Custom WordPress Development – What It Is and Why We Build This Way We have been developing websites on WordPress for almost 15 years and that entire time we’ve used the term Custom WordPress Development to describe how we build them. But what does that even mean and why does anyone need or want it? Let’s take a look at how we here at Spigot define custom development, and why we’ve chosen to develop our websites this way. What is custom WordPress development? What Custom WordPress Development Means To Us Don’t most agencies use pre-built themes? Isn’t a pre-built theme cheaper? Is the cost of a custom built site worth it? Are custom websites limiting in any way? What is the difference between a custom theme and a pre-fab WordPress theme? The bottom line What is custom WordPress development? After all this time, it’s interesting to be writing about what Custom Development is and what that means to us. We’ve used the term for so long that it’s just been assumed that everyone knows what it is and that of course it’s the best way to do things. But what is it, really? Custom WordPress development refers to building custom websites, web apps, plugins, and themes using WordPress as the core content management system. Custom development goes beyond using off-the-shelf WordPress themes to create tailored solutions that meet our clients’ specific business needs and website goals. A Few Important Aspects of Custom Development Custom Theme Development – Designing and building a unique WordPress theme from scratch that reflects a brand’s visual identity and provides the desired functionality. This allows for complete customization of site layout, design, features etc. Custom Plugin Development – Creating custom WordPress plugins to add unique features, integrate with other systems, customize functionality, etc. This allows extending WordPress in ways that are not available “out of the box.” Custom Site Programming – Using WordPress as a web development framework and custom coding features like custom post types, taxonomies, metaboxes, forms, APIs, databases etc. This enables building web apps with WordPress at the core. Modifications to Existing Plugins – Tweaking, modifying, and extending existing plugins to provide custom functionality for a specific project. I ntegration with Other Systems – Integrating WordPress with other systems like CRMs, accounting software, ERPs, etc. via custom coding. What Custom WordPress Development Means To Us Developing websites from scratch on WordPress is the “right” way to build a site. It allows us to build exactly the right theme for the exact project we’re working on. We can build a website around our client’s needs rather than designing around an existing framework. It allows us to be fast and light and nimble and performative. We control how SEO-friendly it can be, and how much bloated code (doesn’t) get loaded. We can build custom features, custom content types, and unique integrations — all without deviating from the specifics of the project at hand. Every website we build goes through multiple in-depth phases. So much thought and strategy and creativity go into the process before we even open a development environment. We’re building a unique website for a unique client each and every time; there is no way we could build out a pixel-perfect design using pre-fab themes. TLDR : Developing from scratch is the best way to build a WordPress based website. It allows for the most control for a pixel perfect and performative website. Don’t most agencies use pre-built themes? Most other agencies outsource their development to off-shore teams. And most of those teams use pre-fab themes and bloated page builders. They do it not because it’s better, but because it’s quicker and cheaper. Most agencies don’t talk much about how their websites are built or if they are custom or use a Isn’t a pre-built theme cheaper? Yes, it’s likely cheaper to use a pre-built theme than have one custom built. Unless it’s from an agency that charges custom prices for tweaking a pre-built theme. Is the cost of a custom built site worth it? The website creation landscape has changed quite a lot over the last few years. There are lots of ways to get cheap and easy websites through services like Squarespace. For businesses and organizations that are looking to get a unique design, unique features, and have their unique business needs met, a custom website that is custom built is still worth both the time and cost. There is no shortcut to quality, and the modern web citizen can tell the difference. Are custom websites limiting in any way? The sites we build will not come with tons of options panels to toggle features or update the look and feel. The typography is generally set, as are the colors and layout. Some may consider the inability to change fonts and colors on a page by page basis a limitation, but we think it’s a strength. What is the difference between a custom theme and a pre-fab WordPress theme? A pre-fab theme is something you buy from a marketplace such as ThemeForest. These are meant to be sold over and over again to suit simple business needs. Custom development is the process of wireframing, designing, and developing a custom website to fit your business needs in the best way possible. Custom Development Prefab Theme Cost Typically more expensive to develop Typically less expensive to create a site with. Time Takes more time and care to develop Typically less time to create a site. But also less awesome. Customizable Full control of design and functionality Limited to features and options offered in the theme. Uniqueness 100% unique design to differentiate the site from the competition May have unique colors or fonts, but will likely look similar to other sites or competitors Performance Full control of code used and required features. Generally much more performative than prefab themes Performance often slowed down due to unused feature and bloated code Scalability Very scalable with the ability to grow and add features over time Generally limited to the features built into the theme Maintenance All WordPress website require maintenance. A good support team is highly recommended. All WordPress website require maintenance. A good support team is highly recommended. The bottom line We think building custom, from scratch is the best way to build a website for most organizations. It allows for the full power and range of WordPress to be utilized in the most performative way possible.
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