Why I Built My Own WordPress Theme


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If you read my blog from time to time, you probably noticed it: I have a new theme! And guess what? It’s a custom theme that I built from scratch. Let me explain to you why, as a non-designer, I chose to create my own theme.

1 – Premium Themes have too many features

That’s a fact. And I wanted something lightweight, clean, simple and extensible. I tried many great premium themes, but each time I had to remove a lot of javascript files, clean the CSS, optimize queries etc… That was a pain. Why theme authors add so many features in a theme? A theme should be just an envelope with small holes to display data taken from the database, that’s it. I don’t want a theme that brings a loading bar with jQuery, accordions, toggle boxes or whatever. I just want a simple PHP file that display content. In this DIY theme, there’s no extra javascript file loaded, just because I don’t need any. All small animations are built in CSS.

2 – Free Themes: the lottery

I used for a long a time a really great free theme called Highwind. It’s been built by my colleague James Koster, and I have to agree it’s probably the best free theme I have used. I simply decided to switch to another theme because I like to change the display of my site every year. But usually, free themes…. well, how to say that… it’s a lottery, you can have a great theme or a really bad one. That’s why I don’t spend too much time on free themes, in other words I decided to built my own theme probably because I am too fussy!

[blockquote]I decided to built my own theme probably because I am too fussy![/blockquote]

3 – I guess I have bad tastes

I guess I have bad tastes because I find it so hard to find a theme that I really like! I can spend not only hours but days trying to find a great theme. But I have to keep in mind that I am not a designer, and I am not a CSS guru. I just know what I like. On the web, there are trends, and it’s hard to always be on the same line, and with time I think that what I like is simplicity. Readability is for me the most crucial element to have in mind when building a site. That’s why I increased the font sizes compared to what I was used to have, I also decided to use a book typed font. And just one main color per post. Clean and simple.

4 – Mobile Friendly?

Well, nowadays all themes have to be mobile friendly, if not, well it’s a problem. But I didn’t want to use a huge CSS or Javascript framework to build grids or whatever. So, I simply wrote a really simple CSS snippet that provides me the ability to spit my content in 12 responsive columns, that’s it. I tried to keep in mind that on mobile the user experience has to be the best as possible, that’s why I kept big links everywhere! And according to Google Insight speed test the user experience on mobile for this theme has a grade of 100 which is the maximal, not that too bad I guess.

5 – Span & Shortcodes

I don’t like shortcodes, but I decided to use theme. I created only two of them, otherwise, to style elements I decided to use span classes, which is easier to keep if one day I switch to another theme. But the good news is that, as I built the theme, it will be easy for for me to transfer those shortcodes into a plugin.

[blockquote]I don’t care if visitors don’t spend too much time on my site and I don’t care if my bounce rate is bad[/blockquote]

6 – I don’t have anything to sell… anymore

I used to sell plugins on my website, but I stopped after the acquisition of WooThemes by Automattic. And I have to admit that the way you design a site when you don’t have anything to sell is way different. Let’s face it, this website is a list of tutorials, and snippets for WooCommerce and WordPress and most of my visitors visit only one page because Google thought that page was the most relevant and then they leave. Those visitors are in general in a hurry, because yes, when you are looking for a snippet it means you’re coding or trying to code something and you don’t want to lose time. And I don’t care if those visitors don’t spend too much time on my site (because I don’t sell stuff), and I don’t care if my bounce rate is bad. What I want is to be helpful. That’s it. And if a visitor, after typing a request in Google,can solve his issue in a less than a few minutes, then I’m happy! In any case, I don’t care about stats. I think I check Google Analytics maybe twice a year at most.

[box type=”yellow”]If you like this theme, then let me know and I’ll consider publishing it so that you can use it as well![/box]

Note: in all transparency, this theme is heavily inspired by the HelpScout blog

One response to “Why I Built My Own WordPress Theme”

  1. Theme looks great. Is it available somewhere to use :D? Say GitHub?

    Really love it’s minimalistic design.

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