It’s undeniable: the quickest rush you can get from creating your own professional website with WordPress is installing one of these fancy premium (i.e. paid) WordPress Themes. Voila! In a few minutes (not hours) you have an awesome looking corporate site, or a magazine site, or a portfolio site, a wiki, or a forum. And it was done for around $40 instead of paying custom website developers at least $10,000.
I still stand by that as the fastest and easiest way to have a respectable web presence.
However, as a “WordPress Theme” consumer, you should know a little about what you’re buying and whether if the benefits outweigh the shortcomings. When I build WordPress sites for clients, and now creating the Deuci Music network for ourselves, these are big issues I think about. Justin Tadlock, one of the best WordPress developers and whom I’ve learned a lot from, wrote about this in “ThemeForest: An Experiment”
The benefit that may become a shortcoming is that these Premium WordPress Themes aren’t just design and layout templates. In other words, Premium WordPress Themes doesn’t just change the look and feel of your site to make it look more professional, but also bundles in a ton of specific functionality. Many will advertise bundled features like fancy portfolio organizations and designs, MP3 player, featured posts, social integration, shortcodes, related posts, widgets, Google Analytics integration, SEO optimization, etc.
That all sounds cool right? Absolutely!
Then where’s the shortcoming?
The problem occurs if you ever want to switch to another theme. If you don’t plan to, stop reading here. But if you do switch, the stuff you created using the theme-specific bundled features probably won’t work with another theme. For example, lets say you use a Premium WordPress Portfolio Theme to create your photography or modeling portfolio, and maybe it allowed you to do some amazing slideshows to demo your work. Now you want to change the look with another theme. The new theme won’t know where your previous portfolio theme stored all your portfolio items, even though they’re still on your website somewhere! At which point, you may have to hire a WordPress developer or coder to make the portfolio items you already have work with the new theme.
WordPress was built to have the theme (design) and functionality (galleries, music player, etc) be mostly separate. That’s why there’s the “Appearance” menu and the “Plugins” menu. Appearance should be the theme stuff. Plugins should be the functionality stuff. However, Premium WordPress Theme designers bundle the appearance and plugins together to make it easier to set-up and sound more feature-rich. Instead of needing to install the theme, then search through the WordPress plugins directory for the best plugin for each feature your site needs, then install and set up each plugin one by one… you get it all with your premium theme!
Which is fine if you like the theme you bought and will just keep it.
The way I prefer, and the way I build WordPress sites for clients is to only use the theme for the design/appearance. Then, I install plugins I believe are the best for each feature they require, and do this one by one. But as such, it takes a lot more time, research, and coding expertise. This way, if they want to remove a feature, we just turn off a plugin. Or, when they want to change their design, new themes should swap in easily as well.
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