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The Trouble with Using Themes for Your WordPress Site

Musings about the web and stuff.

The Trouble with Using Themes for Your WordPress Site

There are many options available when it comes to having an online presence for your business. Some small companies have done away with the idea of a custom, dedicated website altogether, and instead choose to use solely Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to digitally connect with their customers.

But there is another option that has made the art of custom, tailor made websites a rarer jewel – themes. A theme is a ready-made template for WordPress, Weebly or Shopify into which you can slot your own logo, images and text. With a snap of your fingers and at a fraction of the cost, you have yourself a website.

If it sounds too good to be true, that’s because it often is. There are questions surrounding the SEO capabilities of themes. SEO Friendly is just a sticker many theme vendors put on their product and they rely on their customers not knowing what to look for to see if this is actually true.

Another issue with themes is that many are overly complicated and confusing to manage. They are bloated with ‘features’ that will never be used and simply add to the clutter of a website’s backend. This unused functionality is loaded in the background in the form of CSS and Javascript, contributing to the frustrating experience of a slow-loading website.

Third Party Plugins

Themes often consist of a complicated arrangement of third party plugins. As you know, plugins require regular updates (for security, etc) and often times a plugin used within a theme will only ever be updated when the theme itself is updated. So certain plugins can remain out of date for months, or even indefinitely, if the theme developer fails to release updated versions. This leaves your website vulnerable to security breaches and hacks.

Furthermore, if you need assistance with a problem you’ve encountered when working with a theme, it can be troublesome when trying to reach the theme’s creator for help. You may need to go through two or three people to reach the developer or to contact their help desk (if they even have one). And this is assuming that the developer is still around – many have a habit of withdrawing technical support for their themes and then disappearing off the face of the earth.

Then there is the most obvious drawback to using a theme – thousands of other businesses could potentially have the same design as you. Not a good look if you are trying to present yourself as a unique brand and stand out from your competitors.

Advantages and Disadvantages

One advantage to using a theme is that normally they are far less expensive than having a custom website built, and they can usually be altered to some small degree. But good luck if you want more than a few colour changes here and there – themes are notoriously difficult to modify in any meaningful way. This is because the developer is working with a massive amount of someone else’s code – searching for the code to change the height of a box can be like searching for a needle in a haystack, and then when you do find it, the whole website breaks when you adjust it.

On the other hand, if you choose to have a tailor-made website built for your business, the developer has the freedom to start with a blank canvas and build something entirely unique that reflects the your specific requirements.