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My Problem With WordPress Theme Demonstrations

A WordPress theme demonstration can be useful in a number of ways. You can view the source to: see how a developer is storing an image file, copy some html that you will put into a widget area to get the look you’re trying to go for, or simply viewing the theme and how it’s laid out. It’s not a bad idea to have a demonstration of a WordPress theme up, it’s just that there is more than 30% of information lacking. I’ll explain this later.

For now, let’s focus on a different topic that any “entrepreneur” might overlook or simply not even consider. When I personally build a website for a client, I have a huge checklist of items to go over. That’s even before I begin to spin up a locally hosted WordPress install. I do this for one simple reason. I learned from an early age, that if you’re going to fight a war, you might become trapped. If you’re trapped, how can you go back and get the tool you might need to become un-trapped? You can’t. So before you go into the war, you need to know and bring, all of the tools that you may need. That’s why the Swiss Army Knife was invented, if you think about it. So when you’re building a website, you need to know all of the tools that you’re going to need to build your website.

The building process actually begins before that. In my huge checklist, I have a section that’s called “What are you trying to do online”? This section is for the client to list their main focus of their website. With a little coaching, I’m able to get my clients to state their website objective. This would be something like: Selling shoes online, displaying the services that your company offers and simply having a place to blog.

From there, I start building their website on paper. That’s right, I write it down on paper. Here’s my WordCamp Reno/Tahoe talk on how I specifically go about the building process before I even install WordPress.

Stephen King said once in an interview that he writes two or three chapters of a book. Then he puts it away for two or three weeks, then he’ll start writing again. He does this because over a two week period you see so much going on in your life. If you sit down and write the entire book in a one-week cram session, the story will come out dull, and with most of the exciting parts sounding the same. I bring this up because this happens with websites all the time.

A client will come to me with three examples of websites that are similar to what they are trying to accomplish. Then after we build the website, say three weeks down the road, they come back and want changes made because they saw three new websites that do something else.

Recent shows and blog posts about this topic.

#1. Episode #175 of the WPWatercooler aired on 2/15/2016. We talked about “HOW TO PICK A NON-CUSTOM PREMIUM WORDPRESS THEME”

#2. I previously wrote an article about WordPress Themes being super specific. You can read it in full over here.

So what does this have to do with theme demonstrations?

I’m glad you asked. Theme demonstrations usually just show you the surface of the theme. They show you the final product. They do not however, show you how the theme works. You have no idea if the homepage is configured by using widgets, or dropping a ton of HTML into the post editor or if there is a crazy admin option’s panel to simply enter in your settings.

To me, personally, that’s some important information. Before I buy a theme from a third party source, I tend to read the theme description. This is a section on the 3rd party source that should tell you some cool features about the theme. Such as: This theme has a wicked crazy admin panel to build the home page, this theme has a front end editing process that can be very helpful and this theme has multiple widget areas for certain pages.

Even then, the theme developer does not tell you how the pages are built or if there will be additional plugins to purchase in order to look exactly like the demo. Yes, WooThemes does this from time to time. You’ll see a demo of theirs that has this awesome shipping feature. You buy the theme only to find out that you need to buy the awesome shipping plugin to provide that function in the theme. Which means that the theme is built to handle the functionality, but it’s not equipped with the necessary resources to accomplish the task.

A lot of themes do this on Themeforest as well. They show you this great demo. Tell you to buy it. Once you unzip the file and read the documentation, you find out you need to buy a plugin from codecanyon or requires you to have a subscription to another website in order to get the functionality you so which desire.

So how do we solve this problem I’ve addressed?

Again, I’m glad you asked.

I’m purposing that we start having some kind of theme transparency. Something like a photo gallery showing an example of how the home page is created, or the widgets currently being used on the theme demonstration. This way, when someone does consider buying the theme, a person can make an educated guess that the theme is either for them or not for them. Wouldn’t it be awesome to know that the theme you are about to purchase requires the purchaser to know some kind of HTML knowledge, or have a really good idea of how to install plugins and configure them?

I do. I think it should be clear as day. The WordPress meetup group that I speak at in Las Vegas is a great example of my point. In the group, there is a specific phrase that most attendee’s use. “WordPress was built to give a blog owner an easy to use way to build a website without knowledge of HTML and PHP”. Well, that’s not true. I say that because most of the theme’s that I’ve bought, require you to know how to read and edit HTML. A huge piece of HTML code is used to configure the home page. If you want to change some words, you need to know where to look. Even then, if you end up deleting one of the brackets for an HTML element ( < or > ), the page could end up rendering in a totally different look that does not match the demo.

Now, what do you do? You have to know HTML to realize that you did, in fact, delete a < or >. Again, proving my point of why we need some kind of theme transparency to demonstrate to a purchaser, that the theme demonstration does require knowledge of some kind of coding technique.

No, go read Chris Lema’s blog post about Finding The Best WordPress Theme For Your Business. Why? because it’s a great article that explains that all demo’s look great, but judging a book by the cover is not the best way to represent your business online.

READ PART TWO: WordPress Theme Deomnstrations are Lacking

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