WordPress is becoming the Content Management System of choice for a lot of small business owners, but there are a variety of themes you can chose when setting up your WordPress site. As discussed in my previous blog post on WordPress.org vs. WordPress.com, most small business owners should install WordPress.org and work on their own hosted account.
After you have installed WordPress.org on your own hosting account, the next step is to decide if you want a free theme, premium theme or custom theme. A theme dictates the overall layout and functionality of your site. There are thousands of WordPress themes out there created by programmers around the world. Each theme has its own advantages.
First of all, to install a new theme, you go to “Appearance – then themes” in the backend. See screenshot below:
If you want a free theme, then you just search through the variety of themes and select which one you want. Some themes offer a custom header for your logo or a photo. However, you will need image editing software in order to size a logo or image to the exact dimensions required. In addition, most free themes offer limited support or training. You are basically on your own to learn how to manage it. You also run the risk of the theme developer not supporting that theme down the road. As WordPress keeps upgrading its core software, some free theme developers do not continue to upgrade the theme and at some point, it stops working correctly with updated WordPress versions.
Also, if you want extra functionality on your site, such as a contact form, slideshow, calendar, etc… then you will need to install plugins to accomplish this. Understand that with themes and plugins, some are better than others. You should expect to spend time going back and forth and trying out new themes and plugins to find what you are needing. In essence, free themes don’t cost anything, but they do require your time and effort to put the site together. Here is a summary:
- Easy to install
- Some themes offer header options, but you need photo/design software to make header image the right size.
- Limited layouts, colors and fonts.
- No support or very little.
- You are in charge of your search engine optimization (SEO).
Premium Themes (Paid Themes)
The second option is to search through Google for premium themes or paid themes. These are from WordPress theme developers and do offer better design options and a little more support. Many come with 2-3 page layouts. A layout determines the placement of items on a page. For example, one layout will be full screen whereas another will have one right sidebar or column that you can put in “widgets” or information. The width of these sidebars is often not adjustable.
The cost will range from $39 – $200. Some include plugins and others do not. Here is a summary of paid themes:
- More design options, but limited page layouts.
- Some require core theme purchase and then child theme purchase.
- Need Image editing software to make the most out of your theme.
- Need to be able to edit CSS and have FTP access in order to match logo colors exactly.
- Need to know which plugins are worthwhile and which don’t work.
- Some have support forums available., but none really have phone support.
- Some widgets require knowledge of HTML code.
- Limited branding.
- You will need to learn about SEO, install plugins and spend time learning.
- Some will be responsive, but you may need to tweak CSS to make it display right on a mobile or tablet device.
Custom designed themes are purchased through a web developer, like MTECH. We start with a Photoshop or image of the layout first and can build pretty much anything as long as it fits into the web format and also auto adjusts for a variety of devices, such as tablets or mobile phones. If you have a specific brand and image, then a custom theme may be more what you need. Also, if you do not have time to spend hours learning how to set up a theme, research plugins, and go back/forth with themes, then you might want to hire someone. Furthermore, a custom theme allows you to have a variety of layouts and sidebar widths, so your design is much more flexible.
Some web developers such as MTECH, also are knowledgeable on search engine optimization (SEO) and include that service as part of the web design. Finally, most web developers will include WordPress training and will walk you through how to maintain the site. As a small business owner, you have to decide if it makes sense to invest your time and learning or hire someone who has the knowledge and skills. Here is a summary of custom themes:
- Saves time.
- Unique look and unlimited layout options and number of layouts per page (i.e. different sidebar content – different sidebar widths, etc…)
- Knowledgeable about plugins and may include paid plugins that function better as part of the package.
- Website design matches overall branding for your company.
- Responsive design (look good across all devices. May need CSS tweaking for tablet and mobile).
- SEO – optimized from web professional.
- Copywriting and messaging support.
- In person/phone support and training.
- Can provide backup – plugin update service
- Install Google analytics and learn how to track web effectiveness
- Create custom landing pages to tie into your overall marketing campaigns
Although WordPress allows small business owners many options and the ability to manage their own websites, it still does requires time and knowledge. Know yourself, your time and your skills and then decide which option works best for you.
If you are interested in a free estimate for a custom WordPress site, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 970-903-3605.