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Three Options for Building with WordPress

WordPress is one of the leading Customer Management Solution options currently available for building a website.  It is responsible for 35% of the websites that are currently hosted on the internet at the time of writing this post.  So there are a whole lot of websites that use WordPress and it is an extremely viable option for building a website for your business.  If this is something you are considering, this post is for you.  In my experience there are basically three different ways that you can use WordPress to build a website.  First, you could build a custom theme from scratch.  Second, you could use an existing theme that is already built.  Third, you could use a special kind of theme that includes a page builder.  In this post I will be providing a brief explanation, based on my own experience of these three methods to help you better understand which might be best for you.

Build A Custom Theme

Building a custom theme means that you start from scratch or at least use what is called a starter theme to build a website in WordPress that is completely custom designed for your needs both in terms of the way it looks as well as the features that it provides.  Two starter themes that I have used and found very helpful are Foundations and Underscores.   If you are looking to learn how WordPress works, I found it a big help to write a theme from scratch.  In order to do this you must be proficient in HTML, CSS, JavaScript and PHP.  If you need to have a website that is completely custom in it’s design primarily then this is the best option.  If you need custom functionality there is likely a plugin out there that does it otherwise you can build it into the theme or write your own custom plugin to do what you need to do.  The drawback of doing this is that you must have a strong technical knowledge and if you don’t, you’ll need to pay someone who does.  This is definitely the most expensive option.  It will also take longer to complete the project.  If you have a smaller budget and shorter time frame and you are willing to give up a custom design for a pre-built template kind of design than you will want to consider the next option.

Use an Existing Theme

This option entails installing a theme that has already been built by a third party and installing it onto your WordPress install.  There are an absolutely huge number of theme’s available both for free and paid that come with a myriad of different styles and features.  Many times a WordPress theme can be configured to use a custom color pallet among other things.  If you want to build a website and build it fast and you have a small budget this is a great option.  The drawback is that you loose a lot of flexibility of design.  If you know CSS and PHP it is possible to add some custom changes to a theme but you have to be careful to make these changes in what is called a child theme so that when you update your main theme, your changes are not overwritten.  Sometimes a theme will include a CSS/Code editor that you can use as well but these offer a limited capability to add custom styles and content.  The next option is kind of the best of both worlds but has it’s drawbacks as well.

Use a Page Builder

A page builder allows a person without the experience of a programmer to visually build a website using blocks/modules.  WordPress comes with it’s own built in page builder called Gutenberg and there are other 3rd party options that you can use as well including Divi, Elementor, Beaver Builder and others, each of which have their pros and cons.  The fact is that with Page Builders we are talking about a paradigm shift from Content Management Solutions.  I say this because we are now not only placing the management of the content into the hands of the end user, we are also placing the management design and structure of the website into the hands of the end user.  Granted, they do not have complete control over these items but they have enough control that they can mostly get by without the constant help of a web developer.  We are really talking about Content & Design Management Solutions (CDMS’s).  So the pro’s are that a user without technical experience can build a website and make it look how they want as well as contain the content they want.  The cons are that in all reality, you still can not achieve a completely custom design as you must work withing the limitations of the tool.  There are still things that you can do in HTML, CSS, PHP & JavaScript that you can not do in a page builder.  Even so, page builders will also allow you to include blocks and modules with code in them as well as have places you can add custom code that really makes a whole lot more possible.  The biggest drawback of using a Page Builder is that you don’t have control over the quality of code that is produced for your website.  This can have some impact on performance of your website as well as maintenance, although this is negligible.  You can also have conflicts with other WordPress plugins that might cause some items to break but this happens with any pre-built themes as well.

Conclusion

At the end of the day it comes down to three factors, cost, time and level of custom design.  If you can afford a high cost and have the time than you could build a completely custom theme.  If you don’t have the money and have little time than you can either use a pre-built theme or page builder.  If you don’t have any time and are okay with a pre-build design than a pre-built theme is the way to go.  If you want some customization of your design but are limited on time than a page builder is the way to go.

I love Jesus Christ, my wife and my children. I also really enjoy using technology to help solve peoples problems. This blog will contain my thoughts primarily on these topics. All posts are my own.
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