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Custom WordPress Development vs Pre-Built WordPress Themes

Nov 3 2014

At Nashville Interactive, we are first and foremost a custom WordPress developer. WordPress is by far the leading content management system used for websites. There are a number of reasons for its popularity including ease of use, rapid development, a readily available support community and of course, it’s open source. For these reasons, most website design companies will recommend building small to medium size sites via WordPress which is a great idea.

There are basically two different ways to build a WordPress site. The first way is typically what happens when you enlist the website design services of Nashville Interactive. This route involves creating a completely custom design from scratch to your requirements and then performing custom WordPress theme development that fits your project perfectly. The second route that companies will take when building WordPress sites is to purchase a generic, pre-built wordpress theme and provide minimal customization as the theme allows. While Nashville Interactive will occasionally work this way, we much prefer to provide clients with a custom solution for a number of reasons…

Going with completely custom design and development ensures that your site will be as easily updated as possible and will fit your requirements without excess bells and whistles. Pre-built themes are designed to be a one-size-fits-all solution so while it may do what you need it to, it will also have many other extra features that inevitably make content management more complicated. It is also very hard to tell if a theme will indeed fit your needs based on a generic preview site or screen shots. Often times theme developers use photography to help sell their themes. While these photographs look great, the reality is that most people don’t have the budget for a photo shoot and low-budget stock photos can look unauthentic and create a site that looks cheesy and fake.

These pre-fab themes often look great on the demo sites an screen shots but speaking from personal experience, it’s often very hard to achieve the same level of aesthetics without being a developer. Most themes come with complicated plugins that allow for these complex layouts which are very difficult to use and understand.

Another down side of using a one-size-fits-all theme is that you can’t be sure how skilled the developer is. Sometimes they’re great backend developers but they may not be very familiar with WordPress best practices for theme development. I often find myself having to go in and hack on these themes for everything from overly complex functionality down to poorly written html and css code.

Most web design companies will build a site on a development server prior to launch. This means that the site has to then be moved to the production server with your (or their) hosting account. With custom built WordPress themes, this is usually very easily achieved by simply uploading files and exporting/importing the database. However, more often than not, when I’ve attempted to move a pre-fab theme to a different server, settings and content are lost and many times have to be manually reconfigured and added back again.

Custom WordPress development also takes steps to make sure that your site won’t end up looking exactly like another website. Pre-fab themes are available for anyone to purchase and many of them look like a paid theme. Designers slap as many of the latest trends into their themes as possible which results in a generic look.

As mentioned above, here at Nashville Interactive we much prefer to create custom designed and developed sites. That being said and with the long-winded list of possible pitfalls noted, pre-built WordPress themes are on occasion useful for certain projects. Just keep in mind that care should be taken during the process to ensure that you don’t fall into these traps.

Looking for custom WordPress theme development? Give Chris a call at 615.521.1890 or reach out via email at cbradshaw@nashvilleinteractive.com