WordPress needs very little introduction as a blogging and CMS platform. It is the most popular CMS on the internet. This is fact. However, a common complaint is that WordPress uses templates to create websites. There is an opinion that these templates are recycled from site to site and that all WordPress sites are made from pieces of others, a Shelley-esque monster of web pages stitched together that barely operates as a cohesive whole.
But does WordPress actually use templates? And are templates bad? That’s what I’d like to answer.
Get to the Point: Are they templates or not?
Good question. Unfortunately I’m going to give you a frustrating answer, which means you have to keep reading. That answer is yes…and no.
Think of WordPress as an engine. It does a bunch of the work behind the scenes. The site we see and interact with is called a theme. Themes are not just skins that make a WP site look pretty, they also contain customized code that add new features to a barebones site. These features could be an e-commerce section, a page that shows the feed from your Instagram or Twitter account, a contact form, and a whole lot more.
Themes are made of up of different files, some of which are called templates. There are different templates for your Homepage, About page, Contact page, News Page, and so on. They are used to create the structure of each webpage. If we have two pages on a site that are very similar in look and layout, like pages for Wedding Photography and Portrait Photography, they can use the same template file to maintain a consistent visual look but the content will be very different.
So what are templates good for?
If you were visiting a website that suddenly changed its look, feel, and how you navigated it, would that give you pause? Would you start asking questions about why the site changed so drastically?
Templates are used within WordPress to maintain a strong consistency from page to page on a website. The size and layout of the text, photos, links, and other content are all determined by how we develop our templates. They are meant to be used as tools within the development of a website. When we start a new website project we make new templates customized to the needs of that project. Another huge advantage is that templates allow us to quickly build similar looking pages on a site. This cuts down development time and therefore cost.
So where did the idea of templated sites come from?
If you’re looking for something more complicated like a map that shows your business locations, e-commerce solutions, social media accessibility, a portfolio section that perfectly handles your content, or a plethora of other less common features, a pre-made theme just won’t cut it.
A template and a pre-made WordPress theme are not the same thing. Pre-made WordPress themes are built with certain customers in mind and don’t offer the flexibility or a robust set of features that custom developed WordPress themes can.
Templates are used within a web project to create the structure of pages for a WordPress site. Multiple pages on a site that use a similar layout and look can use a single template. This helps create visual consistency across a website and cuts down time and costs.
So to answer the main question, no, templates are not necessarily bad. But before you go buying a pre-made WordPress theme, make sure you’re prepared to take on the restrictions and limitations that come with it.