Should financial services websites use off-the-shelf WordPress themes?

Group-of-people-standing-out-from-the-crowd-resembling-a-bespoke-financial-services-website

Richard Cowdery

Digital Developer

Posted on May 7, 2018

WordPress is an incredibly flexible and well-supported CMS. Therefore, it’s no surprise to find it being used for many financial services websites.

WordPress’s popularity has encouraged people and businesses to build countless themes for the platform and offer them either as free downloads, or as paid-for off-the-shelf products. A theme is a collection of files, separate from the core WordPress software, that determines how a site looks and functions for a visitor and the people who maintain it.

If you were to build your financial services website using WordPress, you would need to create a theme to make your website look on brand and behave in the way you want it to. And this can be accomplished in one of two ways.

  • Download a free or paid-for theme and customise it yourself using the options available to you in that theme.
  • Get a web developer to make a custom theme that fits to your designs exactly. And, is editable in the admin area so it’s easy to maintain in the future.

I’m not going to rubbish those free or paid themes. They do serve a purpose if budget and time are an important factor. Themes cost around £50, and are easy to get up and running. Many of the most popular themes are extremely good, being expertly put together by teams of very talented people.

So why might you want to avoid using them and get a custom theme built instead?

It’s not original

The off-the-shelf themes available to you are available to everybody else too. Do you want a site that looks like hundreds of other sites on the Internet?

Complexity

Unless you’re prepared to accept what the theme looks like with just a few changes here and there, creating new page layouts, colour schemes, images and so on, might not be as straightforward as you might like. They may be easy to install, but building your site using these themes can be quite challenging. They do require some basic understanding of HTML/CSS and how the WordPress CMS works.

Page bloat

To make these off-the-shelf themes as configurable as possible, the underlying code of the websites served up in a visitors’ browser are a lot larger than they would be if they were coded for a singular purpose.

The file size of the web pages is important. Visitors to the site should have a quick and responsive experience; they shouldn’t have to wait needlessly as the page downloads bits of code that won’t be used.

Google does like to take a look at how quickly your pages are being served and rendered in your browser, and it will use this information as a search engine ranking factor.

Updates

Adding new functionality to a website is usually straightforward. However, if you’re adding that functionality to a website that’s already complicated – and off-the-shelf themes can be very complicated to accommodate the level of customisation they offer – it can make the process very time-consuming for the developer.

To make matters worse a lot of off-the-shelf themes can be poorly coded and badly documented. It’s much easier to modify and add new functionality to a website if it’s been built and coded for the single purpose it was designed for.

Conclusion

Off-the-shelf themes can certainly serve a purpose for some businesses. They are cheap, relatively simple to set up and provide a quick way of putting together a website. But they’re not unique to your business, they can be overly complex to manage and update. And, they can have an adverse effect on the your SEO efforts and the all-important user experience.

If you don’t want to compromise on your website, working with an agency with experience will ensure you have a final product that will meet all your needs, and will be in a good place to grow in the future. The initial cost to get started might be a bit more, but over time you should see the benefits of building a great foundation from which you can continue to develop your web presence.

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