The diversity in WordPress builds: generic or custom?

Building a WordPress website can be done in many ways. You can use generic themes like Divi or Astra (combined with Elementor). Let’s not forget pagebuilders like WP Bakery and SiteOrigin, either. Among many other builders. With the generic way, it may seem like not a line of code is written. But behind the scenes, an abundance of code is actually loaded. This happens because the setup of these themes and plugins is generally generic. There are many blocks and widgets available, but most of the time you don’t use all of them. Still, it often turns out that specific additional blocks or functionalities are needed in addition to the default options. In those cases, additional plugins are used. The more complex the website, the more plugins are needed. Especially when it comes to things like a Web shop (WooCommerce) or a Learning Management System (LMS).

  • Too much code that leaves you with little overview and control;
  • A slow website for a visitor, administrator or search engine;
  • Lower score in PageSpeed due to too much CSS, Javascript and/or HTML;
  • A lower ranking in Google (or other search engines);
  • Use of images that are too large than necessary;
  • Unwanted layout changes during updates;
  • Functionalities that break on updates;
  • PHP compatibility problems due to interdependencies and thus update problems;
  • Problems in customizing existing and/or new functionalities;
  • Major WCAG challenges because the code and build comes from many different sources.
  • An administrator often needs help because there are too many options available.

The challenges of generic solutions

So updating and maintaining such a website is more complex. Anything can go wrong when updating a theme or plugin. Finding the problem or layout change can become a time-consuming and complicated task. Is it the fault of a plugin, the theme or custom code? Or all How can you avoid these situations? By using a custom theme of course ;-)!

Why customization is a future-proof solution 🥳

You may be thinking: here’s another developer who says that customization is always the ultimate solution. True, I agree! A custom website is almost always the safest, most stable, fastest and best choice. Especially if the website contains complex functionalities or if there are customization requirements.

The power of a custom theme

Instead of making modifications to a generic builder, build a builder that meets your exact needs and requirements. This begs the question: how can you use a custom theme to create an excellent WordPress website? The answer is simple: use Gutenberg, WordPress’ core site builder. Just the fact that Gutenberg is the default builder saves you a lot of code. A few benefits in advance:

  • Minimal code and therefore more control and overview;
  • A faster website for the visitor, administrator and search engines;
  • Higher PageSpeed scores due to less CSS, javascript and HTML;
  • A higher ranking in Google (or other search engines);
  • Smaller images because the output can be precisely matched;
  • More stable layout because the core of your website does not change with an update;
  • More stable functionality because you are less dependent on plugins;
  • Updates are easier to implement because there are fewer dependencies and/or layers in code;
  • Easier to further develop or modify existing elements;
  • Easier to build WCAG- proof because you have more control over the output;
  • A happy administrator because the person sees only the fields that are needed.

Gutenberg: the key to efficient customization solutions

For a developer, it’s all about building blocks. It’s about creating repeatable packages with PHP/HTML/CSS/JS. But that doesn’t mean you have to develop a new block for every difference. By making smart choices, you can use blocks in different ways. With Gutenberg, you work step by step to create your own library of blocks. Completely in your own style.

The secret of building blocks with Gutenberg

Want to know how to build custom blocks for Gutenberg? At WordCamp 2023, I gave a talk about this. You can find the presentation – set up with Gutenberg, of course – below. With concrete examples. Sorry, the presentation is only available in dutch (for now).


View the presentation


Also getting started with Gutenberg?

Do you have plans for a new site or want to get a design worked out? Feel free to contact me if I can help you. Also if I can coach you in learning how to develop with Gutenberg.