For some, the idea of being able to download a pre-built website template sounds like the quickest way to get a site up and running. Though this is the case for some, it may make things even more time consuming in the long run. As with any web project, it is important to have a good plan, including a site hierarchy, user flow, goals and an idea of what sort of content each page might include.
Benefits of using a pre-built theme:
- Template is a complete, working website out of the box
- It may include some fancy features that being part of the template, you don’t have to build from scratch
- Theme developers may have spent time making sure the design is mobile friendly and works well across a wide variety of web browsers
These are all things that can help speed up the development process and let you focus on content rather than building a site from scratch. Things like browser compatibility, responsive grids, charts and other animated features might be there ready to go.
Question to ask yourself is “Will my content fit into this theme?”
If you’re lucky enough to find a theme that is in line with the site you’re building, going with a theme is a fine idea. Here are some great places to find WordPress and other website themes:
When not to use a theme:
- A theme doesn’t match your content
- Many updates are required to change the look of the theme to your needs
- Theme isn’t frequently up to date or well supported by the author
- Comes with a long list of bells and whistles that you don’t plan to use
It makes sense that a theme developer will try to fit every possible element and feature into their product, especially when it’s one that’s for sale. However, if you plan to use a theme as a starting point for your project but don’t plan to use many of those extra features, those will just get in the way causing your site to run slowly.
Many systems are so full of these little features or elements you don’t want, you might find yourself spending more time just getting things to work than you would simply building on your own.
Design is a big issue for most themes. By using a theme that isn’t designed around your content, you aren’t able to gain a benefit you would otherwise get from a designer’s design which considers your user’s experience, calls to action and other elements that may better get your site’s point across.
You’re the developer, build it yourself
If you’re a web designer/developer, your best course of action is build your own stuff. Build from the ground up using tools you can depend on and learn some new tricks. If all you do is rely on a plugin for some site feature, you won’t get the benefit of learning how things work. The fewer things you learn how to do, the quicker all this web stuff will start to go over your head. Sure, it might take some time in the beginning, but the benefit is an increase in knowledge and a lean, mean, end product that works great.
A starting point isn’t a bad idea though. Things like Bootstrap or other CSS frameworks can save you time when putting together a custom UI.