I built my first theme from scratch over 10 years ago. The site is still running “as was”. I will never reveal that site publically. Yep, that bad. However, it stands as a testament to my roguish nature to build what I wanted. At the time, I’d just stumbled upon WordPress and lacking any knowledge of PHP, or even WordPress basics, I dove headfirst into WordPress “development”. I pasted loops without understanding a single line of the code, I created as many headers as there were pages just to have the current page highlighted. I endured my first “white screen of death”. (Damn you, semicolon!)
After many years and garnered knowledge, I’ve come to recognize key reasons why I am personally fulfilled building custom bespoke sites for my clients.
This is the number one reason why I create custom themes. It’s also why I choose WordPress over, say, SquareSpace. Who doesn’t like freedom? Calling my own shots, being my own woman, doing what I please (within reason). My ability to create custom themes affords me the freedom to craft solutions for an infinite array of challenges. And I’m always up for the challenge because I know the benefit for me is new found knowledge and an upping of my game.
I’m never placed the disheartening scenario of telling my clients what they need cannot be accomplished because of the limitation of a theme’s built-in options or worse: “WordPress doesn’t do that, allow that, work that way…” I have the freedom to explore an infinite array of solutions. In many cases, unique, one of a kind, custom solutions.
I wouldn’t trade that freedom for all the world’s bells and whistles Themes.
I believe Drag and Drop should be an activity mainly confined to the dance floor, not the realm of a professional WordPress Developer. Sure, there are those folks who lack coding skills and they want to create something beautiful and with ease. I call these “future clients with limited funds”. And they rarely create something beautiful and at a cost of hair and sanity. As a Developer, I feel I should at least have basic coding knowledge: HTML, CSS, PHP, a little jQuery. Otherwise, I would not be a Developer. I’d be a Theme Implementer. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a Theme Implementor. It’s a necessary service for clients who get too tangled up in their DIY website endeavor.
If I had limited my WordPress knowledge to implementing themes, I would never have discovered the vast capabilities of WordPress. I might even have falsely assumed that the only way to work with WordPress is to edit a pre-existing theme. I would be making a lot less money.
I have a friend who is a mechanical genius. I can bring any buggy machinery or electronic apparatus to him and he can fix it. This is due to his vast experience with taking things apart just to see how they work and putting them back together again. We all know someone like this and we are in awe of them. Building custom themes gives me that kind of power.
I can say with complete assuredness that WordPress is putty in my hands. I’ve slapped it, pulled it, shaped it and it has never disappointed. Some whacky project conundrums have come my way and either I’ve confidently pulled the solution from my tool set, ie, brain knowledge, or I have spent a bit of time doggedly seeking the answer out there in the GoogleLand.
Having the confidence to solve clients’ project challenges cuts down on stress and that devious villain known as Imposture’s Syndrome. I will never learn everything I need to know in order to confidently say “I know everything.” Damn. But, fortunately, I will continue growing by taking on intriguing clients and enhancing my skill set with each new creative solution.
4. Client Love
“You almost know my business better than I do! And I can tell you really care!” – Happy Client.
The gratitude expressed by my clients drives me to do what I do. When they feel they’ve been heard, that I understand their business/venture, that I genuinely care about their livelihood and I pull out all the stops to make them shine on the web, they breath a sigh of relief and know that I’ve got their back. I offer what can only be coined as concierge service to my clients. It all begins with the fact that I am providing a bespoke custom solution to their unique challenges. Who doesn’t appreciate the lavishness of custom made?
I provide a holistic approach to web development. In fact, I like to call myself a Web Presence Consultant and the website is just part of the custom bundle I offer. I put a lot of energy into the discovery session so that I can immerse myself in their business, mission and target audience. I learn about all the ins and outs, quirks and idiosyncrasies and with this blue print I’m able to deliver a custom fit.
I easily get bored with routine. If I were forced to shove every client project into a specific framework, I’d go stark raving mad. Or I’d find another way to make money. Every new project brings the unexpected because every client is unique, even within the same industry. I find it fascinating to learn about what my client does and how it affects the world at large. I also get a kick out of strategizing and collaborating with them on branding, marketing and message.
Because I can build anything my client wants I get to know the fine nuances of their business. I enter a new realm with every client.
Before I got into web development, I was a fine artist for 15 years. In fact, I was motivated to design websites because most of the web was, for lack of a better term, pretty mugly. That was back in the day before webfont kits, CSS3 and responsive design; when layout with tables vs. CSS was still controversial. (ShouldIUseTablesForLayout.com does a thorough analysis of this argument.)
To me, CSS was like a new kind of paintbox and the blank browser window was like a canvas. I’d sketch things in with HTML and go wild with CSS2 and later, even wilder with CSS3’s ability to add rounded corners, shadows and more. The tedium of using images was replaced with the ease of writing a few lines of CSS! And, subsequently, my creativity knew no bounds!
Relying on a pre-existing theme as a starting point tends to dull my creative possibilities. The creativity is in the hands of the original theme developer and even then, the site may lack originality due to the one size fits all nature of pre-existing themes. By building custom themes, I’m able to create WordPress sites that defy the standard layout and visual design. My clients are the recipients of a unique web presence that fits their personality and brand, not Twitter’s.