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The case for custom WordPress websites

Bloated themes aren’t a shortcut

by maiya
published on 06.07.2016
checkered lines

We’re passionate about building beautiful, professionally designed websites. This means that we create customized websites, so the backend of your site is specific to your needs. This also means that we don’t use pre-existing WordPress themes, and this comes as a surprise to some. To the non-developer, a generic theme can look like a lifesaver, but for our clients, we maintain that themes are more trouble than they’re worth. For functional websites that look great and are easy to update, custom is the way to go. Read on to find out why.

First, what exactly is a WordPress theme?

Themes are a collection of files that make up the visual interface of a website. On the backend, theme developers include pre-designed content options for use on the site. Years ago, some developers would use basic themes as a convenient starting point in the site building process, but plenty of CSS coding was required to get the site to look the way the user wanted. Now, themes are packed with hundreds of options, and are typically purchased by website owners—people who are not developers—who are looking for a platform they can tweak for their own purposes.

Themes sound kind of cool. Why won’t they work for my business?

We get it. Themes are tempting. Many of them offer what appears to be a quick and cheap solution: built-in design with a host of options. For the DIY-er, a purpose-driven theme may suffice for a while (like for wedding day details, or an art portfolio site). And in a few rare cases, we can modify a stripped-down theme in lieu of a full custom build to offer clients a shorter production timeline. But no single content management system theme can work for everyone. And every site has a unique set of requirements. We believe that professionally designed sites should be laid out and crafted for those needs. Also, there’s a thing called “theme bloat,” and yes, it’s as lousy as it sounds.

You’ve got my attention. What’s theme bloat?

Theme developers design their themes for generic use, because they hope to sell as many copies as they can. To attract a wide audience, themes include a vast range of features and functionality. Once you download the theme and install it on your site, you end up with everything. Here’s the issue: everything is not helpful.

Let’s say that you purchase an Ikea dresser. You open the package, and learn that the dresser can be assembled in 200 different ways. Then you realize the package includes 300 extra dowels, screws, nuts, and bolts that may or may not be necessary. But all you wanted was the dresser in the catalogue. With a website, lots of unnecessary features can slow the site down, reducing load times for visitors. Clutter on the backend can contribute to user confusion, making it difficult (or risky) to update the site.

So, custom is king?

Yep. Custom websites allow us to provide a solid technical platform with clean, efficient coding. Building a custom website will typically require more lead time on our end, but the planning you allow for now could save you and your site users countless hours down the road. From automatic image sizing and optimization to default text styling, a customized site will eliminate or reduce the steps you must take to reach your audience. Our team is made up of skilled designers and developers who will translate the story your business wants to tell into a dynamic, flexible website that does precisely what you ask it to do. All that makes for a happy client. And when our clients are satisfied, we know we’ve hit the mark.

Interested in working with us? Get in touch.


A Certified B Corp, Mangrove is a woman-owned website design and development company with a diverse, talented team distributed around the globe. We’ve been building websites since 2009 that amplify the work of change-making organizations and increase the competitive power of businesses owned by historically marginalized people.

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