A theme is a website layout and design that can reduce the time and cost of a new website build. Many people believe themes are an easy option when working with open source software like Magento and WordPress. As developers we would argue that you need the expertise to ensure that the website you get is the website you want and using a theme speeds things up, but can still be too complex for non-technical website builders to produce a site of great commercial quality. Here’s our positives and negatives of using themes:
Does It Look The Part?
There are many positives to having a WordPress theme; they can be very creative and fit a wide variety of websites regardless of their subject as they are usually built for general requirements. For example some themes come in colours, so a blue theme or a green theme can be matched to any company branding.
A lot of work has already gone into building and testing the theme before you’ve chosen it to be your theme, this means production times are much quicker and therefore your go live date will be much sooner, there will also be a lot of upfront options because the theme has not been built for anyone specifically. However if the theme is popular then many others will also be using it, and your website won’t be unique and won’t stand out as much as a bespoke site that has been built for your specific needs and requirements.
Themes usually use well known for using third party services, for example Magento sites will be more than likely already be set up with PayPal as it’s one of the most popular payment options on the web. Or on a smaller scale themes may utilise popular icon font sets like font awesome for icons because they are easy to customise and have been used by millions of websites.
Themes use a lot of plugins. Plugins that are often doing similar sorts of things to the theme itself just in different ways. Because of this code/requests can easily be duplicated which means the site isn’t optimised and could potentially start to slow down. For example a company could have plugins on their site that do what WordPress do by default, however if the creator of the theme didn’t have a full understanding of how it worked, instead of writing in the code to create something they added a plugin which is 3 times bigger than the code required. It can be a nightmare having to go through the site and turning off all of the irrelevant things so it doesn’t conflict with what your website sets out to achieve.
Code quality can also be a problem; everyone codes differently as people think in different ways. Although there is the w3c which provides standards and guidelines to follow there is never just one way of doing something, coding requires creativity to create a good website. When someone creates a theme all the foundation work is done to their specifications, how they want the theme to look.
When a user or developer comes to modify the site the styles or methods could be very different making it difficult to modify. There is far less flexibility. You need to conform, you must do things in the way the theme wants you to do them. For example if a shop has a stock method or category method that doesn’t fit the theme the theme will not change to suit your individual requirements, you have to change to fit the theme.
If you want the theme to change, you need to contact the creator of the theme and ask them to edit the code. It’s also likely that if you have an issue with the theme the support will be poor as you will have to wait for someone who doesn’t have an invested interest in you or the website as you have already bought the theme.
Testing and Updates
Themes should be well documented but often they aren’t. Testing can also be an issue, though the theme has previously been tested by other people that doesn’t mean it won’t have glitches. Always make sure to do comprehensive testing of the website theme, your website needs could be very different to another users. Although if the theme you choose is popular and you encounter a bug, it is likely that someone has previously had the issue and there will be an online solution.
When new frameworks are released the updating theme relies on the theme developer. Once a theme is made it is generally not maintained and there may be delays in requests for any theme changes.
The best way to ensure your new website is what you want, using a theme, is to work with developers who will sure the website is stable (once plug-ins are added), it is compatible with all device, browser and operating systems and has a professional finish, still saving you time and money whilst ensuring your new theme built website meets yours and your visitors expectations.