Which is best: Buying a WordPress theme or coding one for your business?

Ever since I started coding WordPress themes (more than 10 years ago), I got a lot remarks from clients regarding the higher price for my coded themes and the lack of features when comparing them to the highly customizable ones from themeforest.net. At first, I considered that explaining the differences to the client will only make our relationship worse, so I let them make a decision on their own, based on their budget and telling them that if they can buy that theme, so can the competition. After a while, they started to come back, wanting SEO and advertising campaigns with real conversions. Then, reality hit me and I started explaining things to client.

$50 dollar can cost you more than $2000

First of all, optimizing a highly customizable theme for WordPress can be a pain in the “brackets” and can cost the client a lot more than a brand new theme coded just for their business. Optimization doesn’t just stand for adding keywords or picking the right colors for the website, it also means making your site run smoothly on the server side. The database needs to be clean, the server must respond as fast as possible to queries and, also, the user must have a pleasant look at what interests him the most: content.

It’s not just about originality

Consider this: each of the customization settings are stored in the database and are called upon each query. Now, the website , might have a good caching system and this can be seamless to the front-end user, but adding a new product on the website and refreshing the page cache afterwards may be tricky. Also, e-commerce end-points require a constant access to the database, as orders or stocks need to be updated every time a purchase is made. If the SQL contains tables full of useless data (like the colors of the buttons), the query takes more time to process. For one order, it may be seamless, but when you have 50 users online and 5 are making purchases and the store operator adds a a new product… well, your website can crash. Or you can spend a few hundreds of dollars/ month managing a dedicated server for your store.

Then, there are the web builders. Most web builders for WordPress are crap and are useless when they have to serve for a constant business. Going back to e-commerce, the best thing to do is to either educate your target to your website’s design or manipulate the design after your user’s requirements. After you’ve done so, it’s not a good idea to start changing the elements (order, colors) because you will only confuse the users. So web-builders should only be used once (upon the setup). You can also think about using them again when you think it’s time for a “re-branding”, but how often are you going to that?

How can a web-builder plugin for WordPress affect the server response time

Coming back to optimizing a website with a web-builder, keep in mind that each visual block is a combination of shortcodes that need to be translated to actual visual content. In other words – new database entry and a full PHP dictionary code just to render that beautiful round-cornered button on the center of the page. Which, for the front end-user should be a HTML button tag with 3 or 4 CSS lines and maybe a 3-4 line js tweaks.

These are just a few examples. Not all clients have e-commerce businesses. Some of them just want a website to show-off, either a location, a bar, a hotel or some automotive services. Almost every theme you buy for $50 will include features for e-commerce, maybe some booking, some sliders. Translated: useless database entries, useless PHP dictionaries, useless JS dictionaries (yep) and, of course, useless forms for useless stuff which the business owner will never use, but the theme developers included them, so that the theme will server for as more business as it can possibly can.

Your own “handcrafted” theme may go for the long run

Coding you own theme, however, means that you only develop the the features you need. The less the plugins you’ll use, the better the website will perform. You won’t be using page builders and unnecessary js Scripts, and you can think of a design that will best suit your customers. Also, adding new features as well as constantly updating your WordPress can be a lot easier, because the developer knows the code very well and he will be able to replace any deprecated functions a long the way.

It may cost more at first, but the results will come a lot faster and you can expect lower costs on the advertising part. A well coded website will be favoured by search engines and you may also expect lower costs when it comes to updating any API’s used.

In conclusion, you can start an online business by purchasing a theme and you may have some results, but don’t expect it give tremendous results. Just do some research at first, talk to some advertising agencies and get some points of advice. Some of them will give some free pointers in order to justify their quotations.

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