in Design & Dev & Themes

Don’t confuse the platform with the design

WordPress design at Ma.tt

If there are any questions about whether WordPress can support creative designs, a look at WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg's blog's design is proof positive the answer is yes.

I hear this all of the time: “WordPress blogs are ugly. Why would you ever use WordPress?”

There’s a big misconception here. Specifically, don’t confuse the design with the platform behind it. In most cases, including self-hosted WordPress, the design doesn’t depend on the platform. It depends on the site publisher, administrator and the designer (which for many blogs is all the same person!).

In that case, WordPress unfairly earns the distinction in some people’s minds that using it makes for ugly websites and blogs. But WordPress uses themes in which you can use a combination of CSS, PHP (and WordPress template tags), HTML and javascript to make whatever design and front-end functionality you would like.

For proof, take a look at Design Shack’s collection of creative WordPress designs (and notice Design Shack’s own neat WordPress-powered design).

Let’s look at the reasons some people might think WordPress limits your design options:

  • They might be confusing WordPress the software with blogs hosted at WordPress.com, where a free account limits the number of available themes. But self-hosted WordPress the platform does not limit your choices to a number of themes—or from creating your own WordPress themes.
  • WordPress themes, especially free ones, often lack background images or advanced typography. This is because they’re released for a wide audience. If the title of the blog, for example, requires the theme user to create their own logo and upload it, then the theme will be less accessible to loads of people who won’t be able or don’t want to accomplish that task. Add in a nice jazzy font in that custom title image and then suddenly you run into people who don’t have the font necessary to keep the original look of the title.The same holds true for people who want to change the theme’s color scheme. Instead of just changing hex values in a stylesheet or a theme options page, changing the colors of various background images is a lot more restrictive, especially without the PSD the theme was made from.
  • WordPress has a low learning curve, which is great. But it also means anyone can get going with their own blog and website. What the site publisher thinks looks good determines the look of the website. So if the user thinks Comic Sans, multicolored paragraph text and kittens make for a great design, then that’s what WordPress will be powering.
  • Finally, you get what you pay for. Website owners who pay for premium themes or custom WordPress designs will most likely have a great looking site at a relatively modest price.

If your platform will limit your design options, especially to a set of untouchable templates, then it’s a good idea to just not go there.

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