I remember it like it was yesterday. Become A Blogger had actually started making a decent income and I had some money to spend.
I had always seen many of the “big bloggers” invest a significant amount of money to get a custom theme built – one that would be 100% unique and 100% awesome.
It was my turn, and I was going to invest in getting exactly what I wanted.
So I did it, and $2,800 later I had something that looked awesome (well, at least in my mind).
I was 100% satisfied and received a lot of compliments from people who visited my blog.
A few weeks ago, I decided to get rid of this custom theme and just use a regular old premium theme. Why? Keep reading . . .
The truth about WordPress
I love WordPress because it gives you the ability to do almost anything you want. There are all kinds of plugins that you can use to add extra functionality.
If you want a blog that doesn’t look like a blog, you can have that. If you want . . . forget it . . . just know that you can basically have almost anything you want on WordPress.
As a result, the number of WordPress sites are increasing by leaps and bounds. According to estimates in the Usage Statistics and Market Share Report …
With the internet reaching over a billion websites in September of 2014 , we’re talking over 230 million WordPress sites.
As great as this is for WordPress, it also makes us a target for hackers – the gangsters of the internet. Unfortunately, they take tremendous pride in finding security flaws and taking advantage of them.
The need to update
One of the great things about WordPress is that it gets updated on a regular basis, with multiple updates coming every month. The goal here is to try to stay on top of any security issues that arise over time.
Along with the updates to WordPress, plugin developers who are proactively working on their plugins are also constantly releasing updates. The same goes for theme developers. They update their themes to work seamlessly with the new versions of WordPress and to patch any security flaws that arise.
I’ve been the target of hacking numerous times over the last six years, and let me tell you – it’s not fun. So I try to be as proactive as possible about ensuring that my blog is as secure as possible.
Edited to add: As DebG pointed out in the comments, this is not an issue if the theme developer creates a child theme. It makes it so that you can update the original parent theme without affecting the custom child theme that was built. You can see Elegant Theme's child theme tutorial to find out more. Thanks for adding that bit of info Deb.
The problem with custom themes
As much as I consider having a well-done custom theme to be the ideal scenario, I’ve come to realize that it’s not a realistic scenario for where I am in my business.
If you pay a quality designer to create an awesome WordPress theme for you, whether from scratch or as a child theme (modified version) of another theme, you end up with a great theme that doesn’t get updated or fixed, unless you are willing and able to pay them (or someone else) what it takes to update them.
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about.
A while back, someone hacked into my site and inserted a bunch of code into the theme files that resulted in a bunch of malicious links added to my site. After doing a bunch of work, I was able to find the files that were affected. So I deleted the code and thought to myself – “Yes, I figured it out”.
Unfortunately, they did it in a way that even if I deleted the code, it got automatically reinserted into the theme file and I just couldn’t figure out how to fix it.
In another situation, my site started taking a long time to load and we figured out that it was because of issues that arose with my theme over time.
At a certain point, I got so fed up, that I decided to simply install a premium theme from a trusted site – one that I knew would get updated whenever there were security flaws found.
When issues arise
As a point of comparison, after making the switch back to an unmodified premium theme, I had a similar issue happen to my site. Some idiot hacked me again and inserted code in the site that resulted in malicious links.
However, in this situation, instead of combing through the code of my site, I went back to the site I got the theme from, re-downloaded the theme and just replaced the old – problem solved in approximately five minutes.
Every so often, I go into my WordPress admin area and see that there’s a new update. I get the warning that if I have any customizations, they could be lost when I do the update. I smile and think to myself – “Ha, I don’t have any of those silly things”, and just click the update link without thinking twice.
I have an entire team of developers behind me without having to pay for a ton of developers, and feel much more at ease than I’ve ever been before. Life is good (well, at least better than it has been).
You can still customize
The beauty of a premium theme that is well done is that you still do have the ability to customize that theme using the theme’s built-in features.
You can customize basic features such as the header, logo, font, etc. In some themes, they come with a bunch of different page layouts that you can choose from.
With a few, they even allow you to basically build your own design. I give examples of these themes later on.
Will I ever go back?
I still consider having a custom theme to be ideal. You are able to do so much more, and get EXACTLY what you want.
However, I’ve decided not to get a custom theme again until my business can afford to have a team of people behind me actively working on optimizing and updating that theme.
I can see it now – they will be constantly split-testing different elements of the blog to see what’s working and what isn’t. They’ll be proactive about looking for ways to increase conversion. They will always be making sure that the blog is as secure as it can be.
For right now, that ain’t happening, and I’m ok with it.
Premium themes I recommend
There are many premium theme sites out there. However, I can only recommend the ones that I use and trust. Here are a few:
Elegant Themes – I love this site because they have a lot of nice themes at one very affordable price. My favorite theme is their Divi theme, because of the flexibility it has to come up with all kinds of cool designs. You can customize it in so many ways, without going beyond its built-in features. For an example, check out Cassandre Beccai’s Blog (my partner in blogging crime).
Woothemes – This one is a little more on the pricey end, but they are good at what they do. They go beyond just themes to plugins that help you expand the functionality of your site. They also have a very customizable theme called Canvas. However, you have to know a little bit of that coding stuff and have a very keen eye to come up with something awesome.
The X Theme – This is the WordPress theme I’m currently using at Become A Blogger. I love it for one reason – you have the ability to create an unlimited number of designs. However, it does take a bit more work to really come up with something completely custom. The default options are AWESOME, and they have something like 44 customized templates that you can download and import that all give your site a different look and feel.
Whenever I’m in need of a new design, I just go to one of these sources and choose the one that jumps out at me for the purpose I need it.
Side note: if you’re just starting out, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with going with a free theme from the WordPress repository. The main reason I choose not to go with free is that the developers aren’t incentivized to keep the theme updated. When you are paying people, they are more likely to deliver value.
What about you?
Are you using WordPress? If so, where did you get your WordPress theme? Let me know in the comments below.