I almost never get asked this question, I’m not going to lie. Which is hilarious, because usually I would tell a client to blog on those common questions.
But here’s the thing. Why I custom-code and don’t download a WordPress theme from another author is actually really important, even if the majority of my clients don’t ever ask why.
What Does Custom Code Mean?
Let’s tackle this one first. When I say I write custom code for you, I’m not rewriting the entire WordPress infrastructure. There’s a lot that WordPress does right, and the way I build your site is to work within WordPress, not hack apart pieces I don’t like (a lot of premium theme authors are actually very guilty of this). Not only does that cause problems when WordPress and plugins get updated, but that just seems like a lot of work that I just don’t need to do.
When I custom code your website, what I’m doing is creating a WordPress theme, just for your business. I use a few extra tools and I ask a lot of questions about your business to build a website that will function for you for (hopefully) years to come and work with your business as you grow. I also do my best to make your website easy to update on your own, without the need to ever touch a line of code.
Basically, custom coding means that I’m building a fresh theme for each client, on my own code base, that works within the WordPress framework. I use a responsive grid system called Bootstrap 4 to make your site work across multiple devices, too.
Nerdy Fact: This website is built on the first major update I’ve done to my theme practices in 3 years. And yet sites I built 3 years ago update perfectly with WordPress and plugins every time.
Why You Should Care About Custom Code vs. a Purchased Theme
I rarely talk smack on others in my industry. After all, I get why people do what they do. They’re working to provide a service at the best value for their clients. There is a time and a place for a $60 theme from Envato.
BUT, if you’re hiring someone to build you a beautiful website for your business, it’s a personal pet peeve of mine to see that company buy a developer’s license for a premium theme (popular ones include Avada, Salient, Divi), create a basic template, and then build that same website over and over for their clients. Your copy and images are yours, yes, but especially if you’re talking about an agency that works in specific niches, all of their websites can feel a little repetitive. How do you as a company stand out like that in a crowded space?
Custom Code is More Secure
Here’s the dirty side that most devs won’t talk about. Anyone can purchase a license for a premium theme, learn its vulnerabilities, and use those vulnerabilities to hack tens of thousands of websites throughout the world.
I know, because I dealt with a huge Avada-compromise a few years ago. I’ve tried desperately to plug holes and block out hackers in other client websites, even having to completely re-code the website and migrate it to a different server to stop the internal link spam.
Custom code is just one extra little step that helps keep my clients’ websites secure, because I don’t sell my themes on any marketplace. Plus, I develop each website specifically for that client, so no theme code is exactly the same anyway.
Custom Code Runs Faster, Too
The reason theme authors build their themes the way they do is so that they can sell them to as many people, in as many markets, as they can. $60 per website isn’t a lot, but $60 x 1,000 different businesses is suddenly a lot more appealing.
The problem then, is that these developers have to build their themes to work with 1,000 different industries and 1,000 different variables. That variety can cause code-bloat, making sites load slower. Custom-coded websites only include the things that you need and nothing you don’t, helping your site to run faster.
Custom Means Built for the Long-Term
One of the main reasons I personally develop custom websites is that it helps the website work for the client for the long term. Working with you, I learn your business. Even though you might be a Social Media Manager, doesn’t mean you’re like every other Social Media Manager. Your business is unique and so are your plans for growth.
We cover all of that while working through your website so I can make your site flexible and ready to grow with you. Things you change all the time are easy to do and even those things that are everywhere throughout your website (like your phone number), I can put in one simple spot so you only have to change it once. Easy!
Custom Code Always Wins (with Me)
I can name off a ton of other reasons I custom code (better SEO, accessibility, plugin compatibility, complete control of your website), but what you need to remember when meeting with a website developer to build your own site is you ask what they do.
You should expect a purchased theme with a smaller budget, but a custom-coded website isn’t out of reach either.
And anyway, wouldn’t you rather stand out than look like everyone else?