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Web Design

Should you use a WordPress theme for your business website?

17 August 2015


An attempt at DIY goes wrong

Being a British male in my mid-thirties, I am obviously a born natural at Do-It-Yourself. My wife is frequently impressed at my attempts to assemble furniture, particularly as I always manage to complete the job with spare screws at the end. Talk about economy!

If I had to build anything more substantial, however – like an actual house or something – I would take the wiser path of leaving that to an expert. A few screws missing in the kitchen table might only be a potential mini-disaster, but missing a few steps when building a house could be fatal.

An upside down house

This is incorrect.

Building a house is complicated, everybody knows that. It’s also very important to our lives, which is why “off the shelf” or pre-packed houses have not remained popular in the UK once the critical need for them wore off (though my dad retains fond memories of the post-war prefab he grew up in). Pre-packed structures are, instead, used mainly for secondary spaces such as garden offices or beachfront residences: places whose loss you would not mourn in the same way as the loss of a family home.

In other words, the question of whether you should take an “off the shelf” option or hire an expert to build it for you is directly relative to how much you care about the thing you’re building. Of course this assumes you don’t possess the skills to build the thing, but that’s a different situation.

Substitute “house” for “website” and the point I’m getting at with my stretched-out analogy should hopefully start to become clear. But I will explain further, as this is an important concept that is very often clouded by misinformation.


You’re asking the wrong question

People often dive into WordPress theme markets before they have really thought about anything beyond cost. And I don’t just mean money, but time as well. Buying a theme appeals to those two criteria because:

  1. It’s cheap. A decent theme tends to cost around £50 or so. A bespoke website developed by a professional costs hundreds or thousands.
  2. It’s quick. You can purchase a theme and be up and running in a couple of hours thanks to the multitude of “one-click install” WordPress packages that hosting companies provide.

What’s not to like? Potentially, a lot. But you won’t realise that unless you start by asking the right question.

Let’s briefly go back to the house analogy again. The cheap and quick option for a house might be something like a motorhome: it doesn’t cost much, is very cheap to run compared to a full house, and everything is included so you don’t need to worry about furniture etc. You can walk into a dealership and drive out with your new home a couple of hours later. Low cost, quick setup time. Sounds great, so why don’t we all live in motorhomes?

The various answers to that particular question tend to boil down to one concept: limitations. You can’t extend a motorhome if your family grows, for example. Nor can you easily replace any of the furniture as you have to stay within the limitations of the vehicle’s layout and specifications. It isn’t hugely secure either, certainly compared to a house made of bricks and mortar.

Huge motorhome towed by truck

To be fair, some motorhomes blur the boundaries quite significantly.

All of these restrictions apply to a WordPress theme too:

These are all trade-offs, of course, for the fact that themes – like motorhomes – are comparatively cheap and quick to get going with.

The correct question, therefore, is how long do you intend to keep this website for?

The answer to this is – as with the motorhome vs. house question – fundamental to your decision.


Project versus business

A more pertinent question to ask yourself is whether your business is a fully-fledged business or more of a project at this stage. If the latter, then a  Wordpress theme is a perfectly reasonable solution as you will want to get the idea up and running as quickly and cheaply as possible before investing substantially in it. I would put pre-investment startups, hobby sites and home-based micro-businesses in this category.

If yours is a fully grown, revenue-generating business (or you plan for it to become one), you should look higher up the chain and get some support. That doesn’t necessarily mean you should go fully bespoke, but at very least hire an expert to modify your WordPress site so that it functions how you need it to for the health and growth of your business.

This will require investment of course, and often it makes more sense to get a website built to order by professionals than to continuously hire someone to make ad-hoc changes on a theme not developed by that person. But this investment will pay off, if you choose your digital partner wisely. The risk of not investing is that your business will be limited in terms of growth and – worse – your reputation could take a hit in the long run as your theme-based site is exposed as such (which inevitably happens when you consider how many other people purchase themes).

The top theme on themeforest

The #1 WordPress theme on has over 150,000 downloads at time of writing. Try standing out in THAT crowd!


Doing what you do best

It drives me mad when I hear somebody say “I don’t understand websites, I’m not technical”.  This is like saying you don’t understand houses because you’re not an architect. The important thing is not how much you know about the engineering intricacies of a building but how you’re going to live in it. The amount of money you spend on a house is determined by the return you’re going to get on that investment, in both personal and financial terms. No architect can tell you how to use your home to make you happy.

A website is no different. Focus less on how websites work and more on what you want to do with your website. Ignore the technicals for a minute and work out what return you want to get from it first, then the budget works itself out from there.

If you’re not able to work out a clear potential upside from your website, then you’re probably not ready yet to invest properly in it. It might make sense to go with a WordPress theme in this case, but it might also be a signal that you need to explore more fundamental questions about your business purpose before even thinking about your website strategy.

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