But Can’t I Just Use a WordPress Builder?
March 3, 2022 - By Dave Clarke
In the world of WordPress, there are two ways you can go. You can buy a theme off the shelf or you can do a custom design and build. We do the latter for our clients. Here are a few reasons why.
Ownership and control
When you buy a theme, you’re entrusting a central piece of your organization’s digital presence to an entity you do not know. Sometimes it’s a company; sometimes it’s an individual. Sometimes they’re US-based; sometimes they offshore. Think about how that can impact ongoing support and security. What if the theme maker decides to sunset the theme and no longer issue updates? What if they go out of business? What if there’s no way to talk to anyone?
Going the custom route though means you’re usually hiring a partner that you talk to and get to know. You’re establishing trust. You’re signing contracts and building in protections. A custom WordPress build closes gaps and reduces risk, giving you the ownership and control every business deserves.
Off-the-shelf themes typically require a lot of plugins—especially if you need to develop customized functionality. Lots of plugins creates bloat. Bloat slows down sites. Google values site speed.
With a custom build, you’re using far fewer, if any, plugins. Not only does that contribute to site speed, but it also means you’re doing less plugin updating.
Off-the-shelf themes rely on ease-of-use messaging. Drag and drop! Even a marketer can use it! This positioning makes sense: less-technical folks are often responsible for a site once it’s built. Content updates, blog posts, landing pages. The problem, though, is that so-easy-even-a-marketer-can-do-it means they can do… a lot. To no fault of their own, they can break stuff. (Side note: That’s no knock on marketers. I’m one, myself.)
Custom builds allow access without opening the floodgates. At the beginning of each project, we establish with the client who’s going to need to do what once the site is live and we design the backend around those requirements. We make it easy for content creators to blog and update copy without exposing them at all to code.
It’s YOUR story
We believe content comes first. That content informs design. Off-the-shelf themes do the opposite. They say here’s where and how you can tell your story and the parameters it more or less has to fall into. We regularly tell clients that we design around your story and that means we need to craft the story first. Then we go build it from scratch, free of arbitrary limitations.
We maintain most of the sites we make. It is far more efficient for us (and cost effective for our clients) to maintain what we designed and developed ourselves as opposed to troubleshooting someone else’s thing. Each project we ship comes with simple yet comprehensive documentation. With most themes, you’re often relying on an FAQs page, perhaps some (likely outdated) documentation and Google.
Are these all the reasons? No. Are the instances where a theme or a builder might make sense? Yes. What matters to us is making the right recommendations for the right reasons.