‘I can’t find any WordPress themes I like so I’m going to build my own’ is a statement I see a lot on places like Twitter.
If you’re an ace coder (really ace) with a good understanding of SEO (really good), that’s a great route to follow.
There’s also the option of using Artisteer, a platform developed specifically to enable you to create your own themes.
But if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past year or so it’s the importance of the underlying code in a theme.
It can have a big impact on the speed with which your site loads and its search engine friendliness.
And its stability, particularly after WordPress upgrades or when you add new plugins.
So if your blog is purely there for your enjoyment and you’re not too fussed about any of those things, then I say go for it.
But if you use your blog for business, and stability, speed of response and SEO are important to you, then I’d go a different route.
I’d find a premium theme with the best underlying code possible and learn how to customize it.
If your coding skills are good enough for you to consider building your own theme, they should certainly be good enough to enable you to customize a premium theme to your liking.
And you can do so in the knowledge that not only is the underlying code stable, efficient and properly optimized for the search engines, but it will be upgraded over time.
All you need to do is focus on the design and layout.
About 2 years ago I switched from the WordPress Dream Theme to Thesis, and at first I was disappointed. The WP Dream Theme looked great and I received a lot of compliments on my site’s layout and appearance.
But as I learnt how to customize Thesis I became a lot happier.
I’m neither a top line designer nor a hot shot coder – but I know enough to be able to produce WordPress sites in a variety of layouts, with designs that I like.
And I have the comforting knowledge that the underlying code means my sites are stable, fast loading and well optimized.
This is not, by the way, a plug for Thesis. You can follow this approach with any top premium theme.
It’s simply a better way, to my mind, of getting yourself a site design that you like. Unless you’re a hot shot coder and a top line designer.
Update: 20th November, 2018:
I wrote this original article in 2010. Since then I’m pleased to say that things have moved on. Thesis is now a superb design platform – it’s moved towards being a tool for designers and developers, and away from the mass market (for want of a better term).
Some years ago I set up my own WordPress design and development agency and I use Thesis exclusively to build websites for my clients. If you would like to talk to me about website design on WordPress do please take a look around this website.