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Should You Start With a WordPress Template or Code From Scratch?
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Thinking of designing a new website on WordPress? You have two options: start from scratch or save some time with an already-coded WordPress theme (template).
Of course, templates smooth out the development process. However, you should note both pros and cons to using them. One common criticism is the lack of creative freedom you might experience when relying on a template. But if you’re looking for a fast-tracked path to a brand new website, a template could be the right fit.
Here, we’ll take an in-depth look at each option to help you pick a WordPress path that works best with your goals and budget.
Coding a Website from Scratch
Maybe you’re well-versed in Java or Python and feel confident in your ability to code a website from scratch. Even if you only have basic HTML or CSS knowledge, you can still technically create a new website — it just might not be as interactive.
Consider these pros and cons before working on your new website’s code:
Coding a website from scratch is the best option for people who need an entirely customized solution or want to incorporate advanced features that most WordPress themes don't offer.
For example, you might want to create a membership site with special access levels for different groups of users. Plus, you want to offer free trials. In this case, you can’t accommodate this type of customization with template plugins alone.
On the other hand, coding from scratch doesn't provide any out-of-the-box features like prebuilt layouts and design templates. In other words? You’ll take longer to create your site’s features. However, coding is also more accessible than ever before: Today, you can access plenty of open-source frameworks like Django or React Native without having to know HTML and CSS.
With a coded website, you can enjoy these pros:
- Unique Design: With no framework to follow, you have the freedom to create anything you want. And because there are no templates, you can customize every pixel of your site until it's perfect. Plus, you'll be able to edit your website offline using FTP.
- Easy Updates: Coded websites allow for easy updates, which saves time and money.
- Unlimited Functionality: Everything is customizable, meaning there’s no limit on the features you can add in the future.
- High Performance: External resources limit load times on WordPress-templated sites. But performance is usually more robust on a custom site, since features on a custom site will load faster than on any theme.
- Additional Security: Hackers have a harder time exploiting weaknesses on a custom-coded site than on a Wordpress-themed site.
- Custom Solutions: A coded website can serve just about any purpose you have in mind, whether it's a simple blog or a complex online store. A built-in framework won't suit everyone equally, but the same holds true when choosing a theme!
- Full Control: Code from scratch gives you full control over your website, allowing unlimited functionality and advanced features. Of course, this flexibility comes at a price: even though templates and frameworks make coding easier, those options still require some programming knowledge. If you've already mastered HTML and CSS, learning how to write code shouldn't be much trouble. However, for non-techies who want something quick and painless, WP themes are the way to go.
The end result is more time and money invested when you could have breezed through development with a template instead.
Here are some more disadvantages to coding a website from scratch:
- Expensive: Coding from scratch requires you to pay skilled professionals who know the ins and outs of building a website. They are often worth the investment because they allow you to customize the layout and design without paying for someone else's mistakes. But if you’re a new business, you might not have the budget for this type of labor.
- Risky: It’s only risky if you don’t have programming knowledge or a budget to hire professionals. In this case, coding yourself risks costly mistakes to your site.
- Time consuming: It takes a lot of time and effort to code from scratch. Think about all the features you’d want, like social media integration or custom management solutions — each one demands more time for creation. And if you outsource? Finding the right fit will take time too, as you sift through online CVs, and conduct interviews.If your company lacks the necessary manpower or budget, templates are a quicker option.
- More bugs: Coding from scratch leaves room for error, and this leads to more potential problems down the road. Worst case scenario? Compromised security and missing plugins.
Using a WordPress Template
WordPress is a popular platform for building websites, and each template is backed by years of tweaking and widespread adoption across countless businesses and students.
Let’s look into pros and cons of using a WordPress template to build a website.
WordPress templates can be a lifesaver in getting you off the ground. They come with the basic functionality and design you need to start building a website, and they can save you hours of work trying to figure things out yourself.
Templates have all coding complete before you begin. The template will have all the functions needed for a website, such as social media integration, contact forms, and SEO optimization. Lastly, a template will save you the cost of hiring a designer, which can end up costing thousands of dollars.
Here are some advantages of using a WordPress template over coding:
- Easier Maintenance: Templates offer premade stylesheets and layouts, making it easier to maintain content than coding from scratch.
- Fast Load Times: You’ll increase visitor engagement if pages load quickly.
- Easier Updates: It’s easier to update templates because all changes happen in one place, whereas coding involves changing different files throughout your site.
- Quick Access to Plugins: WordPress themes offer quick access to free plugins. On the other hand, developers often charge additional fees for plugins on custom websites.
- Faster Development: When using a template, automated plugins allow you to skip steps like creating navigation menus and updating old articles.
- Increased Security: If someone exploits your website’s vulnerability, it could cause devastating consequences to your business, such as data theft and identity theft. If you invest in a theme that has been updated recently by the developer, there will likely be fewer vulnerabilities.
- Decreased Stress: Web design struggles take a toll on someone with an already-packed workload. Building a website while juggling all of life’s other demands can lead many to give up before they start – not only financially but emotionally, too! WordPress templates offer some relief by alleviating your workload.
- Proven Effective for SEO: Templates are prebuilt to include SEO features. Your template will help you attract more visitors through Google’s rankings. In addition, templates often include user-friendly features, such as tabs that allow visitors to easily find their way around the site and easily identifiable icons that let them know where they are on the page.
- Quality control: Investing in a quality template ensures there won’t be any major issues later on down the line.
- Less expensive: Templates have a set fee, minimizing additional costs for updates, outsourcing, and more.
- Better ROI: Aside from saving money on hiring a professional to create your website, you can focus on your ROI. After all, it's not just about the look; it's about generating traffic and converting visitors into paying customers!
WordPress templates can be a great way to get a website up and running quickly. But they post a few cons, too.
For example, you'll have to tweak the template code to match your design and layout preferences, which takes time.
Here are the disadvantages of using a WordPress template:
- Similarities to other websites: You’re not the only one using a WordPress template. This means your site might closely resemble another competitor’s.
- Limited customization or design: Even though a template may come with predefined styles or color schemes, they might not match your branding or values. Templates usually have limited potential for customization. For example, some templates only allow specific plugins, while others won't let users change anything at all! These are important considerations in deciding whether or not to choose a WordPress template over coding from scratch.
- Limited functionalities: A WordPress template restricts you to only its functions and features available in that particular template. This can limit your creativity when designing a site.
Wordpress for Beginners - Master Wordpress Quickly
Which Is the Better Option?
First, consider your website’s purpose. If you want to build a website to promote your business and sell products, it makes sense to start with a template.
However, if you're building an informational blog, starting with code might be more appropriate because templates don't allow for as much customization for features like sidebar widgets and menus.
Second, consider your ideal aesthetic. Templates come in different styles, such as minimalistic and modern, but you can also adapt them to any style by changing fonts, colors, images, and more.
On the other hand, coding allows you to control every aspect of your site's appearance, including customized fonts and colors. However, this process is time-consuming and may require more technical expertise than some beginners have.
Ultimately, it comes down to how much time and effort you want to spend on making decisions about your site design. And keep in mind that both methods offer benefits, so even if you choose one over the other at first, sometimes it can make sense, later on, to switch things up!
Starting your website can be intimidating, especially if you’re unfamiliar with popular programming languages. That’s why it’s important to consider your options before diving right into website development.
The biggest benefit of using a WordPress theme is the significantly shorter time it takes to create the site — often just days rather than weeks or months. But if you have special design requests or don’t want to limit your options, coding from scratch may be better.
Hopefully, you’re a bit closer to deciding on your WordPress development path! If you’re interested in learning more about web design, check out our course roundups.
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