Where do I sign up?
With the tens of thousands of packaged Wordpress themes out there, both paid and free, what’s the deal with custom Wordpress themes? What would be the reasons for choosing to go a custom route when site-building themes like Divi and Avada exist? Well that’s what I’m here to explain, and there are some great reasons to stop using generic themes and invest in making your website stand out from the rest.
What are Custom Wordpress Themes?
Custom Wordpress themes are essentially sets of rules and wrappers contained within files. These rules and files come with the ability display your website content in all sorts of ways based on your business needs by abstracting all or most of the data that fuels your company, SEO, and marketing materials.
Some of the custom aspects of custom Wordpress themes are;
- Converting physical objects (e.g. products/services you sell) into digital custom content types for a variety of uses
- Creating reusable sections (e.g. CTA, recent blog post cards, related product links) in order to build your own pages
- Having a centralized option centers that allow you to manage your data globally
Custom Content Types
Custom content types are neatly organized objects with the ability to have their own attributes and relationships with other content or taxonomies.
For example, your website could have a “Team Member” type that holds individual employee records with an input for their title, bio, social links, and headshot. Or a type for “Product Specs” with a file upload field that can be related to your “Product” type on a one-to-many basis.
A nice benefit of custom content types (sometimes referred to as custom post types or CPT) is having a single point of entry on content so it doesn’t exist in multiple places. When done correctly, CPTs also remove the need for having to write/edit any code, and are able to be reordered.
Custom content types can also define and optimize your search engine visibility using easy-to-understand URL structure. Google loves organization, so a URL with its own information on what the page contains and it related to (without even having to read the content on the page) is great for SEO. Combine that with breadcrumb links, also able to be structurally defined using custom Wordpress themes, and you are golden.
Reusable Sections (aka "Layers")
One of the coolest benefits of custom Wordpress themes are what I like to call “layers”. Layers are built for you to be able to build on your own. A layer is a section of your website that’s developed to not only reuse but also apply modifications to each instance of itself whether it be by hand or programmatically based on the current post.
Let’s say that the UI/UX design mockup for your new website has a call to action containing a title, some text, and a button. I’ll use a recently designed CTA for one of my clients, TrustYou, as an example – almost every element in this component is able to be modified using the Wordpress backend editor.
An almost equally important part of this layer concept is the having the ability to control both input and output after development. In regards to the example above, maybe you want to add a dropdown for angle rotation or fallback to a title based on the current page title. The possibilities are pretty much endless. Obviously the rabbit hole can go very deep and each variation takes time to develop into the template code.
Benefits of Custom Wordpress Themes
Since the theme is designed around your site there are no extra bells and whistles to slow your pages down. Scripts are only called when they’re used, reducing any bulk that cause delays in load time. Custom Wordpress themes require much less plugins because custom code can target specific functionality whereas plugins (most at least) have to account for a variety of outcomes based on the user’s needs.
The lack of plugin and external dependencies help prevent your website from needing to be redone or redesigned for years to come. My custom Wordpress themes are also delivered with full source files so if you ever did want to redesign internally or just take a look inside you’ll have the ability to do so.
Search Engine Optimized
Due to the lack of unnecessary code that usually comes with non-custom Wordpress themes, the simplicity and schema of what your site is about and how the data connects to each other really shines through in terms of SEO. It’s also much easier to make incremental improvements as Google updates their own syntax and functional improvements.
The Wordpress Gutenburg editor has really started to take shape as a stable and feature-packed essential piece to Wordpress development. I developed a custom Wordpress theme in parallel with Gutenburg on this project for Saratoga Quality Hardware – and I’m using Gutenburg right now!