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Are you really using WordPress template as a developer?

kethmars profile image kethmars ・4 min read

Besides working full time as a full-stack product engineer, I also do some freelancing. The reasons for that vary - sometimes I want to try out new technologies but don't have a great side-project idea, sometimes I want to make some money extra money. Throughout the years, I've been part of at least 30 projects, both smaller and bigger, on design- and development side. Some of them have been fully custom-built, some of have been built using ready-made templates.

What I've learned is that freelancing is not about being a great developer.

Reading the previous sentence again, the developer in me just screamed. WordPress templates? What I've learned is that freelancing is not about being a great developer. It's about being a great salesman, product person and a project manager. Therefore, when coming up with the requirements and solutions with the client, one shouldn't think only from a developer's perspective.

You can also check out this topic in my Youtube channel called Developer Habits

That's why, in this article, I'm sharing why sometimes it's better to just use WordPress template, even though my desire to code says otherwise.

It really depends on the requirements

When people ask me for a website, they usually have some kind of business goal in mind. Maybe it's because they want to get more leads, maybe they want to sell more products via e-commerce. Whatever the reason, as a freelancer, I must remind myself to think from the client's perspective.

That's where the following questions come in:

  • What's the problem you're trying to solve?
  • What's your budget?
  • How much time do you have?
  • Do you have your own vision?

Based on the answers, the solution can be a custom one that involves tons of coding, collaboration with external designers, product people etc. Usually, though, the client has a small budget with a non-established branding and a tight deadline. That's where a developer must really think.

What's your goal with the project?

Let's say that you've agreed to deliver a project. It pays well enough but there's a tight deadline. In such cases, I always ask myself- what's my goal with the project? Is it to earn money? Is it to test out some new technology?

In case my motivation is to learn, it's simple - I choose the desired technology and commit to delivering a working solution, no matter the cost. Such decision is made considering the risk that the fee I get may not be in correlation with my time input.

Sometimes though, I just want to make extra money. In such cases, I tend to look for lean solutions that deliver the best outcome with a minimum effort. And that's where WordPress templates come in.

Time equals money. WordPress templates save time

As a developer, I sometimes feel that using WordPress templates is a bad thing - I mean, I could code it all myself. Then again, there are too many positive aspects to consider. One of them is the fact that it saves tons of time and energy.

By giving your client a selection of templates to choose from, you can shorten the whole design process. You kind of force the client to think inside a box because they have all the possible options in front of their eyes. And when needed, you can just adjust the selected template to their brand.

And it gets better. The design you've "created", is already coded and implemented in the CMS, meaning the time needed for coding is quite minimal. In case there's a need for customisation, you can still do that by adding your own code.

Need a new feature? Probably it already exists

A situation I've faced multiple times - we've agreed on the design and features of a website, everything's ready but just before we're about to launch, the client has a new idea. In most cases, telling your client the extra cost for the additional features will help them decide if it's really necessary. In case it is, using templates make it easier to developer extra functionality.

The thing with ready-made templates is that they already have a code-base you can make use of. Not only, they already include the styles and widgets you can reuse. For example, in my latest project, the client needed a carousel component which we hadn't discussed before. As the template I was using already had a carousel widget coded, it was easy to address the client's wish with some customised CSS styles applied.

Other's take care of the maintenance

Another great advantage of using ready-made templates is that the creators of the template usually take care of the maintenance. So when the WordPress version is updated, you can just update the template and save the time you'd otherwise spend debugging. But remember - if you've got some custom code somewhere, you may need to double-check it.

Conclusion

Freelancing isn't just about coding. Your priority should be to deliver a solution to a problem. As developers, we obviously want to write new code, but using WordPress templates for freelancing can save you tons of time if it fits with the solution the client's looking for. So remember that in case there's no custom business logic nor brand visuals and new developments are needed in the future, using templates can make sense.


Also, If you're interested in topics related to developer growth and universal knowledge that helps you get to the next level as a dev, check out my Youtube channel called Developer Habits.

Want more info like that?
👉 Twitter: https://twitter.com/developerHabits
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👉 YT: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJLZwePkNHps5Bv7VwISyTA

Discussion (12)

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cwraytech profile image
Christopher Wray • Edited

I still wouldn't use the WordPress template. I'd go to Webflow. (:

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kethmars profile image
kethmars Author

Though to add to my previous comment, I'd say Wordpress is a great tool because of it's huuuge ecosystem, many people already know about it's backend user interface and it's easy to build custom functionality.

As I don't have experience with Webflow, can't comment on that side.

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cwraytech profile image
Christopher Wray

Yeah, I agree that there are a lot of great plugins with WP. My concern is as a developer, I just can't recommend WP due to security concerns with easy to install plugins that could have issues. There are ways around that though.

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arberbr profile image
Arber Braja

Well same can be said even for JS based webapps. Every week Github notifies me to update my repos because some package on one of those apps has been updated because of an exploit/security issue.

I wouldnt blame WordPress as being insecure. WordPrees is not insecure by default. If developers decide to install nulled themes/plugins its their fault. If developers or whoever maintains the site never updates plugins or theme is not WordPress's fault for the site being hacked.

Basically put, in most of the cases its an external factor which permits a hacker to hack a website.

Usually its the devs fault, even when the dev uses a plugin he should need to know how to pick plugins. Ideally a dev should rarely need to install a plugin whenever the same thing a plugin does can be achieved in just couple hours of work.

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cwraytech profile image
Christopher Wray

Yes, I agree with you.

How do you normally pass off your sites to your clients? Do you just give them basic editor control in the WP admin panel, or do you give them full admin control?

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arberbr profile image
Arber Braja

It depends from the agreement/contract we make. In case the client wants to cut ties with me I prepare a document with info on how the client can do basic stuff on the site. I create a new user role with only basic capabilities (only what the client needs to have) and recommend the client to use only this user.

I do give the client the credentials of the admin user for sure too though since sometime he might need to have access and do something more.

In case the contract is for me to provide support for long term, I give the client only credentials of limited permissions user so he/she can add for example new pages/posts/events and prepare a guide how to do that.

Have created a template for this kind of stuff which I use for all clients usually.

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kethmars profile image
kethmars Author

Thanks Christopher for pointing out Webflow, have been thinking about testing it out in some freelance gig!

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cwraytech profile image
Christopher Wray • Edited

@kethmars once you go to Webflow, you won't ever want to go back to WP..

Especially since you know how to code. It is just visually designing with HTML and CSS.

I love it. Let me know if you would like and I can walk you through getting started!

Also please use my referral link before creating an account. (: If you get a plan in 3 months then I get 50% for the first year haha

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cwraytech profile image
Christopher Wray

chriswray.dev/technologies/webflow

You can see the link in the top banner.

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arberbr profile image
Arber Braja

I have used them a lot. It saves a lot of time setting different templates and reusing tjem multiple time on multiple places (pages/posts). WordPress is good for freelancing. Since at that time I was also working full time only on WordPress on my main job always used the same standards I used at work even though usually when working freelance there is no code review or quality check. At that time I really loved it. Even now whenever I work with WordPress on new projects I use my own starter project which is composed of the same standards we built at work based on the experience of multiple experienced devs.

It happens though that I have to work on an already built site, that's where I start hating WordPress.

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kmarcini profile image
Kevin Marciniak

For my own website, I did create my own theme since, at the time that I created it, I had more time than money. I also didn't find a pre-made theme that had the look/feel that I was going for.

Making my theme took a lot of time! But, I'm glad that I did since that made me learn a lot more of the backend of some Wordpress API calls. And it allowed me to try out Tailwind CSS framework.

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newworldman profile image
BP

I don't have a big problem with WP but sometimes retro fitting Bootstrap into it is quite a chore!