I would be happy to build a website from scratch for you. Completely custom hand coded. However, that would cost about $5,000. Instead, my preference would be for you to find a theme that closely fits your needs, and then you can pay me a few hundred dollars (or less) to customize it. On this page, I explain more about the benefit of using themes to provide the general starting point for the look and layout of a website. Examples are also provided.
Benefits of Themes
Whether programming software or designing a website, many hours of development can be saved by using pre-built customizable modules, widgets, and components that are fairly standard. For example, when building a home, most likely you’d purchase a dish washer and install it rather than trying to build one from scratch. So, with website design, a huge step forward in efficiency is gained by utilizing web development platforms and customizable themes.
While the thought of using generic cookie-cutter themes is a turnoff for many people, in reality they are highly customizable and simply serve as a framework and structure to begin with. In the early days of word processing, the typist would type formatting codes to center words. Later, visual editing proved to be much more desirable. The same is true with website design.
These are the WordPress platforms and theme collections I primarily utilize. There are over 400 customizable themes to choose from. Because I’ve already purchased unlimited use of all these themes, there’s no additional cost to you. I refer to these themes as Premium themes because they typically come with expanded support from a team of developers.
Highly customizable responsive themes with flexible page layout:
- ElegantThemes.com Themes – About 85 themes with advanced customization capabilities. Here’s an example of the Divi theme UICHR.org and ResourcesForLife.com.
- OrganicThemes.com – About 24 themes for a variety of applications.
- SiteOrigin.com – About a dozen nicely designed themes. Here’s an example of the Vantage theme ICLearningFoundation.org.
Attractive themes with many features:
- CyberChimps.com Themes – About 7 themes with drag-and-drop capability.
- InkThemes.com Themes – About 33 themes customized for different industries. A drawback is that some of these themes have fuzzy font rendering and will also stretch/distort images.
- NewWPThemes.com – About 760 themes with a very professional appearance and responsive designs.
- Pagelines.com – A highly evolved drag-and-drop framework and website development platform built on WordPress.
- StudioPress.com – About 38 themes with a powerful framework of additional features and functionality.
- ThemeTrust.com – About 21 high quality themes with mostly responsive designs.
- Themify.me Themes – About 38 themes with a sophisticated drag-and-drop interface to place content on pages.
- TheThemeFoundary.com Themes – About 12 themes for specific uses.
- WooThemes.com Themes – About 77 themes with advanced customization options.
- WordPress.com Themes – About 221 themes with advanced customization options.
- WordPress.org Themes by WordPress/Automattic – About 30 themes designed by the WordPress team will show up when performing a search within your website. These are preferable because they are designed by WordPress. There are over 1900 other themes on WordPress.org.
If nothing from the above list fits your needs, here are some additional theme sources that are worth considering.
- TemplateMonster.com – Over 1,900 themes searchable by design type.
- ThemeForest.net – Over 13,000 themes searchable by design type.
Industry Specific Site Providers
There are many providers of industry specific websites. These sites go beyond industry focused templates. These are highly optimized and very powerful websites that are specifically tailored to meet the needs of your organization or business. The ongoing monthly cost of hosting is typically higher than self hosting, but the site will typically be more reliable and have more features. Here are some examples:
- Acupuncture Websites – A variety of features including patient scheduling and regular content updates to the site.
- Church Websites – Includes the ability to have live streaming video of services, audio archive of sermons, online calendar, event registration, staff portal, membership portal, donations processing, etc. Examples includeBismarck-Mandan UU and All Souls New London UU.
- Municipal Websites – Cities and municipalities have a variety of unique needs to incorporate political and administrative functions as well as citizen engagement. Features like a calendar, news alerts, online bill payments, andcommunity feedback are needed.
- Musician and Band Websites – With an emphasis on uploading and sharing audio, musician website are optimized to connect with fans, promote gigs, and sell your music.
- Photography Websites – Photographers have the need to display photography online while maintaining copyright protection. Depending on the type of photography, selling prints and products with photography images should be included in the site.
- Real Estate Websites – These sites have the integrated ability to search available properties and have customer leads and inquires sent directly to the agent.
Even when using one of the above turnkey solutions, it may still be necessary to have additional personalized support and training with aspects of the site design. For example, specific site customization, photography, and graphic design are probably not included.
There are many hosting companies offering WordPress hosting. Here are a few of the better ones.
- WordPress.com – See WordPress.com themes under the Premium Themes listing above for samples of the designs available with WordPress.com hosting.
Non-WordPress Themes and Hosting Services
If you’re looking for a website that’s a bit more flashy, here are some options for design and hosting.
- CloverSites.com – About 36 themes with complete website solutions for $20 per month and a $1000 one-time setup fee.
Glossary of Website Terms
These are some of the components that a website is built upon and terms relating to site design.
- HTML and PHP Pages. A hosting company stores your website pages on their servers. This is the foundation of any website. For many websites, the actual content is spread across two systems. The static aspects of your site such as headers, footers, backgrounds, etc. are in one system. The dynamic content of the site is called up from a database.
- Database. Websites that are designed using Content Management Systems like WordPress, Drupal, or Joomla will store dynamic content in a database such as MySQL. When a website is searched, rather than searching existing pages stored on a hard drive somewhere, the search query is actually being run on a database that reports back with the results and content.
- Content Management System (CMS). The pages and database of a website are the basis of a Content Management System that allows you to click a button to create a new page or post. This is the system that makes it possible to use Themes and easily change from one to another to change your site appearance while retaining your content.
- Customization. Advanced themes allow for customization within the theme settings control panel. This means you can change the colors and much of the page layout to make the theme unique to serve your needs. If the theme doesn’t provide a control panel for adjustments, then it’s necessary to modify the HTML code or CSS style definitions of the site. Those changes may make future theme upgrades/updates a problem.
- Templates. In general, the term template refers to a static design that gets installed. Once you begin working with a template, it’s hard to switch to another.
- Themes. With themes, your website content is retained while the appearance of the site can change. The content is fluid and fits into the page design. This is similar to a PowerPoint presentation that can be changed in appearance while the basic presentation information remains the same.
- Widgets. Companies develop widgets for easily sharing interactive and dynamic content. For example, Facebook has developed a widget that will show page likes and faces in a box. YouTube offers a widget-like player so you can embed videos on a website.
- Platforms and Frameworks. A platform or framework can be used on top of or along with a CMS. For example, the Themify Builder system makes it possible to use a drag-and-drop interface with WordPress, taking site design to an entirely new level.
- Industry-Specific Hosting and Themes. Companies like Wix.com attempt to provide an easy to use drag-and-drop site development experience for musicians, artists, realtors, and others wanting an elegant and creative site. There are other companies that specialize in industry-specific website packages, such as automated photography website packages or acupuncture clinic websites. Themes and hosting are all included in one package.