We’ve been using WordPress for a number of years now and in that time we’ve gone through a couple different ways of building websites with it. We’ve learnt more about the system itself, finding new, better ways to develop and our library of default plugins has grown and shrunk over time with simpler, more functional plugins relegating older, less useful ones.
Over the last couple of years we’ve developed our own starter theme, something Stuart, Pawel and I use to begin every build with. The benefits of a starter theme are clear; they offer consistency across your builds, and in our job consistency is golden. For us this means taking care of the simple stuff quickly and accurately and focusing more time and energy on the more complicated and bespoke elements of our projects. They vastly reduce the amount of time we spend writing the same basic code over and over and also help prevent our job from becoming too repetitive.
Something that we’re discovering more with WordPress is that you get what you pay for. The CMS itself is free, as are the vast majority of plugins, but paid plugins, like Gravity Forms and the Advanced Custom Fields add ons are invaluable to the work that we do and offer our clients much more in terms of experience, usability and value for money.
So, we thought, why not apply the same theory to the starter theme that we use? That’s when we started using the Genesis Framework by StudioPress. Genesis is a fully responsive, barebones, parent theme for WordPress that goes the extra mile when it comes to covering the basics. The theme adds some useful functions to the WordPress admin and there are some helper plugins that extend it, but above all, it completely removes all of the structural layout code and lets us focus on the actual functionality of any given page or template.
When I’m coding I crave clarity, like having as few apps and files open as possible, and when you’re developing a site with Genesis, you’re working with empty files, perfect. All of the stuff that you don’t need to worry about is somewhere else, somewhere you can still get to it if you need to, but it’s out of the way, allowing you that focus and clarity that is developer nirvana.
If you are thinking of using WordPress as the platform to build your websites on then invest some time (and money) into looking at ways to give your clients more from it. It can do plenty out of the box, but with a few select plugins, and a well written, well structured starter theme you can achieve so much more in the same amount of time.