In Defense Of Using A WordPress Theme

By March 18, 2015Branding

Those of us who create websites for a living have a lot of foundational agreement on how great WordPress is as a platform. Yet there is topic area that I cannot agree on with my peers: The idea that pros don’t use themes for WordPress; we create from scratch every time.

My disagreement here is not just a casual, “You believe what you believe, I will believe what I believe.” No, I am calling out my peers as being wrong-minded. Incorrect. Missing the point. Nope. Stop that.

Did You Make It? (Are you sure?)

Let’s consider one all-encompassing question through a parable: Did you make it?

A designer sketches out a concept for a new logo, the ideas being sketched are fresh and new. But when it is time to move the chosen ideas to the computer, the professional designer starts with typography.

The hunt for strong font contenders can last hours, trying to find just the right font for the logo idea. Finally, the designer finds the right font, and begins crafting it into the logo idea.

But wait… did the designer create the font she chose? No. She chose a font made by a professional typographer.

The logo creation process continues. The type is set, the iconography is starting to take shape, the client has approved the idea from the black-and-white concept, and now it’s time to move into color discovery.

The designer is looking for the perfect shade of orange. Not just any shade will do. She heads over to Pantone.com, as she gets out her Pantone® swatches, and begins to narrow down the choices.

But wait…did the designer create those Pantone® colors? No. Pantone® created those colors.

And the process goes on! The perfect shade of Pantone® orange has been approved by the client, the logo is finalized, and it’s time to start thinking about the many channels this logo will be used in.

The designer meets with a structural engineer team to talk about product packaging structures. Blister cards? Clam shells? Boxed? Wrapped? The ideas are endless! But the client settles on a nicely designed box, and the packaging is off to print.

But wait…did the designer create the paper and ink? No. A paper mill created the paper, and a variety of suppliers created the inks.

While the products are in production, the website gets into production, too.

The designer knows she wants to create a website that her client can easily update, as well as a website that is well-supported by a worldwide community of fellow web creators, so she decides to build her website on WordPress.

But wait… did the designer create WordPress, and all the features WordPress adds to the platform now and in the future? No. WordPress made WordPress.

With WordPress decided on, and knowing that there are a variety of other touch-points the brand needs to cover, she chooses a WordPress theme from a trusted, quality group of developers that she can craft to look and feel appropriate to the brand.

And right here is where most web pros roll their eyes, and look down at the designer because she chose a pre-coded WordPress theme rather than create from scratch.

Get Over Yourselves

As we can see, nearly every other step in the creative process–save for the initial ideation phase for the brand identity itself–was a standard resource created by some other person/business/entity that we pros have been using for decades (centuries?).

Why is it that today’s web creators use typography, colors, imagery, and even code repos without blinking, but the instant a peer mentions using a WordPress theme, it is shunned and belittled?

This makes no sense.

Actually, it’s more than that: You who look down on the WordPress theme option are wrong to do so, as illustrated here in this post. It is absurd to me that everything else in our creative process uses resources not created by us, yet the group-thinkers within today’s creative class have elevated code to such a lofty pedestal that one dares only whisper that their website uses a WordPress theme. I am here today to tell my peers: Get over yourselves. 

Recognize The Hierarchy

Perhaps the underlying problem here is an inflated sense of value for the website, and those who create and maintain it.

Sure, websites are crucial for any brand. My career tells that story.

But the website is not the brand. It’s part of the brand. It’s a spoke in a bigger wheel, even if the brand is a web-based service.

If the bigger picture means that the brand can thrive on a website that uses a WordPress theme that has been crafted for the brand, then that’s what needs to happen, and it is not a bad thing. It is no different than using fonts and colors that someone else made too.

There Is A Time

I am not a complete Danny Downer. I do believe there is a time and place to make a website from-scratch, and my branding agency has a roughly dead-even split of from-scratch and theme-based WordPress websites.

Sometimes there just isn’t a theme out there that can capture the brand the way it ought to, or there’s a killer feature that is part of the brand experience.

All of that is well and good, and there is a time for creating a theme unique to a brand. When we take on that type of project, I love every step.

But there is also a time to stop thinking ridiculous thoughts, and that time is now: Stop thinking of WordPress themes as something to look down on.

Dan Crask

Author Dan Crask

Hello - I'm Dan Crask. I help brands discover who they are, then express it visually. I co-own Brand Shepherd, am a husband, father of four children, and I don't believe in a work/life balance - it's all life, and all of it matters.

More posts by Dan Crask

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