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How Important Is A Unique WordPress Theme?

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Whilst I frequently buy and use premium themes for small content websites and side projects of mine, I’ve always preferred to have custom designs created for my main websites. Lately I’ve been questioning how important it really is for your websites success to have a unique WordPress theme that sets your website apart from crowd.

The current design was designed by my friends at Blog Design Studio in early 2010. I loved the design when it was first created though over the last few months I have begun to realise how dated it looks. So many great features have been introduced to WordPress over the last year and a half and I the current design does not take advantage of any of it (post formats, custom headers etc). Recently I have attempted to ‘patch the site up’ by installing plugins that add functionality such as the home page featured slider. All I am doing is delaying the inevitable conclusion that I need to change the design here.

Does Your Website Design Have To Be Unique

I have a lot of great ideas for what I want in my ‘perfect’ design though hiring a great design company to build it will cost at least a few thousand dollars ($5k+). With Christmas looming and an long trip planned around South America afterwards; that’s not something I want to spend if I can avoid it.

Having a unique design for your website is great if you can afford to hire someone to create the design you want; though not at the expense of functionality. This is the dilemma I am facing. If I won’t have the budget for a great design for at least another 6 months, should I keep the current unique design even though it is outdated or should I choose one of the thousands of themes already available and simply add my own logo?

The more I think about this situation, the more I believe that modifying is my best option until I have the funds to have the design I want created.

How Important Is A Unique WordPress Theme?

Theme prices range from free to around $100, though many great designs are available for under $50. This represents great value for money. As I am not a designer, a great design would cost me a few thousand dollars. Every year WordPress adds more great functionality so after a year or so most designs will have to be updated if you want to take advantage of new features that have added (which costs more money). This isn’t a major issue if your website is consistently earning over $3,000 per month but WP Mods unfortunately does not (yet!).

Although using a premium theme for your website design means that your site isn’t unique, there are benefits to going down this route. First of all, many users may not even realise that your website is powered by a premium theme and those who do probably don’t even case. It is also highly unlikely that a rival website would use the same design as you therefore your website design should at least be unique within your own niche.

How Important Is A Unique WordPress Theme?

A free design or premium design requires no or very little outlay so if you don’t mind spending spending a little time modifying a theme you could easily change your website design once or twice a year (though obviously you don’t want to change too often or your readers could get annoyed). This would allow you to choose the latest and greatest designs when you see fit.

I’m not going to rush into anything though I am going to keep my eye out for a good theme or framework that does everything that I need :)

Is Your Website Design Unique?

I’m interested in knowing if WP Mods readers are using a custom theme on their website or if they have simply modified a free or premium design. Blogs such as Site Sketch 101 have been using a modified premium theme (Papercut theme from WooThemes) since launch and it doesn’t seem to have slowed its progress though the majority of top blogs do have a custom design; particularly those with over 5,000 subscribers.

How important do you think it is to have a unique WordPress theme?



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Comments (8)

Comment by Rison Simon says:

Having a unique theme does help you in branding. But like you said, only a few can afford to build custom themes. Normal folks like me are stuck with using free themes or low cost premium themes.

Comment by Kevin Muldoon says:

I installed the gantry framework in my test area. Unfortunately it brings up lots of errors. I upgraded my test area to 3.3 beta 2 recently so I’m sure this is the cause of it.

I’m looking forward to testing it properly though. Don’t think I’ve ever seen so many widget areas in a theme!

Comment by Kevin Muldoon says:

Hi Rudy,

Gantry looks really good. I’m away this weekend on a trip but I’m going to try it out when I return as it looks like it as a great design.

Thanks for the tip :)


Comment by Rudy says:

I agree that themes should be unique. However, I’ve had good luck looking into more of the theme “frameworks” as of late, as it cuts out so much of the drudgery in creating a unique look, and gives me a lot of features I’d otherwise spend too much time coding and debugging.

I’ve poked around the Gantry framework (which utilizes the “960 grid” system), and have actually used WPWeaver in a few production sites, which has allowed me to create flexible designs that are as unique as I can make them with some clever CSS coding and mild customization (via a child theme).

Frameworks, once I learn them, make things go so much smoother–I’m actually starting to enjoy this work again. ;o)

Comment by Kevin Muldoon says:

Thanks Felix.

I’ve been playing around with BuddyPress this morning. To be honest it’s not changed much since the last time I tested it other than the option to use bbPress forums or group forums.

To be honest I want a more powerful forum solution though nothing else out there gives you the integration that bbPress and BuddyPress can offer (apart from Simple Press.

Comment by felix says:

The problem with BuddyPress and bbpress is that they are dynamic in nature and can’t be cached. If you want to use BP & bbp I would advise to use a very light theme. In this case you currently don’t get around paying for something hand-coded if you want a unique design

I will have a solution addressing these issues out there soon (end of the year). I’ll let you know.

Comment by Kevin Muldoon says:

Hi Felix,

I have a developer license for Headway and have used it on a few websites. It’s not perfect though. It can’t integrate with bbpress or buddypress easily and many things which should be straight forward are overly complicated.

I’m looking into other frameworks though. I have a license for Genesis too but I’m not 100% happy with it; it also complicates things that can be done easily manually.

I’ve tried BuddyPress before about a year ago. I’m testing it again just now as I’m looking to add more community features here. If it works well, I’ll be looking for a framework or design that integrates with BuddyPress well.


Comment by felix says:

Hi Kevin,
there are great solutions out there to create a unique design for your WordPress site without the need of spending big bucks. For example, the Headway theme and the RichWP themes come with extensive design options. If you have ideas and an eye for colors, you can create the design you are looking for without coding anything.

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