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To theme, or not to theme…

Posted March 18th, 2015 @ 8:46 AM by

One of the most important decisions when developing for a WordPress site is coming up with a design. There are thousands of Free and Paid WordPress themes available, complete with styling, widgets, functionality, etc.. and there are numerous of Free and Paid WordPress Theme frameworks available. Any of these options can be used, and they are all a means to end – a website visitor will only see a design, the layout and the functionality. How the website is created is not much concern for the average web user.There are pros and cons for each of these options.

WordPress Theme

Themes can be a great way to easily deliver a website. You are provided a design, configuration options, and typically a few included functions or plugins. These themes are usually geared towards a niche market or a specific look and feel. Many of these themes come with several site color schemes and settings to easy change fonts, sizes and colors. If you find a theme that has the exact design and functionality that you are looking for, a Theme might be a perfect solution for you. Once you start adding or removing custom functionality or design, you may want to reconsider using that Theme – especially if you paid for it. If you need something more than that Theme comes with out of the box, you may be better off using a WordPress Theme Framework.

WordPress Theme Framework

A Theme Framework is a library of code to help develop a Theme, provides a parent Theme to create a Sub Theme, or a stand-alone theme starter. Frameworks are a great starting point if you had a custom design that fits within the specific Frameworks features and capabilities. Frameworks come with greater functionality than a theme, and gives the developer the tools they need to create a more custom site. There are several popular Theme Frameworks available, each with their own set of pros and cons. Many WordPress developers who use Theme Frameworks will typically find a Framework that they like and will use it for all of their sites. There are also free and paid Framework Themes available – these are themes that work directly with the Framework you have installed. When using a Framework Theme, you will still need to consider if a Framework theme is the best solution for your site. If you need a custom site or functionality that you can’t find in a theme, but don’t need to come up with a completely new theme from scratch, a Framework might be the perfect solution for you.

WordPress Child Themes

A child theme is a custom theme that inherits all of the functions and styling of its parent theme. A lot of Framework themes that you create will be a child theme to the Framework. You can make a child theme from any parent theme. The most common non-Framework case of using a Child Theme would be if you want to use a Theme but you do not want to edit the theme files directly. This is actually the recommended way to use a theme, because it allows you to update the parent theme without fear of overwriting your custom changes. If you plan on using a Framework or a downloaded Theme, you should highly consider creating a Child Theme.

WordPress Custom Theme

With so many free and paid options for Themes and Frameworks available, why would anyone consider a custom theme? There are several reason why a Custom Theme might be beneficial, and in some cases easier than any other option. One of the best cases for using a Custom Theme is migrating a non-Wordpress site into WordPress, or creating a WordPress Blog that will need the same design as the main non-Wordpress site. The other reason would be if you need to create a website with very unique functionality that is not found in Themes or Frameworks. Typically with a Custom Theme you are dealing with provided HTML that has very specific requirements that you may not get with a Framework, does not need the bloatness of a Framework, or would be too time consuming to try to manipulate into a Framework. Creating a custom theme from HTML is also fairly simple – assuming you know how the various parts of WordPress works. If the site you are designing has custom functionality, uses custom HTML or does not fit in any of the above scenarios, a Custom Theme may be perfect for you.

How Much Will it Cost?

Here are a few popular Theme sites
http://themeforest.net
http://woothemes.com
http://mojo-themes.com

Here are a few popular Theme Frameworks
http://diythemes.com
http://elegantthemes.com
http://gantry-framework.org
http://headwaythemes.com
http://www.pagelines.com
http://studiopress.com
http://teslathemes.com
http://themify.me

Here are a few Theme Generators
http://templatetoaster.com
http://underscores.me
http://wpthemegenerator.com
http://pinegrow.com

To theme, or not to theme… that is the question –
Whether ’tis easier on the mind to create
The Design and Layouts of a custom Site,
Or to buy Works made by another man,
Only to alter, change it? To comply, to adapt –
No more; and by a design, to launch a site
The hours-spent, and the Revisions on end
What point is it all? ‘Tis a fulfillment
Paid to be done. To design, to develop,
To code, conceivably to Launch; Aye, there’s no catch,
For in that time of day, where work gets done,
Where we will have delivered nay project,
We must debrief. What’s the choice
Which saves hours off our day:
For those who went and chose the basic route,
The Decision’s smart, the time shall be saved.
The path has been Set, the Design in place,
The plugins are Free, and the Settings
That require only patience to contour,
If only it would be less obscure,
What a custom affair? Who would ask such things,
To revise and recode under a pretense plan,
By my word it is all being changed,
The preconceived Theme, it is no more
No functionality remains, Layout is gone,
Now thoughts of why this trench was dug,
Than least spawn precisely I know not of.
Thus Judgement does waste Time of us all,
And thus the Settlement of Right
Is neglected, with the shallow thought of Time,
And preserving capitals of great wealth and worth,
With this heed their composure will endure,
And less the assurance of Launch.

– Banana Shakes Piere

Eric Lozaga

Eric made his first website in 1994 to the tune of Angelfire and never looked back. While stationed in Hawaii during his time in the military, he started to teach himself the LAMP stack and continued to improve until he finished his enlistment in 2006. At that time he began freelancing while also working a range of development positions, from small web development companies to large advertisement agencies.