The Design Limitations of WordPress

WordPress. I read a post on the Warrior Forum the other day bemoaning what the poster saw as the design limitations of WordPress.

While WordPress, which is a Content Management System, does have some functional limitations, it does not have any design limitations.

The reason is simple: WordPress itself doesn’t touch the design aspect of the site.

A WordPress site essentially comprises 2 parts:

  1. The backend – which is the WordPress core code and delivers the CMS functionality
  2. The front end – which is delivered by whatever theme you’re using and delivers the look and layout.

While the two parts clearly have to work together, the responsibility for delivering the design is entirely down to the theme.

And you can make any theme do any thing if you’re good enough with CSS, HTML and PHP.

And there’s another, important, reason that tweaks to your site’s design should be done in the theme, not the core code:

If you tweak the WordPress core code your tweaks will be over-written each time you upgrade WordPress.

And you’ll have to do them all over again.

So what’s the best way to achieve a unique look and feel?

Either by building your own theme, or customising a premium theme, or a framework.  This is the best way to achieve the look and feel you want, including having individual pages looking different.

For example, you may want a squeeze page to have no sidebars and the navigation at the bottom rather than the top.

A good framework, such as Thesis, will enable you to create this, and pretty much any design you like, but you will need to know CSS.

It will also enable you to add conditional statements to, for example, display different ads or messages to your visitors, based on the category or tag associated with the article they’re reading. For this you’ll need to know PHP.

(I described how to do that with Thesis here).

So does WordPress have no limitations?

Yes – WordPress does have some limitations, but they’re functional, not design related.

For example, WordPress is not natively a shopping cart. So if you want a pure shopping cart site WordPress is not the best place to start.

You can, of course, have a shopping cart on your WordPress site by adding a shopping cart plugin.

But for a true eCommerce site, and all the functionality that goes with it, you need to start with a proper eCommerce platform, not WordPress.


Martin Malden


What do you think?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Fran Civile Apr 30, 2011 @ 12:59

    Hi Martin,

    I always enjoy getting your updates although some CSS and PHP talk is beyond my comprehension but I have little problems cropping up as I go about the various phases of posting, or using plugins and I come and take a look at your WordPress Tutorial once in a while.

    Thank you Martin


    • Martin Apr 30, 2011 @ 13:14

      Hi Fran,

      You’re very welcome, and I’m delighted to be able to help out every now and then 🙂