(Image: Alan Chia)

Let’s Break Down WordPress/CMS to the Essential Parts

On a weekly basis we screen calls from clients who want a WordPress site or a Content Managed System. In every case, we step back to square one to determine if the terms being thrown around are REALLY what the client wants. So, let’s do a basic breakdown to make sure we’re all on the same page.

A CMS (Content Managed System / Content Management System), is merely a website that is easier for a client to update themselves through some sort of User Interface (UI). In the case of WordPress, the UI is online through a browser. WordPress is a form of CMS. Not all CMS are WordPress!

The Framework

You can start building a site on WordPress for free, but for a more customized solution many designers start off with a “framework.” A framework is just a more efficient way of building out a website by using some prebuilt coding and themes. This is the design equivalent of not reinventing the wheel. While most designers can build a site from scratch, basic functionality doesn’t change from site to site.

When you ask a designer to build a site “from scratch” be clear that you may be asking them to use your budget to build a foundation rather then using your budget to customize the look and feel of your site. Both results are the same, but “from scratch” will take more time, and therefore, more money.

Theme versus Framework

A theme is built using a framework. If the framework is a lego, then the theme is merely the groups of LEGOs put together to create a visual aesthetic. You can change the style, without modifying the underlying framework.

There are many different frameworks to choose from, and which one you choose is really a matter of preference. Some companies create “cleaner,” better documented code, with more responsive support forums then other companies. It’s important, if you choose a framework, to make sure that the framework is updated regularly to keep up with changing technology.

Buying a Theme is like Buying a Box of LEGOs…wth??

Ok, so bear with us for a moment. You want a website, so the first thing you do is go online and find a theme you really like. It’s pretty, it looks nice, everything fits just right, etc. (We’ll get into picking out themes in another article….) Needless to say, you’re super hyped. This is going to be your new website. you’ll be online in 10 minutes, maybe less… but… it’s not going to happen that way. Sorry.

The LEGO Analogy

(Please don’t sue us LEGO® …We love you!!!)

You’re cruising through the store, and you find the most amazing LEGO set ever! It’s huge, and shiny, and the picture on the box shows you the Millennium Falcon. (“She’s got it where it counts.”) You buy the box and when you get it home and rip open the lid. After all, this is what you’ve wanted. But, when you open the box, you don’t HAVE the Millennium Falcon, you have the POTENTIAL for the Millennium Falcon.

This is a point that bears repeating. The picture on the box shows you what you CAN make (along with a bazillion other things) with the pieces you have purchased. But, what you DON’T have when you get home, is a fully functioning Millennium Falcon.

When You Buy a Theme You Are Buying PARTS.

Just like the Millennium Falcon (we love saying it, we can’t stop!), having the parts for a great website still means you are going to put in a lot of time and effort to put the parts together to make a whole. If you are prepared to dive deep into the rabbit hole, (and you have more time then money), a pre-made website template might be the best option for your situation.

Where Design Comes In

As designers, both for print and web, our job is to look at the bigger picture. We may, in some cases, start off with a framework that has most of the components you need for your business. That’s when knowledge and know-how come into play. By adding features, and customizing a theme, you are able to get a website that meets your specific needs without the cost of a “built from scratch” website.

WordPress has the added advantage of having over 19,000 plug-ins (both free and low-cost) that can be integrated into your site. Plug-ins that would cost some serious bank if you were to have them built out exclusively for you…

Designers can then use your budget to fully customize your website to match your existing branding and marketing, to integrate into your social media, and to help gather information for lead generation. The same site that would have cost $10,000 just 5 years ago can be set up for half of that cost today using some smart planning and a solid framework.