A WordPress Theme is NOT a Website
So you’ve browsed themeforest.net (our go-to for WordPress themes) and wow!, there are dozens of great-looking WordPress sites that are already done. All you have to do is buy one and paste in your text and swap out some images, right?… Well, it’s not actually that simple…
WordPress themes absolutely can provide a solid foundation for building custom websites, as they offer pre-designed templates and functionality that can be modified to suit specific needs. But that modification process is how you go from a product someone sold you into your own unique website that serves your needs. In this article, we will look at what it takes to convert a WordPress theme into a real custom website.
Selecting a WordPress Theme
The first step in creating a custom website is selecting a suitable WordPress theme. Begin by identifying your website’s requirements, such as its purpose, target audience, and desired features. Choose a theme based on design and functionality that closely aligns with your needs. Ensure that the theme is responsive, meaning it adjusts seamlessly to various screen sizes, and is SEO-friendly to improve search engine rankings.
A caution from experience… We have used themes from dozens of different theme makers through the years and have seen both really good and really bad themes. Some theme makers create a good-looking demo, but behind-the-scenes it’s nearly unusable. Be aware of both theme and maker ratings as well as if a theme is being updated.
Customizing the Theme
Selecting a theme places you at the real starting line for actually building your site. This is when the customization process begins. Start by modifying the theme’s CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) to apply custom styling, such as colors, fonts, and layout adjustments. Next, tweak the PHP template files to alter the structure and functionality of the theme as needed. You may also create custom page templates for specific content types or layouts. Customize and register widget areas to control the placement of content within your site, and add or modify theme functions to enhance the overall functionality of your website.
Integrating Custom Functionality
After customizing the theme’s design, focus on integrating any required custom features. Consider whether these features can be achieved using existing plugins or if custom coding is necessary. If needed, create custom shortcodes to embed complex functionality within your content easily. Implement custom post types and taxonomies to organize and manage your content more effectively.
At Pendari, we have built a suite of custom tools that serve the academic community based on decades of experience. Built-in theme custom features have never been the right solution for our academic lab or department clients.
Testing and Debugging
Thorough testing is essential to ensure that your custom website functions as intended across various devices and browsers. Utilize debugging techniques and tools to identify and resolve any issues that may arise during the testing process. Make sure your website is compatible with all major browsers, including Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge.
Deploying the Custom Website
Ongoing Maintenance and Updates
Regular maintenance and updates are vital for the continued success of your custom website. Ensure that your website remains up-to-date by performing regular backups, updating WordPress core, the theme, and plugins, and monitoring website performance and security. As your website evolves, you may need to implement additional customizations or improvements to meet changing requirements.
In conclusion, converting a WordPress theme into a custom website involves selecting a suitable theme, customizing its design and functionality, integrating custom features, testing and debugging, and deploying the finished product. A theme is a great starting point to create a unique and tailored website that meets your specific needs and stands out from the competition. Embrace the customization process as an opportunity to learn, experiment, and enhance your web development skills, ultimately resulting in a website that truly represents your brand and vision.