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Extending WordPress: Benefits of Custom Themes

WordPress has been around for a while and has rightfully earned its place as a preferred content management system for thousands of websites. In the past, when we thought of WordPress, we’d picture a typical blog site that would contain one or more of the following: a half-hearted attempt at a clever title at the top, posts (rants) running down the middle, and the dreaded “blogroll” to the right.

Nowadays, we understand that WordPress is more than just a blog posting tool and can be used to create and administer a variety of websites, from small business sites to daily news sites. But although our respect for the usefulness of WordPress has grown, the general understanding of its capabilities and customization possibilities is still lacking.

Themes: Off-the-shelf and Custom

If you’ve ever looked into creating your own WordPress site, you would know that there are thousands of off-the-shelf themes available. Each theme has its own level of customization. Some allow you to change colors, while others let you switch the layout of individual pages. It all depends on what the theme creator has decided to lock down or allow the user to manipulate. And if you are trying to build your own website on a pre-made theme, it can be frustrating not being able to change certain aspects of it.

But with a custom theme, the web developer you hire can take a design created from your input and craft a WordPress theme around it, giving you access to the parts you need control over through the easy-to-use dashboard.

But what does a custom theme entail? What does it offer that a pre-made theme might not?

The Benefits of a Custom Theme

Custom Scripting

WordPress is built using a variety of different programming and mark-up languages, such as HTML, CSS, Javascript and PHP, which also happen to be some of the most widely used languages in web programming today. In addition, WordPress is entirely open source, which means that we can look at the code and modify it however we see fit. If it doesn’t do something we want it to do out of the box, we can use custom scripting to add that functionality.

For example, say we want to display testimonials on the front page of our website and have them be randomly pulled from a list. Using a combination of proprietary WordPress functions and some custom PHP scripting, we can write code that will both pull and display our testimonial quotes from the database. This is just a simple example—there are much more complex features that can be implemented this way.

Database Integration

Databases are the backbone of modern websites. They contain and organize all of the data that is eventually displayed to the end user. MySQL is one of the more popular database management systems and is the one that WordPress is built on. This, along with the availability of specially created functions, allows WordPress to interact with any MySQL database.

If you have a database that was created specifically for your business processes, such as to manage inventory or customer relationships, your WordPress website can directly use this information. Likewise, the reverse is possible: you can create a custom database independent of the stock WordPress one and still have your custom theme and templates interact with it as needed. Whether you have a leftover database from a pre-WordPress era or you need something highly custom to suit your company, WordPress can handle it.

Third Party Integration

There are many wonderful online products that can help you run your business better. Wouldn’t it be great if these services could also be used with your website? Well, with WordPress, they can! WordPress is capable of integrating and utilizing data from a plethora of different third-party tools.

Perhaps, you run a mailing list for your website to keep your customers up to date on new, special offers? If you are using one of the more popular subscription management software options, like Mailchimp or Constant Contact, they can be implemented into a WordPress theme in many different ways. You can set up a custom form that users can fill out to subscribe, grant subscribers exclusive access to certain parts of your website, or even manage your existing list—all from your website. This is just one of the many third party integration options you have available through WordPress customization.

Endless Possibilities

With WordPress and a talented team of programmers (like the folks here at Advantage Internet Marketing), nearly anything is possible when it comes to website design and development. Whether you want to use your company’s database or integrate the powerful lead management system you’ve been paying oodles of money for, WordPress customization can handle it. If you need any custom programming or want to unlock the full potential of WordPress, give us a call today or contact us online.

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