I’ve been creating WordPress sites for clients for a while now and I become more impressed all the time with the many options in this open-source blogging software. “Blogging software” is really selling it a little short.

Yes, it started as simple blogging software and its transformation into a content-management system (CMS) has at times been a bit kludgy. But I’d maintain that the WordPress community has elevated it above the rest, making a system that balances ease of use with a reasonable feature set.

More elaborate systems (Drupal comes to mind) are arguably much more powerful but I’ve found that their interfaces are intimidating, especially for new users. And most users don’t need all the features, so are better off with a simpler solution.

So I decided to spend a bit of time on my own site, converting it to WordPress to make it:

  • more consistent
  • easier to update
  • more search-engine friendly
  • more modern

Why a pre-packaged theme?

First an explanation of themes. WordPress (like other CMSs) uses a database and a series of files to determine how content gets delivered. This is, mostly, not modifiable. But how the content looks on the page is largely determined by a modifiable set of files called a theme. The theme can contain images and stylesheets and HTML code, all of it designed to determine layout, color, type treatment, etc.

I’ve built WordPress themes from scratch and done it well. I’ve modified other people’s themes just fine too. What I had never done is bought a theme. This is the exception. When I saw the theme Atlantica from Brandon Jones, I thought it had the elements I needed: good basic arrangement of information with a solid set of gallery functions (mostly for my photography).

For only $30, I got a theme where most of the work was done, allowing me to concentrate on design and content. I still have complete control but I’ve saved myself lots of time by letting someone else build the basics for me.

And, to be honest, I wanted to be able to look under the hood and see how a “premium theme” (one that costs money) is built and maybe how it differs from the free ones I’ve worked with.

One of the best things is tech support. I’ve been exchanging emails with the designer, suggesting changes and corrections. I promise I haven’t been a nuisance and I won’t be. He’s been receptive and complimentary. I’m not sure I’d expect that from someone I didn’t send money to.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about how we are coming to expect things being free. And I’m as guilty as the next person. But we all know the value of paying for something.

Someone once asked me why they should hire a web designer when they could “just download some free software and do it myself?” I think the real answer is that we hire professionals not for the tools they have but for the mistakes they’ve made and learned from. You own scissors; do you cut your own hair?