How I approach building websites on WordPress and why I think you should build sites the same way

I’ve been working with WordPress sites for the last 8 years (since 2014). In that time, I’ve been lucky enough to see so many different approaches to putting one together, and have learnt what works and what doesn’t. I think the approaches to building those sites can be put into 4 different categories:

  1. DIY job – often using a free or off-the-shelf paid theme that comes with a page builder like Divi or Visual Composer and has a tonne of plugins installed to get the job done
  2. Cheap site – similar site setup to the DIY job but paid someone else to do it instead of DIY
  3. Run of the mill agency site – these sites tend to be a little neater (in terms of the plugins and page builder used), use a more reputable off-the-shelf theme customised to look a little more custom, with a group of tried and tested plugins
  4. The custom site – a custom designed site with a theme coded from scratch with some off the shelf plugins but primarily custom built, bespoke plugins

My approach to building WordPress sites

Before we get to the heavy details of how I develop WordPress sites, it’s important to clarify a few details. The websites I develop are almost strictly custom designed. There’s certainly a place for off-the-shelf themes and template based sites, but that’s not something I’m interested in doing. I think websites are a very important part of a brand and it needs to be cohesive with the overall look and feel, which is difficult to achieve with a pre-designed/off-the-shelf theme. Custom designing a website means starting with a blank Adobe XD document and existing brand assets supplied by a client. I then take them through the whole sitemap, wireframe, concept, design, development, launch and maintenance process to create a website that matches their brand and does exactly what they need it to do for them. I’ll get into those details on another post in the future.

I develop blocks for the Gutenberg editor with Advanced Custom Fields

I’ve worked on a lot of sites that use page builders like Visual Composer, Divi and Elementor. Those page builders do the job in terms of making a website’s content easy for someone to maintain and update, but they have often been the culprit when a WordPress sites’s backend page editing has been broken or slow to load. Page builders are full of JavaScript and code that is designed to be one size fits all, and allow for as much editing flexibility as possible. While the flexibility is great for someone creating a DIY site with no coding ability, it’s unnecessary when building a custom designed website.

I always build on a child theme with a reliable parent theme (like GeneratePress)

I use as few plugins as possible to get the job done

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