There is an ongoing debate within the WordPress community about when features should be included in a theme and when they should be added as a plugin. I come down solidly in the ‘add it with a plugin’ camp because I think of websites as a long term investment and not a short term brochure.
Regardless of what your position is in this debate, the bigger question I have for you is this:
Do you really need all that crap?
Really? Do you need sliders, drop-downs, pop-ups, 5 columns, light boxes, galleries, drag and drop layout, short codes, and multiple widgets?
Probably not. But in the increasing theme features arms race, developers are loading more and more features and functions into their themes. And that has a cost.
Slow load times
Steep learning curve
Short codes can make some of your website content easier to add, if you know how to use them. And that assumes that you know what short codes are. Otherwise, they are a mangled mess that will become a huge time sink.
The more complexity you add to a theme, the more things you are going to have to learn. Hopefully the theme designer has written a really good document on how to use all of these features. Now your theme has turned WordPress from a great way to DIY a website and turned it into a complicated, difficult to understand piece of software. Fiverr is full of business owners trying to hire someone to make sense of that off the shelf theme with all the complicated functions.
More complex = easier to break
Features and functions in the theme means you can’t change themes
This is more likely if you are using a specialty theme. I’ll give you an example.
A recent client came to me because his old web designer retired. His website was running a theme specific to restaurants. The client owns a restaurant, so it would seem to make sense that a restaurant theme would be the right choice.
The theme his original designer had chosen had special post types called “Menus”. This let him create menu items and then sort them by lunch and dinner. Adding and subtracting from the menu was very easy which allowed him to keep his online menu up to date. The old theme, however, was not ‘responsive’, i.e. Mobile friendly. The theme designer had no intentions of updating the theme to make it responsive, so the restaurant owner was looking at new themes. Themes that would look great on smartphones.
The problem was that this functionality was built into the old theme. When that them was deactivated, all of that information would be gone. He was stuck with a choice: either stay with the old theme that looks awful on smartphones, pay a developer to write custom functions to access the old information from the data base, or recreate all the menu items and lunch and dinner menus from scratch. Ugly, expensive, or time consuming. Those were his choices.
The right way to do this: choose a theme that looks great. Choose a plugin to create your menu items. Now, when you change themes, the menu items are all still there and available to the new theme.
Pick a theme with your long term strategy in mind
- Will it limit your choices in the future?
- Will it slow down your website?
- Will it cause problems with updates?
These are all considerations to keep in mind when choosing the right theme for your website.
You don’t have to lock yourself into a theme to get the features you want
There are thousands of plugins available to add almost any functionality and feature you want or need. Most of them are free. You don’t have to depend on the theme to deliver the features you want.
If you need help adding features to your WordPress site or upgrading to a new theme, I can help. Contact me now if you need help creating a beautiful website that you and your visitors will love.
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