The benefits and disadvantages of using a pre-made WordPress theme for your business WordPress website
This post is purely a personal perspective, from years of using WordPress themes and developing my own custom WordPress templates for clients. For many new website owners the choice of whether they use a pre-made theme or get someone to build a custom WordPress template is purely a financial consideration but there are some other hidden dangers of using a pre-built WordPress theme that aren’t apparent until something goes wrong.
Advantages of WordPress themes
1. WordPress themes are cheap and quick
If cost is your only consideration then WordPress themes represent great value for money at around the $60 (£45) mark. Get someone to install WordPress for you, or if you are using cPanel which has Scriptalicious with one-click installs you can be up and running with your new business website in a matter of hours. For an agency, purchasing and building client sites out of a theme represents an opportunity to make a decent profit on the job.
2. WordPress themes bundle in functionality
Many theme authors will bundle in popular WordPress plugins via their developer licence. This brings with it an immense amount of functionality for a very low cost. Examples of plugins that many theme authors bundle in are Slider Revolution and Visual Composer. This makes a pre-made theme an attractive proposition. The upside (for the theme developer) is that it makes their theme more attractive, because it comes loaded with features. There are a few downsides to this, which i’ll discuss later in the disadvantages of using WordPress themes for business websites.
3. Support and documentation are included
If you ever get stuck using a WordPress theme then you can always turn to their online support forums or documentation. Some theme authors employ a global network of support tech’s ready to answer your query at any time of day. Theme authors will go out of their way to help you. It’s in their best interest as a negative review of comment could affect their sales.
Disadvantages of WordPress themes
1.Theme never gets updated
The primary disadvantage of using a pre-made WordPress theme is that if ever the theme author stops supporting your theme, you have to rely on external sources for support. This normally means paying for a web developer to ‘unpick’ or reverse engineer the theme authors code and fix whatever bugs were found. This could cost you more than the ‘savings’ made in the first place.
2. Out-of-date plugins create security problems
The other side-effect of a theme author gone AWOL is that the very attractive bundled in functionality that you bought into in the first place isn’t being updated anymore. This can be a serious problem in terms of your websites’ security. A theme author usually purchases a developer licence from the plugin authors. When an update to the theme is released the author should update their theme and push the update to everyone that purchased the theme. In theory.
Late 2014 a very serious bug in one of the most popular WordPress plugins results in 1,000s of websites being hacked (http://wptavern.com/100000-wordpress-sites-compromised-using-the-slider-revolution-security-vulnerability). Don’t get me wrong, Slider Revolution is an amazing plugin and it’s not their fault that no-one applied their update. What do you do? Hire a web developer to fix the problem.
3. Theme documentation varies in quality – from poor to fair
The best selling theme I know of on ThemeForest is Avada. It’s literally made the theme authors millions. I’ve not used it in a few years, but the last time I did it had some serious holes in the documentation – things I needed to work out weren’t documented – frustration ensued. Some of the less popular themes suffer from this problem even more leaving you without any help. What do you do? Hire a web developer.
Research a theme before buying
Themes are a valuable and inexpensive resource for those looking to start their WordPress business website but you have to be very careful as quality does vary greatly. In the most part, they are ok.
Look past the sales speak and and fancy graphics and demos – take a good look at the theme you’re looking at purchasing. Ask yourself some questions. Has it recently been updated? Does it get updated often? Are plugins updated as well?
Have you had a bad experience, or problems with, a WordPress Theme. Feel free to discuss below in the comments.