Oh hey, is it Black Friday? What a coincidence that I’m thinking of a sale. (Jump to sale details)
I’m always looking for new ways to help get people online. And as I build more complex sites from scratch, I no longer enjoy working with pre-made or drag and drop themes. I used to advocate for buying a solid theme and customizing it, especially if you’re just starting out and can’t afford a custom built site. I worked with Make, a great drag and drop theme editor, for years. But now that I’ve been custom building sites for a few years, I see the downsides of starting with a stock theme.
Downsides of stock themes
Getting a theme from theme forest or a drag and drop theme like Make or Divi is a really cheap option for getting started online. The downside I’ve seen is that these themes are made to fit as many people as possible, so they are resource heavy. They often come with a bunch of elements you don’t need and require a lot of plugins in order to set them up for your specific needs. For a cheap website, I think that’s still a good trade off.
The part that I’ve started to find too frustrating to work with is the level of setup and customization needed for each page in order to have the site look good and work well. Very few modern themes work well out of the box, and adding new content becomes too complex for non-techy folks. That said, the stock WordPress themes that come out every year, twentytwenty etc have always been fairly light and easy to use. I still recommend those for simple sites.
So what are custom themes and what’s so great about them?
Custom themes are WordPress websites that are custom coded by developers. Only the functions that are needed by the site are loaded, so they are generally lighter and faster. Adding content is often easier as the site is custom built for both inputting the content and displaying it. The downside? Price.
How to make custom themes more affordable?
I have an idea. What if I were to take some of the themes I’ve built in the last couple of years and use them as a jumping off point for new sites? Complex sites are too specific so can’t be reused, but small, simple, brochure-type sites are perfect. And first websites are often simple brochure sites.
What’s the deal?
I have a couple of themes I’ve built that would work well as frameworks for new sites. The build is classic enough that with design edits, the sites would look unique. By using a custom theme I’ve already built as a starting point, I could offer custom developed sites for local artists, writers and activists at a more affordable entry-level price.
Three theme options
The starting options for themes available currently are:
Big Bright Dark: Originally a podcast website, this theme can be used as a simple portfolio site. It includes unique image headers on each page, centered logo and navigation, one custom post type, in this case podcasts but can be whatever you need.
Sarah Leavitt: Currently an author’s website with centered header and navigation. This theme has lots of whitespace, is set up with columns and uses the new Gutenburg blocks to make pages unique.
Nestworks: Classic style with left-aligned logo and right aligned navigation. Large banner images available on any page. Team page with custom post type for staff members. Reusable blocks for call to actions. (Flourishes like the navigation bar elements and the overlapping logo are unique to the design and wouldn’t be replicated).
Each of these themes could be used as a starting point and then built out for your needs. Your design would include different colours/fonts/logos/images so these would be frameworks more than end products.
I usually start custom development work at $2000. If you’d like to reuse one of these themes as a base, I could start at $1000 and depending on the alterations you wanted we could get you online for $1500 total.
Included in the deal
- two in-person or on-line meetings (up to an hour): one at the beginning to get your materials and discuss your site needs and one at the end to hand-off the website and train you to the WordPress dashboard
- one of the custom built WordPress themes listed above with small dev alterations
- design: I can guide your design process and help you select colours/fonts (see my portfolio for examples of my style)
- 5 pages or areas: home, about, blog, contact (with form), and one more
- install of WordPress with standard plugins (security, back up, SEO)
- recommendations of hosting companies and domains if needed
- access to typekit fonts and recommendations for one body and one header font
- stock photography recommendations from unsplash if you don’t have art / photography you want to use
- small details: favicon, social media links in footer, link to mailchimp mailing list sign up if you have one
- responsive build with at least two breakpoints: phone and desktop computer
- adhering to accessibility standards built into WordPress
- quick turn around time (if your content is ready, I can have you online in a week or two)
Here’s what you need in order to get started:
- all (or the majority) of your content ready to go – this includes text and images
- availability to make decisions and go live within a few weeks of booking project
To keep this affordable and avoid scope creep, these are not included in the package:
- wireframes or design sketches (The wireframes will be based on the currently available themes)
- branding or logo design (I can give you feedback on your font and colour choices)
- a lot of back and forth (If you know you’d like a more hands-on approach, with more strategy and coaching, I’m happy to help you develop your content and style. Pricing for that starts at $2000)
Available for an extra fee:
- build on a staging site if you have a current site that’s live
- ongoing support and maintenance of website
Preference will be given to artists, people from underrepresented groups, and people working for equality and social justice. Payment plans available. Interested in getting started? Fill out my intake form and I’ll get back to you.
Krisztina not only designed and built a beautiful website (with little time or resources) she also offered critical strategic questions around audiences, tone, long-term objectives and our overall approach.
It’s rare to find someone with the combination of skills to not just create a strong product but to also help ensure the thinking that goes into it is sound, smart and aligned.
Co-producer and host, Big Bright Dark