Custom Theme

But I want a custom theme…

I recently read an article about software design that got me thinking. Scott made some very good points as he thought about a question his friend posed to him about Software.

“Stuff that is made by hand is hard to make, and even more hard to make well, and tends to be less sturdy than things made by machines.”

“In the history of the world, he said, is there one thing you can think of that has been hand-made, and on such a large scale as software, that was as complex?”

I’ve often compared designing a website to building a house. People don’t realize that some things are really simple and some are really difficult. Sometimes fixing something is like moving a picture to a different wall, and sometimes it is moving a bathroom (and all the plumbing!) It is often hard for non-technical people to understand the complexity of what they are asking for. In the digital world moving one item could be easy and moving another (that looks just as easy) could be super complicated.

Tonight I came up with this analogy to website design (and credit goes to the article for getting me to think this way.) In the old days (1800s) everythign was built by hand. Your clothes, houses, food, etc. There were stores for each thing (bakery, candle shop, buter, etc.) Then the factory came around and you could get things cheaper (but everything was the same, not unique.) Interchangeable parts and Henry Ford come around and the assembly line works awesome and he makes a ton of money selling the same black car for a LONG time. Over time the market and technology shift and we want different stuff. We want to stand out. Now we pay more for a car but we have tons of models to chose from as well as colors. They are much better and safer and are WAY better and cheaper than if we had to have someone build a car by hand (is that even possible?) The market is bigger which allows for more factories and each factory can churn out a different car (or a small handful of cars).

This change is happening in the website building world. You can get a website built for less than $500 if you use WordPress (with all it’s interchangeable parts) and buy a theme. You can do it even cheaper if you do it on your own. You can even add functionality to it with more free or paid plugins (that can almost do ANYTHING). This is why I love doing web development with WordPress. I’m not reinventing the wheel each time I create a website. In fact I’m working on a plugin that will help to automate a lot of the setup (deleting initial posts, setting up categories, etc.) so when I do a website it can get to a basic state in like 10 minutes including install.

So, my point is that when things are hand made each piece is unique but it takes a lot of time and effort (money) and there are limits to the quality. Now, with factories you go to Target/Walmart/etc and buy the same shirt as everyone else (maybe a different color). When you are standing in the store you don’t usually say “I wonder if someone else bought this same shirt?” Because hundreds of people have, but you rarely run into someone with the exact same shirt. The fact is that you might even go to the store to buy a shirt that someone else has. If you do run into someone with the same shirt you say “hey, nice shirt” and maybe (depending on the circumstance you feel a little silly) but it doesn’t really matter in the long run. WordPress templates give you a very economical way to get a beautiful site. You can swap out images and change colors and fonts, and even move sections around (something you can’t do with a shirt) and in the end it might not even look the same as the other person’s site. Even if it does most people will say “I think I saw this design before” and that will be that. My suggestion is, find a theme that looks mostly like what you want and make a few tweaks to it. Add your logo and change it a bit but it will save a TON of time and effort. If you want a custom design, that is fine but I’d still try to put it on a pre-built WordPress theme or Framework.

So, here is what I would recommend. Get your logo, and an idea of what you want your site to look like. Go hereherehere, and/or here (free but they also have paid ones), and look for a theme that is somewhat close (think like a builder and find something that has the structure you want.) You can space things different (move walls), delete sections, paint, or even add in sections but find something that looks like what you want (at least when you squint!) Install the theme and if you need help you will only need a little bit of help to get it customized.

As an example of what can be done with customization, this theme became this with some work. Although this one required a bit more work and some graphic design it was mostly just replacing images and moving a few things around (or removing them altogether.) These are my thought on why you should start with a theme and customize it as you go. In most cases there is no need to spend thousands of dollars for a new theme when a pre-built theme will do.







Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *