This post is also available in: frFrançais (French)

If we’re being honest, the title should be this:

12 reasons to start creating your corporate site using a premium theme instead of having “custom” work done on a basic, free theme, a “starter theme”, or a WordPress default theme like TwentySixteen

Whew!

I figured that title didn’t carry the same ‘punch’ and was a bit verbose, so I modified it a bit 😀

Now, obviously, custom is cool

But, it isn’t the best choice for every project, and even less so for every budget. People need to accept this and stop pissing all over WordPress architects, geez!

Our agency often gets this kind of question:

“Uhh, you’re going to use a theme? ‘Cause I don’t want my site looking like everyone else’s!”

As developers, we’re sometimes confronted with prospective clients who’ve done their ‘research’ and already have preconceptions about one technique or another.

They start off by sending their design brief, they ask for a quote, they they push and push and push, criticizing all the solutions suggested within their budget, if they’ve even communicated it to us at all.

Mr. Expert frankly reserves the right to oppose the use of any particular CMS.

These know-it-all prospects sometimes also oppose the use of a “graphic template” as a basis for their website, due to popular misconceptions.

It’s crazy how many prospects oppose our technical recommendations! Why? Simply because they heard tell that…”. There’s always a computer-savvy neighbour or friend just around the corner. 🙂

To say nothing of fellow developpers!

On the one hand, you have the purist developers: for them, an angle measures 90°, not 90.01°. WordPress is shit, the code isn’t optimized exactly as it should be. They’re idealists. But, they have no concept of “small agency profitability”.

On the other hand, you have the old-school developers: while you were playing Out Run on your Sega Master System, these guys were already coding in BASIC. They’re too attached to their old ways, there’s no saving them. To empty their computer’s recycling bin, they find it more efficient to launch a command with Terminal.

These code extremists will tell you that a premium theme is the wrong choice!

There. I underlined the words above using a tag <u> just to piss them off.

There. I underlined the words above using a tag just to piss them off.

Did you inspect the code? 😀

Ugh. To each his own I guess. We all have to accept each other’s points of view. Recently on a French forum, I postulated that 90% of websites could be built using WordPress, and a raging pack of purist developers virulently berated me saying WordPress is shit.

Old habits die hard. That’s just how it is.

Something to think about.

In any case, when I read things I don’t agree with, it inspires me to write funny articles. Works for me.

Enough small talk.

Before I start the list of 12 reasons to use a premium theme with WordPress, a few clarifications…

  1. My goal in this article is to show that “yes”, despite what some may think, there are advantages in choosing a premium WordPress theme for one’s corporate site.
  2. To illustrate my points and provide a framework for what we refer to here as a “premium theme”, I will regularly quote the Divi and Avada themes. I’m using these themes as examples simply because one has been in the spotlight recently, and the other is a bestsellerThemeForest. Not sending any hidden messages here.
  3. I haven’t bothered to list the disadvantages of premium themes. That’s the subject of another article. Uhh… wait, what? Just kidding! I’d rather let the raging keyboard warriors list them for me in the comments section. Welcome! 😀

12 reasons to opt for a premium theme

And we’re off!

1 – Premium themes are customizable like any other

Just like a starter theme or a bare-bones theme like “Twenty Sixteen”, graphically premium themes are entirely customizable, and easily so, thanks to the functions.php file, the judicious use of the “child theme” system, and the CSS that you will do well to outsource.

That’s without mentioning the rather numerous options available in your administrative interface which allow you to customize your theme quite extensively without any knowledge of code.

2 – Premium themes make implementation more achievable

If you want to create your site yourself, and you’re not a developer, a good WordPress theme will make the task manageable.

It’s ridiculous to think that someone could learn to develop correctly with WordPress in under two weeks. Let’s be serious..

3 – Premium themes are not very expensive

When you consider the time it would take you to develop something similar yourself, and the time that the team of developers have spent (and will continue to spend) on your theme, honestly, 50€ to 300€ for a good quality theme is dirt cheap!

4 – Premium themes include support

By paying for a premium theme, you’ll receive a certain level of technical support from the team, for example in the form of documentation viewable online, discussion forums, and support tickets.

With a free theme, there isn’t even any documentation. And if you run into a problem, don’t expect to find any help by Googling your theme’s name..

5 – Premium themes continue to evolve

When updating, you’ll continue to receive new, more modern functionalities. For example, those who decided to base their website on Divi a year ago must be dancing a jig since they updated to version 3.0 which includes a front-end editor.

This was unheard of in the past (video) yet the theme is still relatively lightweight.

6 – Premium themes don’t run the risk of being abandoned (support, updates)

Sorry, but every time a client has come to me with a free theme, it hasn’t been maintained in several years. Some free themes have even been deleted from WordPress’ official repository, and contain security vulnerabilities.

Without even going into the free themes that display PHP errors when certain popular plugins are installed. Not problematic at all, right.

This should be common sense. It’s pretty obvious, spending 10 hours a month maintaining something for nothing isn’t very exciting long-term for developers.

“Yes, but because it’s opensource and free, any developer could download the code and start maintaining it again via GitHub.”

Yes, they could… but in real life, no one does that, and the theme is abandoned, okay. Let’s be real.

On the other hand, if you look at a premium theme like Avada which has already generated more than $15 million (damn!) of revenue, well. That’s pretty motivating.

Thanks to the creation of this unique theme, an entire team of 10 developers have their livelihood cut out for them. And then some 😉

Be careful. Some will tell you the company could go bankrupt… 😀

LOL !!!

Not that I’m a geo-economic-political expert or anything, but I have a feeling that bankruptcy is a rather Euro-Western-Francophone concept. In other words, a chronic fear of French workaholics who are going through a recession, and every year face the possibility of going out of business simply because they’re being sucked dry of 50% or more of their income to quote-unquote pay down the public debt.

I’m no longer in that boat (I’ve been an expat in Asia since 2014), so I can speak about it in hindsight.

I understand the thought might possess French entrepreneurs. However, I’d like to remind these armchair accounting experts that if a theme like Avada stopped all activity tomorrow (no more technical support, theme updates, nothing), the company would still carry on selling thousands of licenses every year. Essentially, it would run itself.

Secondly, a company like that doesn’t go bankrupt. Worst case scenario, if it’s struggling, it gets bought out. So the theme would still be maintained for a while. No one’s going to kill the proverbial golden goose.

Finally, regardless of which technical solution you choose (even a free or opensource one), you’re still going to have to do a major update of your web applications at some point.

Even a theme like Avada will obviously, eventually, become obsolete.

Among developers, we say that a website becomes outdated every 2 years, and needs to be overhauled.

Choosing a “free and opensource theme” or a “premium theme” based on how long it will provide functionality is nonsense in my opinion.

7 – Premium themes save time

It’s way faster to implement a premium theme than an entirely custom-built site.

If you hire a WordPress developer, they will save loads of time by using a premium theme. As a result, you’ll save loads of money that you can then use for other aspects of your web presence, digital marketing, etc.

If you are a developer, you’ll be able to lower your rates and still provide exceptional results.

8 – Premium themes are no more demanding than any other

If the job is well done, it’s highly unlikely your audience will “realize a specific theme was used”. And the average visitor to your site has way better things to do than analyze your code to see which theme you chose.

Just watch the Divi or Avada demos to see how limitless the customization possibilities are.

Avada

demo-avada

Divi

divi-demo

9 – Premium themes can take longer to load, but there are simple solutions

If I install lots of functionalities, will my site be slower?

Yes. At first glance, this is true. Besides, WordPress isn’t the most lightweight CMS nor the best optimized for loading speed. However, by carefully choosing your theme and putting in a little effort, you can have a fairly quickly loading site.

If loading speed is one of your priorities, avoid the gas-guzzling themes and don’t load too many plugins.

Some of the bulkier premium themes still run relatively lightweight. For example, Enfold, which I’ve used to create ultra-light sites that load in the blink of an eye.

Avada has perhaps the worst reputation of any theme in this regard. But, for what it’s worth, it doesn’t actually score that badly on PageSpeed.

You can even optimize it rather easily using a cache plugin.

Here is the config file to import into W3TC for optimal configuration with Avada.

In the interest of fairness, we’ll also run the test for Divi.

There you go. Neck-and-neck. 😉

And don’t hesitate to try out the theme demos with Pingdom before purchasing one.

There are also plugins, such as WP Rocket, that provide excellent loading speeds with little effort.

The lintegrator is also free to remove anything in the theme they don’t need. It’s relatively simple to disactivate the automatic inclusion of JavaScript files in particular. If you want to go the extra mile in customizing your theme, you can do the same with the selective reimplementation of your CSS. As usual, this takes place in your “child theme”.

Because WordPress is so popular, it’s generally the first to implement the latest technology in optimization.

Which reminds me of my host PlanetHoster who recently asked me to test the WP cache plugin from LiteSpeed. It’s quite innovative (only compatible with LiteSpeed servers, sorry dudes).

Oh, that reminds me of something. Look what’s going on with Google. By installing the official AMP WordPress plugin, you can actually get good results (check it out!). Well… that’s only for WordPress.

All that to say, plugins can be helpful in optimizing the speed of a WordPress site.

But I’m getting off the topic of premium themes!

angry

In any case, if you install a Facebook like box (for example) on even the best optimized site in the world, it’s still going to wreak havoc on your loading speed. That’s just how it is. Relax.

10 – Premium themes are not the SOLE cause of bad natural referencing

One of the major issues with WordPress and premium themes is the well-known, often flawed, on-page SEO optimization. We frequently see HTML headings (<h1>, <h2>, <h3> etc. tags) used incorrectly.

What an idiot. He used effing <h2> tags to label his widgets, shit.

I’m waiting for someone to come along with a plugin that will allow us to get rid of all these “Hn” widget tags.

It really pisses me off.

And yet choosing a starter theme or using WordPress’ default theme won’t entirely solve the problem either because you find it more often in widgets (sidebar, page footer, etc.) generated by plugins.

SEO mistakes within a theme are easy to fix using the “child theme”.

What’s difficult to fix, is the inherent SEO mistakes in original WordPress plugins and widgets.

It’s no secret that really good SEO optimization takes time, and therefore costs money. Unfortunately, in many cases, the site will stay as is. Particularly since for a freelance webmaster, for example, it’s not always easy to bill for time spent on this sort of optimization, since it involves changes to the code that aren’t “graphically” visible.

Without mentioning that optimizing all of this can slow down future maintenance times, as certain changes can flip when you updated your extensions, for example. The plugin override techniques are nowhere near as integrator-friendly as those of WordPress themes.

If you didn’t understand any of the last couple paragraphs, don’t worry, it’s just geek stuff. Don’t bother trying.

11 – With a premium theme, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel

Yeah, there’s no point reinventing the wheel. Especially since it would cost an arm and a leg!

Even with the best web designer in the world, if you start with a “starter theme” or a WordPress theme like “Twenty Sixteen” with today’s technologies, you risk running into lots of problems and only ending up with a ballpark result.

There are tons of details that are found across all websites today. It would be ridiculous to recode them every time:

  • the proper settings for responsive design, in other words, the optimal media queries for adaptive design (mobiles, tablets) that take into consideration all the right screen sizes
  • the proper management of modern, eye-catching graphic widgets like those bling bling sliders that go bang. Major premium themes often integrate a list of recommended/required plugins with guaranteed compatibility
  • management of text columns: whether you have two, three or four columns on a given page, they should also adapt accordingly when viewed via mobile
  • management of modern image galleries, with dimensions that match the rest of the site
  • sticky header: the site header and horizontal navigation menu that remain visible even when scrolling down the page
  • return to top arrow: the arrow located at bottom right of the screen that takes you back to the top of the page. Not difficult to code per se, but I’ve seen a major agency get into deep shit trying to “custom” code this; the response time was horrendous, and they were using an image (!) of an arrow 😡 that wasn’t even retina-ready, even though it’s unthinkable today not to use fonts like FontAwesome for that sort of thing
  • stylized HTML5 form fields: there’s nothing more annoying than coding all the form settings from scratch, when it’s already been done and easily available.
  • management of proper WordPress translation: don’t forget, WP is not natively multilingual
  • all the other ready-made stuff: awesome checklists, layouts for product details/services/reviews/contact/about page/fees/products (best sellers)/team members etc.

In short, a million little things that have to be reimplemented manually with a light theme, which will waste quite abit of your time and leave you open to all kinds of coding issues.

Petite démo du "theme customizer" de Divi d'ElegantThemes.

Demo of the Divi theme customizer from ElegantThemes.

12 – Premium themes and their Page Builders facilitate content maintenance

There are two things I find cool in life! 😎

Denzel Washington and Page Builders.

page-builder

In case you didn’t know, one has won three Golden Globes, a Tony and two Acaemy Awards, and the other lets you do modern pay layouts without worrying about HTML & CSS code.

Quick personal anecdote.

Once I took on a project where the team had coded all the pages without a builder, using <div>’s and ‘class’ throughout WordPress’ text editor.

They had more or less taught the client how to navigate this swamp of code, and they were getting by okay.

The company’s communication guy had gone to all the trouble of figuring out roughly which tags did what, and took very great care not to mess everything up when he wanted to make some minor changes to a page.

He never complained, because he thought “that’s just how it works”, end of story.

When I came on the scene, I took a few hours to install Divi Builder and migrate all their content to the visual editor.

The result: the client sent me a bouquet of flowers and a box of chocolates to thank me for having seriously facilitated their daily management.

I would have preferred a bottle of red, but it’s the thought that counts 😀 

So, a purist developer will say:

Yeah, but what if you want to switch builders or themes 2 years down the road?!
What will you do then? Huh? What?

Oh shut it already!

The client doesn’t give a damn. If they want to manage their content easily, give them a page builder.

Your client might be an executive in their company and have a master’s in agronomic engineering. They have better things to do than learn your effing HTML to satisfy your anal demands.

If your client doesn’t know HTML or CSS, and wants to move a column from right to left, and move two blocks of text lower on a page, are they going to ask you for a quote to do it for them?

Do you also offer flat rate “typo” fees?

Of course not!

With the builder, at least the client can easily manage their content and page layouts themselves without worrying about breaking something.

I know I have a potty mouth, but it’s true… get your head out of the sand a bit, guys.

no-wifi

Just ten years ago, people were happy to see the arrival of accessible CMS’, not to have to ask their local programmer to update their terrible site built with <frame>.

So what should we do? Turn the clock back and insist on using our HTML so we can keep our clients wrapped around our little finger?

Of course not: the answer is the Page Builder.

Obviously the goal isn’t to realize in six months that we chose the wrong builder or theme. That’s why you shouldn’t choose just any, but test several instead, if possible (I use Divi Builder).

Later, if you really want to change builders, then yes, unless you can manage to “effectively “bulk” your shortcode search-and-replace (never done that), there’s going to be some manual work needed.

That’s based on the assumption that the page builder is not being used for articles or other custom post types, just or pages, like landing pages!

And we’re talking about useful solutions for corporate sites. You don’t generally have 36,000 landing pages with evolved layouts.

Worst case scenario, assign this fulfilling work to an intern 😉

Of course, none of this applies if your name is Rothschild

Technologies are evolving, and web users’ requirements are increasing in the “graphic effects that assault your eyes” realm.

So, the more time we save using CMS’ like WordPress, the more we should save using good, complementary tools.

In terms of profitability for a freelance webmaster or medium-size agency, it’s unthinkable to recode all the little animations, the nice little effects that everyone wants on their site, the management of smaller screens (mobiles, tablets), etc.etc. every single time, just to prove you can do it, when the results are basically the same.

There are much better ways to spend your time.

Keep native developing and 100% custom developing for the projects that need it, and learn to accept that sometimes, using a WordPress theme is the best option 😉

Let’s go warriors, to your keyboards! Don’t forget to comment!

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This post is also available in: frFrançais (French)