WordPress is an amazing platform. Over the years I’ve made a bunch of my own themes for clients and for my own blogs and websites. With tools like Thesis and Headway, it can be fairly easy to customize your website to do what you want. Both Headway and Thesis are great platforms to start with. They give you the basics and all you have to do is make your modifications. There are also tools like Artisteer out there that make creating themes crazy easy. That’s all fine and good if you only want a simple theme. You can even use them as a basis for creating amazing custom websites, if you want to spend the time and resources on it.
If they don’t need a custom theme that does brand related special things that no theme, I’ve been telling my clients more and more to buy a theme. WordPress supports child themes, which is basically a nice way to piggy back on an existing theme, allowing you to upgrade that theme when the time comes, but does not cause you to lose any of your modifications. It’s a great setup. You can make page templates and css changes, and nothing gets lost. I find it a wonderful way to work.
There are also a bunch of specialty themes that wonderful programmers have spent time creating that it’s really not cost effective to build your own. I recently bought a theme for my recipe blog, Vegan Start. Why did I do that? Because for me to create the functionality that comes built in with the blog would have taken weeks, if not months, to implement. The theme that I bought, CookingPress, gives an amazing search functionality. It allows users to search for recipes with certain ingredients, difficulty levels, and allergens, to name a few. It also supports recipe rich snippets. That means that it’s already Google ready. If someone looks up a recipe, they’ll get it with a picture of the food. The screenshot below shows you how my recipes show up. I added the author tag separately which is why you see my smiling face. How can you beat that? It supports responsive design too. There are a bunch of recipe plugins that I’ve tried, but none of them measure up to this theme.
That’s for recipes, but what about other types of sites? If you have a news or other specialty site, there’s a lot out there already. In most cases, all you need to do is load some personalized images and change some of the css, and your site will be unique, even with a theme that other people are using. There are even themes that are shopping cart ready, if you have anything that you want to sell online.
For my recipe site, I needed something specific. For this site, I used a free theme that I found doing a few Google searches. It’s called Ribbon, and MyThemeShop is giving it out for free. My main concern for this site was that it use responsive design. I really did very little to make it uniquely mine, and I am thrilled with it.
My advice for most people is to figure out what their needs are. Is it necessary to build a custom theme from scratch? If yes, that’s fine. I’ve had clients that have needed that and I’ve been happy to help them out with it. If not, you may be able to save a lot of time and money by buying something off the shelf.