This entry is part of a series: You Get What You Pay For»
Say Hello To Frumpy...
Out of the box, WordPress is very, very basic and very, very drab…. frumpy actually. However, the ever flexible WordPress also allows you to use themes, which change your site from frumpy to professional looking with relative ease. The key word here is “relative.”
There are thousands of themes for WordPress, ranging from really bad to truly exceptional. Some themes are free and some cost money. WordPress keeps a list of 1,195 free themes linked from their website. Some of these are really good and some are not. You can, of course, look through these yourself and find which ones fit your needs, but a serious developer will be familiar not only with these themes, but with the hundreds of other sites which house prettier and more targeted themes. These themes will more easily address the goals of your particular site (shopping, news articles, customer relations, portfolios, etc.) Developers tend to maintain a list of useful goodies like this, so they can quickly pull it up it whenever a new kind of client appears.
Again, we look at these kinds of sites on a daily basis because we think it’s fun. We are just wired that way.
The WordPress Theme List
So the choice here is to look through several thousand themes yourself, or let us help you select from 5 to 10 good themes that meet your needs. We may even have a subscription to some of the pay sites, which means that we can get the theme for you as part of our existing subscription. This saves you money.
Now let’s suppose you have picked out a really good theme. Themes usually include a fake logo and some clip art pictures, but you will need your own logo and the clip art pictures are almost never licensed with the them itself. We typically help you work with a designer to create a logo if you need it and help you gather and edit your own photos for the site. Even if you don’t need any help with logos and photos, it is very unlikely that the theme will do everything you want straight out of the box.
This is where WordPress plugins come in to play. Plugins add features to your site, everything from shopping carts, event schedulers, contact managers, photo galleries, video players, statistics, social networking and just about anything else you might ever need. WordPress lists 9,652 so far with more arriving every day. These plugins are searchable and more often than not, free to download and use. Cool. More free stuff for you, right?
The WordPress Plugin List
Well yes and no. While free is a wonderful thing, figuring out which of these 9,652 plugins will do what you need it to can be a very confusing process. Remember that most of these plugins are written by nerds. They are also documented by the same nerds. Nerds have a startling vocabulary of technical terms and jargon and most of them are surprisingly unafraid to use it.
The second issue is that, as free software, most of these plugins are written as a labor of love. This means that they are not always updated on a regular basis. Can you risk running a plugin that has not been updated in the last 2 years? Additionally, the plugin was likely written to accomplish only what the author wanted to accomplish and in the way that makes the most sense to them. What do you do if the plugin only does 80% of what you need it to?
A web developer can easily update and modify plugins to make sure they work with your current setup and do exactly what you need them to do. They can typically accomplish this quickly because they have either seen it before, or they know where to find the answer to the problem.
Which brings us to the next consideration: What do you do when something goes boom?