The magazine I just started at is seeking proposals to redesign its website. However, the Creative Director just wants to buy a $60 WordPress theme.

over 5 years ago from , Web Developer

Three proposals have been submitted ranging from 20k to 100k. At the last minute a friend of the CD who runs a social media marketing agency came in and submitted a fourth proposal suggesting we just buy a $60 wordpress theme and spend the rest of the budget on social media marketing.

Obviously the business case is very strong, but this latest proposal strikes us all as a little crazy. However we're struggling to find reasons to object other than the theme wouldn't be bespoke.

We're a luxury men's magazine focusing on bespoke tailoring, expensive cars, that sort of junk... So this last option just seems a little heretical?

I'm worried the theme will be really limiting in creating new content types, and inflexible for advertisers.

Does anyone have experience in a similar situation?


  • Maurice CherryMaurice Cherry, over 5 years ago

    "I'm worried the theme will be really limiting in creating new content types, and inflexible for advertisers."

    Those sound like pretty good reasons. Build on that.

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  • Aaron GitlinAaron Gitlin, over 5 years ago

    I'm surprised by the number of people responding positively to the $60 theme option.

    I understand the temptation, and if you just need "something" up, then sure, that's fine. If you are looking for a real web application that will grow over time, then I would be much more cautious.

    I used to buy and then slightly adapt templates for clients. This sometimes was effective, but only when they wanted close to no changes done. And even then i often found problems related to security, updating, etc.

    I then switched to using starter themes like Bones, Roots, etc and have had MUCH more success. I never have security or updating problems, and the code base is infinitely more readable. The first version of any site I made looked quite basic, generic even maybe, but it could then be customized as much as the client needed (and no more).

    Do you have any digital/UI/UX people on staff? Paired with an on site experienced WP developer, you guys could iteratively and gradually produce a solid site for relatively little money. If you don't have any UI/UX designers on hand, I might suggest you dish up some cash to use an agency that has experience building actual usable and scalable products.

    Either way, I would recommend starting simple and light. Don't put every feature you think you want in your first version. Start light and build up. Same with marketing. Soft launch, light-touch social media, and slowly build up to ad spots, campaigns, newsletters, etc.

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  • Malte NuhnMalte Nuhn, over 5 years ago

    tl;dr: I completely agree with the point that Alex makes. I also understand how it 'doesn't feel right'. And I'd urge to move past that feeling.

    1 - if the deliverable behind the $20K proposal is effectively just a more "unique" Wordpress theme (or whatever the tech), then the real problem isn't wordpress. It's the fact that you can buy one 'theme' for $60, and another for $20,000. Or $100,000(!) It's pretty hard to justify that.

    2 - Especially because you can put the savings to good use and test / customise / adapt the original template. Maybe even get the original author to work on it.

    3 - In terms of extensibility for advertisers / content types, chances are the proposals you're looking at don't cover those anyway (especially if they only arise down the road), and there's really nothing magic about Wordpress that makes it unadaptable.

    4 - On a personal note, I've before bitterly regretted not going down the wordpress route. In a few cases we could have had a more thorough design and better implementation MUCH faster if we hadn't insisted on 'doing it ourselves'.

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  • Alex Cragg, over 5 years ago

    There's a stigma around WordPress 'Premium' themes as they always used to be called, which in my eyes arose because of the immature nature of the medium and market.

    See it this way; if you choose wisely, the theme author has probably built something incredibly flexible and sturdy, which will still bring in the same total fees for that theme as you're looking at spending on something bespoke.

    Basically, his business model is different, but the total work required to create that theme was still huge. The $60 price tag doesn't just reflect the value of the the product you're buying, but also the value of that developer's experience.

    Of course, you'd still have to spend some time customising the theme to make it unique to you, but don't write it off as an option just because of what it appears to be.

    Draw up a pros and cons list. If the theme offers all the functionality and flexibility you need to run the new site, then why should it not be an option?

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  • Johnnie Gomez AlzagaJohnnie Gomez Alzaga, 5 years ago

    Well.. it all depends in what can YOU do with that theme. I work with base themes a lot. And then edit and customize. Good you didn't say the magazines name, keep it private.

    Don't be afraid of starting with a theme. Today there are some great themes out there and a lot of quality coding in them too.

    It's a matter of opinion, I guess.

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