to launch cost-effective websites that have helped them grow. However, it has also been a major factor in the “cheapening” of the web industry.
The ease of building sites in WordPress attracts legions of so-called “web developers”, who use WordPress in lieu of having the development knowledge needed to code a site from scratch. Even worse, it has given rise to two types of web consultants that we can blame for destroying the web industry as we know it.
To state lower-cost options “cheapen” the web industry is akin to saying McDonald’s cheapens the culinary arts or apartments destroyed the housing market as we know it.
The fact is, there’s a wide variety of website needs today by businesses and individuals, and for some, a pre-built, high-quality, easy-to-use WordPress theme is the best option.
The key is finding out what option is best-suited for each person’s goals. As web developers, it’s our job to work closely with, and serve clients in finding the best possible solution for his or her website needs.
It certainly doesn’t help the customer (or the web developer for that matter) to throw out a “woe is me” when alternate options make formerly-difficult things easier for non-developers. That’s part of what makes WordPress so powerful and why I, for one, develop custom and pre-built themes for the platform.
At the end of the day, web development should be about meeting client needs, not turning a nose up at any website solution that doesn’t make a web developer feel superior to other human beings.
Like Anything Else, There’s the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
WordPress themes are created by 3rd party developers, and each theme may require the use of multiple 3rd party plugins for features like page builders, contact forms or ecommerce functionality. Theme code is often poor and riddled with bugs that put site stability and usability in jeopardy.
Guess what a web developer is when he or she creates an entirely custom website for you? A third party.
It doesn’t matter whether your site was built from the ground up or patched together with every WordPress plugin in the known universe. If you’re not coding the site, you’re dependent on a third party. There’s always the risk of a theme containing bugs or poor code, but that’s no different with a plugin than it is with a custom-tailored site.
As the old saying goes, “the proof is in the pudding.” If working with a web developer on a custom site, test out some of his or her examples. If utilizing a plugin or pre-built theme, check out the ratings and feedback by other customers. Chances are, if there’s something wrong, you’ll be able to read about it.
If theme quality is a concern, there’s even a plugin you can install to point out just about everything that’s wrong with your current theme.
Find the Option That Works Best for Your Business
One area where the “death to WordPress themes” article drifted into the realm of reality was mention of the benefits a custom theme has over the template option.
In most cases, for those who can afford a custom-built theme, it is the better alternative. Rather than forming your content strategy, brand, and structure around something that’s already built, you can reverse the order. This enables you to be much more strategic with not only how you deliver your content, but how you stand out among your competitors. If your competition relies on a pre-built theme, a custom site may help you add features, functionality, and a unique approach to capturing customers potentially able to put you ahead of the curve.
The problem is that not every company, organization, and individual has the budget allocated for custom development. In this case, a pre-built theme is a great place to start. It even provides the option of upgrading to a custom site after getting your feet wet with the pre-built theme.
Why Pre-Built WordPress Themes Are Here to Stay
Contrary to the wishes of a developer or two, it looks like pre-built WordPress themes are here to stay.
The reason is much like the existence of many products and services of the today: it fills a need.
So long as pre-built WordPress templates continue to offer an effective, low-cost solution to individuals, organizations, and businesses, it would be hard to see them going away.
I would argue that not only do theme templates not “cheapen” the web industry, but make even it more valuable. It does so by bringing to the table individuals who otherwise would’ve been barred by financial barriers or technical limitations at the onset.
All things considered, the web is a pretty big place, and there’s room for a wide assortment of websites. With WordPress occupying roughly 18% of that space, it’s tough to imagine the platform without even more low-cost easy-to-use site solutions coming in the future.
Question: What do you think? What do you think about the pre-built WordPress theme approach? I would love to know your thoughts!