Getting a new WordPress theme is exciting, whether you’re updating your existing site or launching a new website. The creative possibilities are as endless as the number of themes available.
You could spend weeks previewing themes on sites like ThemeForest and TemplateMonster to narrow down your options until you find the perfect design. However, previewing themes won’t tell you everything you need to know.
When you preview a WordPress theme, you’re really just looking at a demo installation from the front-end. Without admin access, you won’t know if critical native WordPress features have been omitted. If you buy a theme with certain native features omitted, you might not be able to design your site properly.
- Why would a WordPress theme developer omit native features?
- Feature #1: Widgets/sidebars
- Feature #2: Main menus
- Feature #3: Native comments
- Can’t find the perfect WordPress theme? We’ll build you a custom site
Why would a WordPress theme developer omit native features?
WordPress web designers and developers create custom themes with custom features. Some developers eliminate native WordPress features in order to simplify their themes or offer their own similar features.
For example, WordPress automatically creates a variety of thumbnails when an image is uploaded through the media interface. A theme developer might omit the native media interface and replace it with their own media management system.
When a theme developer replaces a native feature, you won’t lose the feature. You’ll just need to learn how to use a different system. However, some developers omit features completely.
Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to know if any native features have been omitted before buying and installing a theme.
Sure, you can contact the developer before making your purchase, but most people wouldn’t think about that. Asking a developer if they’ve removed any native features is like reading the ingredients on a bottle of ketchup to make sure it contains tomatoes.
Before buying a WordPress theme, make sure the developer hasn’t excluded the following features:
When you’ve been using WordPress for a while, you wouldn’t think twice about heading over to Appearance > Widgets to customize your sidebar content. WordPress widgets are the standard way to create and customize sidebars. Unfortunately, some developers omit the function that calls the sidebar in each page template.
Some theme developers create their own sidebar content management system within their theme. If this is the case, you’ll have to use the developer’s sidebar system. Other developers create simple theme designs that don’t use sidebars at all.
If you preview a theme and you don’t see any demo pages with a sidebar, you might be looking at a theme without sidebars enabled.
The following code is what allows you to add and edit sidebar content through widgets:
<?php get_sidebar('sidebar-name’); ?>
If the get_sidebar function doesn’t exist in your theme’s template files, you might think you can just insert the function. Depending on how complicated the theme is, you might not be able to just insert the code.
Dropping in the code to enable sidebars requires placing that code inside of HTML specifically designed to accommodate the sidebar. If you just insert the code and assign widgets to your sidebar, your content and design will be disrupted.
If your theme only has full-width page templates, you’ll have to create a new page template that accommodates the sidebar set to a specific width. This will require HTML, CSS, and PHP knowledge.
You might not need a sidebar today, but what if you decide to redesign your site in a year and you want a sidebar? If your current theme doesn’t allow for sidebars, you’ll need to customize your existing theme or buy a new one.
If you absolutely love your WordPress theme that doesn’t use sidebars, we can help you customize your theme to include sidebars.
When you head over to Appearance > Menus, regardless of your theme, you expect to see the “Edit Menus” and “Manage Locations” options. This is the area where you can select what pages, posts, and categories you want to add to your menu.
It’s not uncommon for WordPress theme developers to remove your ability to edit your menu items in this section and instead, require that you use their custom menu interface.
There’s nothing wrong with using a theme developer’s custom menu interface, provided it’s easy to use. It becomes an issue when your website is simple and you don’t need anything fancy.
Most of the time, when theme developers create their own menu systems, it’s designed to accommodate a mega menu with a variety of options. For example, drop-down menus that display thumbnails, videos, and other fancy features.
There are a variety of mega menu plugins for WordPress, including Hero Menu, WP Mega Menu, Superfly, and Uber Menu. There’s really no reason for a theme developer to require end users to use a built-in mega menu.
End users should always have the option to use the native menu system. When you don’t need a complex mega menu, a built-in mega menu system can be cumbersome.
Did you buy a WordPress theme that forces you to use a complicated menu system? If you want to go back to the native menu system, reach out to us and we’ll make it easy to manage your menus once again.
It is also important to keep in mind that WordPress plugins can pose a website security liability and risk if they are not monitored and appropriately updated.
Feature #3: Native comments
WordPress has a built-in commenting system that makes it easy to manage your comments. For example, you have the following options under Settings > Discussion:
- Comment author must fill out name and email
- Users must be registered and logged in to comment
- Automatically close comments on posts older than (X) days
- Show comments cookies opt-in checkbox, allowing comment author cookies to be set
- Enable threaded (nested) comments (X) levels deep
- Break comments into pages with (X) top level comments per page and the (last/first) page displayed by default
- Comments should be displayed with the (older/newer) comments at the top of each page
You can also choose to be emailed whenever someone posts a comment or when a comment is held for moderation. Comments can be manually approved or you can allow comments from authors who have had at least one previously approved comment.
WordPress comments can be held for moderation when they contain a specified number of links, and comments can be held for moderation or moved directly to the trash when they contain certain words, URLs, emails, or are posted from specified IP addresses.
Why do theme developers omit WordPress native comments?
Spam is the main reason theme developers eliminate WordPress native comments from their themes. Webmasters need to install several plugins (like Askismet) just to combat the spam. However, some theme developers create their own commenting system because they want people to have a better experience.
Many theme developers will leave WordPress comments alone, but will include the Disqus plugin with their theme. Other developers will encourage end users to incorporate Facebook comments into their theme.
While it’s ideal for theme developers to allow users to choose their commenting system, it’s understandable why they’d omit the native commenting platform. Spam is annoying. However, it’s frustrating having to learn a new system.
If you’ve purchased a WordPress theme that omits the native commenting system, contact us and we’ll help you get the commenting system you prefer.
Can’t find the perfect WordPress theme? We’ll build you a custom site
Have you been looking through template sites trying to find the perfect design? Don’t risk buying the wrong theme – contact us today and tell us about your needs. Do you need a website for your business? A personal project? A non-profit organization?
Whatever you need, we can build you a custom WordPress design that perfectly represents your project. Our custom WordPress themes make it easy to edit your content on the backend with all the familiar, native WordPress features you know and love.
Contact us today for a free quote!
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