WordPress Theme: Free, Ready-Made or Custom?WordPress Theme: Free, Ready-Made or Custom? The article considering basics of dealing with the popular CMS WordPress with focus on the design aspect, in particular factors of selecting a WordPress theme.
Perhaps, there is no point explaining numerous advantages which a website can bring to personal and business development. Websites provide companies, readers and sharers with a great variety of opportunities and niches, from personal presentation and communication to global educational programs and large business partnerships or charity projects. Every day more and more people are looking for a way to efficiently use the unlimited potential of the world wide web for self and professional growth without spending too much time on its maintenance and studying how to operate with web dashboards or write code.
Understanding this growing need, there are platforms providing needed functionality: they allow people with intermediate or even basic skills of using the web to start their own website or blog quickly and easily. As the issue is debatable today in perspective of design and user experience of the websites created on these platforms, we have decided to add our ideas to this global discussion here in our blog. Naturally, we will start with the most popular option which is widely used worldwide and is called WordPress.
What is WordPress?
WordPress is a content management system (CMS), at the moment it wins the top position in its niche. Content management systems are web applications created for making and operating (aka managing) different sorts of content via uploading, editing, and publishing posts containing copy, images, audio and video etc. So, this is the multifunctional platform for blogging, both personal and professional, and also creating websites for various businesses or non-profit organizations and movements.
There is a number of content management systems nowadays, all of which have their wide or narrow audience. However, at the moment WordPress presents the market leader opening wide opportunities for setting websites quickly and easily. Let’s look closer what are the benefits attracting people so much.
What are general benefits of WordPress?
To the benefits that have really positive impact on any sort of website set in this CMS we would definitely mention the following:
— WYSIWYG («what you see is what you get») editor that enables people to work with the system and operate with content without knowledge and skills of coding in HTML or other languages. This means that, for example, professional copywriters or journalists can be involved straight into the process without necessity of additional training. Basic skills of operating with text editors is enough to start publishing. Moreover, it’s a great way to start for those people who can offer their services and goods but are really far from any sort of coding.
— Individual and group operations. One WordPress account presenting a website or blog can be controlled and filled with content by either one admin user or multiple users. That enables efficient teamwork which is especially appreciated for big informative resources.
— SEO-oriented URL formation and copy processing. Content applied in the products created on the basis of CMS can be automatically optimized for search engines that creates higher chances for the content to reach its readers. In addition, in the admin dashboard writers are offered the ability to even work over optimization of all the images uploaded to posts.
— WordPress offers its users detailed documentation and technical support, which makes interaction with the platform much easier.
— The rich system of plugins enables to effectively adapt the websites along the requirements of its creators and final readers/users.
— The variety of themes (design templates) enables users to select the design which is the most suitable for their aims, target audience needs as well as their own tastes.
Definitely, there are many other benefits, but the outlined ones are among the most popular features creating the feeling of user-friendly and multipurpose resource. Furthermore, today they are added with steadily growing field of design for WordPress themes that have already formed a huge repository of themes and templates for the users worldwide. So, let’s look a bit closer at the design aspect of the story.
What is a WordPress theme?
A WordPress theme is a set of design templates that determines the general visual concept of a website as well as the interactive layout of its interface. Basically, it is the designed frame of a website which later will be filled with content. Themes are the way to display your content in attractive and edible manner to the final visitors and readers.
The theme can be chosen from the admin area and there are several ways to apply:
— the theme can be used in its original variant without changes;
— the theme can be slightly modified with the help of plugins or adding alterations to the original code;
— the theme can be massively changed via alterations in the code.
Themes define website layout on different pages (for example home page, post page, about page etc.), design features and elements (color combinations, typography, theme icons, buttons and illustrations etc.) and perhaps some special features (for example, sliders, preview models, menus, footer and header options, widgets etc.).
Summing up, choosing a WordPress theme, users can expect them to contain:
- typefaces and fonts styling
- the general visual design stylistic concept of the website
- color palette that often offers several combinations to choose from
- widgets availability and options for their location
- layouts of the webpages
- stylistic solution for blog or website archives.
There are themes that can be chosen for free and the ones that are paid for. Some of the themes could be defined as universal which means they can be adapted for different sorts and types of content, while others are designed aiming at more specific purposes like e-commerce, personal blogging, business presentation, portfolios, social communication, professional blogging for particular topic etc.
In this perspective, the big question worrying many people thinking over the options of dealing with WordPress is the choice of selecting the ready-made theme, making slight alterations or creating totally unique design frame for their content management. Let’s consider this issue a bit deeper.
WordPress Theme: ready-made, adjusted or originally designed?
Actually, the theme choice is an issue of great importance. Visual impression is actually a card of invitation which gives readers of your blog or visitors of your website general imagination about its purpose and utility as well as can engage their interest to learn more. Carefully chosen theme can literally define the success of the business as well as reduce the chances of attracting broad audience.
It does mean that in any case users starting their path of interaction with WordPress CMS have to make a decision standing on the crossroads. Should they use a free theme or a buy a premium one? Should they select a universal theme or specified would be more efficient? Should they alternate the theme anyhow or rely upon the original solutions made by professional designers? This sort of questions seem not really easy. And there is no a single universal answer for all of them, which is why, perhaps, the market of WordPress themes is so comprehensive and dynamic today.
Looking at the options and grounding on the extended practice in web design for different purposes here in Tubik Studio, we are certain that choosing the topic or asking professionals to do it for them, prospective users selecting the theme should find the answers to several questions:
- What is the purpose of the website? What is it launched for?
- What is the target audience of the website? What is their motif to use your website? What their problems can you solve? What are their general preferences and psychologic peculiarities?
- What is the color scheme appropriate to your content and to the preferences of your prospective visitors?
- What sort of data should be shown on the home page?
- What sort of previews do you find effective?
- What kinds of content are going to be presented?
These and many other questions can seem quite specific, especially if we are talking about the idea that is launched just for communication rather than for having profits, like personal blog, for example. However, any project having even a simple goal can use design means directly to achieve this goal. Design with thought-out interactions brings positive user experience and is a solid foundation for the successful use of the CMS whatever it is used for.
Free themes can work well, especially when users only start dealing with WordPress. They will definitely get all the benefits of the CMS platform, mentioned above, and perhaps even will be able to select the theme which will correspond to their aims. However, they should be ready that the number of variants will be quite limited and there will be not so many themes designed for specific purposes. Moreover, it will be hard to make your website look original as you will use something available to anyone. Still, for users with very limited skills and no experience of coding it can be a great platform to start getting familiar with the process. Knowledge of coding will make possible to alter some settings and features in the theme.
However, for users starting websites with clear and particular business or personal goals and time frame of their achievement, this option can be too restricted and moreover too slow in providing result. For them, it is vital to start the website with clear, thought-out and recognizable design which will definitely attract their target audience and engage it to interact with the website content. In this case, more active help of professional designers can set the right route. And it can be accomplished in two ways.
Bought ready-made theme
Firstly, users can select the appropriate theme in the directories presenting them, such as ThemeForest, for instance. There is a big selection of various themes which get available for the buyers only after careful review checking the quality of their design solutions and code accomplishment. You can see the theme preview showing its main features. The themes are created by professionals who know how to deal with user-friendly solutions and think over the options not so obvious for average users but influencing final usability and conversion rates. You can see the creators of the theme and review their portfolio if you wish to ensure that they are professional enough. One more positive point is that the themes are categorized, so having specific goals it is easier for users to select the theme they need. For example, if you create a corporate website you set this filter and the list gets concentrated on what could be appropriate for your particular needs. This is a sort of goal-driven start of the way which makes possible to find the best match.
Next step which can be also applied in the process of theme selection and its implementation for a user-centered and efficient website is originally designed theme. That means that all the features of the website like colors, layouts of the webpages, transitions and scrolling animation, call-to-action elements, responsive adaptation and many other design aspects will be customly created, tested and coded specifically for the requirements of this particular website and its target audience.
This approach allows website creators to think over the slightest details which will be empowered by general benefits of WordPress CMS. Design will be purposefully concentrated on clear goals and ways of their achievement, providing unique and custom user-friendly solutions on the basis of user research and then user testing. To make the thing even better, designer or design team curating the website can maintain the small alterations on the basis of practical analytics or provide general redesign on the basis of solutions that already proved themselves effective.
Customly designed theme created by Tubik Studio for Design4Users
To sum up, every above-mentioned approach has its points and peculiarities in the aspects of pricing, adaptability, workflow and maintenance, usability of webdesign and many others. Anyway, we have to emphasize that every mentioned option has its own benefits for its segment of users. There is no one universal variant: each of them is good and appropriate when applied in accordance with corresponding conditions.
If you want to try yourself as a blogger, let’s say, posting short notes about traveling to different cities or visiting interesting events, then trying a free theme can be quite applicable to get familiar with a dashboard and the system in general.
For goal-centered business or personal blogging setting particular aims and timing for them, careful selecting and buying an appropriate ready-made theme can be a more efficient variant which increases the chances of getting more original looks for the website, as paid themes are used not so broadly and can offer more functionality and design templates or features.
For big websites with the complex interface or those that require particular originality, creating a custom theme totally adapted to specific requirements and supported by the CMS abilities and benefits can show itself as the best and highest-performing option, but can involve bigger investments. Any individual choice of approach should be made on the basis of the particular goals, requirements, target audience and budgeting.
In our next articles, we will concentrate more on applying these approaches in a practical design perspective. Stay tuned!