I talk a lot about building a custom WordPress theme to your specific design specifications. There’s a number of reason for this, which you can read about here. But what if you don’t have the budget to hire a developer?
You CAN Use a Pre-Built WordPress Theme
If you are on a strict budget and just need to get something up as soon as possible, a pre-built theme can be a good choice. However, it’s important to adhere the following guidelines, to prevent excessive website bloat and disastrously slow load time.
Find a style you like and work within it’s framework
The biggest mistake clients make when they use a pre-built theme is that they want things to behave, look or appear in a different way than the theme is setup to do. To accomplish the changes they add heavy plugins like drag and drop builders or slideshow plugins that significantly bloat the site.
With WordPress’ latest Guttenberg block builder, there is no reason to use a drag-n-drop layout builder. Installing one simply duplicates functionality that already exists and overcomplicates the editing screens with custom field sets. Worst of all, the duplicative functionality comes with duplicative code and adds a significant amount of scripts to your site that in turn causes long website load times for users.
Create your design & layout within the available styles and presets
If you want to save money by using a pre-built theme instead of hiring a developer to build you a light-as-possible theme to your exact design specifications, BE FLEXIBLE. Fit your content and imagery into the structure that is available – it will save you time and needless frustration.
Taking a little extra time to search through the theme repository and marketplaces to find a style you really like will end up saving you a lot of time after it’s installed.
A few great, simple, reliable and fast loading themes I recommend: WP-Bootstrap-Starter, or one of WordPress’ Default themes.
Import the demo content & then delete unmodified pages
Importing the demo content is a great way to start, and setups up a variety of likely complicated layouts. Once you edit the pages and replace the stock imagery it’s important to DELETE the unmodified demo content. Search engines like Google will index those demo content pages in addition to your desired pages. The issue is that the demo content likely appears on hundreds of other demo installations on the internet and they will be deemed duplicate content. If you don’t already know, when it comes to SEO, duplicate content penalizes your website rankings on search results.
Here’s a little tip. Deleting the unused demo pages doesn’t really delete them! When you “trash” a page or post it goes into a ‘trash’ folder. This action will remove those pages and posts from being indexed, BUT they can still be restored if you decide you want to use them later. The pages & posts will only be un-restorable if you go into the trash folder and “permanently delete” them or “empty the trash”.
When all Else Fails, Contact a WordPress Expert
If you do get sucked down the rabbit hole of handling the website design and layout yourself, and you reach a point where you’ve wasted hours and hours of your time without pleasing results, contact a WordPress expert. Contento Interactive Group is available to rescue your website, offload your site design & development frustrations, and get your online presence over the finish line.