If you’ve ever considered building your own website for your business, you’ve probably come across website themes. If not, let me explain quickly. A theme is a pre-built design for a website that will generally sit on top of a Content Management System. Using a theme allows you to get a professional website up and running with your imagery, brand colour and content without having to touch any code and for a minimal cost.
This sounds amazing, so why do I still build websites from scratch for my clients?
The fundamental issues with a theme is that you are buying into someone else’s strategy and decisions, rather than making your own. Theme authors need to sell their themes to make money, so they build themes that appeal to certain people and their clients or customers. If you find a theme that appeals to you and addresses your business goals, then awesome. If not, you’re going to have to twist the theme to your will and that’s where things become a bit tricky.
Jumping in and trying to modify a theme is like renovating a house. You might have a grand idea and the skills to do what you need. But if the house is built poorly or infested with termites, you won’t know until you dive in and start spending money. If you’re just looking to add a fresh coat of paint and dress things up, you’ll most likely be fine. If you want to change or add new functionality, you could have a nightmare on your hands.
The advantage of starting a project from scratch is like planning a house with an architect. You can explore your options and strategy early on, making changes and test ideas without having to work on something that’s already trying to do something else.
An architects most useful tools are an eraser at the drafting board, and a wrecking bar at the site – Frank Lloyd Wright
While themes aren’t going to be the right choice for a lot of projects, there is definitely a place for them and benefits for using one.
Themes are great things if you want to play around with something yourself, get an idea up and running quickly with little cost. There is no point spending a few thousand on a developer to build a website if you don’t know if it will work.
Themes are also a great idea when clients don’t have the budget to start from scratch and you need to focus on areas of the project that are going to add more value to the business than a custom website. A majority of themes look very good and are a huge improvement on a businesses site that might have been untouched in 4 years.