My Advice for Kenyan Startups: Stay Away From WordPress Ready-made Themes
Personally, I believe WordPress is far more powerful and valuable than some site operators, and developers give it credit. Sure, there’s Python, Ruby and a host of other ways to build a website but I think WordPress sits at the apex of simple to operate, convenient to design and most importantly, easy for non-techies to manage, add content and learn. Of course, WordPress has its limits, but that’s not what I’m here to rant about.
I think the easiest way to damage your chances of startup success is to build a poor-looking website using a ready-made WordPress theme coupled with a step-by-step guide. And while some would argue that a guide helps cut the time in half, a guide can’t transform you to the equivalent of a professional web designer. The guide says click this and click that, then you have a website. Except that, without an understanding of current website design trends, artistic talent and trained aesthetic taste, your website will look shady, will hurt sales, will damage your credibility and reduce your chances of getting funded.
Admittedly, I am a web designer by profession and passion, but I’m not asserting any kind of superiority over web design amateurs, just trying to give a warning against common and expensive mistakes I’ve witnessed dozens of times. Just think about it, if your web design skills are at a level where you need to follow a step-by-step guide on making your startup WordPress website, what are the chances the result will benefit your startup?
As a wise man once said, “If there were shortcuts, people smarter than you and me would have found them already. There aren’t. Sorry.”
In case my reasons against startups using ready-made WordPress themes haven’t been clear enough, here’s a bit more;
4 Ways Ready-Made WordPress Themes Hurt Your Startup
- As a startup, you have massive credibility deficiencies, quality branding and website aimed towards improving feelings of trust and reliability can make a significant impact in your conversion rates, while the opposite may make you part of the 90% of startups who fail yearly.
- Designing a website to match your brand does not merely mean making it look beautiful. For example, if your startup sells discount products, then your site should reflect that, maybe even look ‘poor’. When you decide to go the DIY way with your startup website, you sacrifice branding that reflects your company values, products, target segments etc.
- If you don’t believe branding has any measurable effect on your chances of success, consider the creative sector which employs over 30 million people and burns up to two trillion annually just drawing pretty pictures. Also, there’s a ton of evidence on how branding (including website branding) affects startup success.
- Finally, I might not have the data on how branding and website design affects funding, but judging by how gut-feeling based most Venture Capitalists are, I guess the effect is quite significant.
Unless you’re completely strapped for cash, already are comfortable with web design, or just want to learn, it’s best to outsource the whole thing. It shouldn’t cost more than KES 50,000-100,000 (and don’t think about shopping for less, you’ll get what you pay for). Just ensure the web designer you work with has a defined process to include everything from information gathering, i.e. what theme do you like, what content do you want to be removed, to training, i.e. showing you how to add blog posts, etc.).
When you decide to use WordPress ready-made themes for your startup, you’re throwing away the benefits of having a branded website that fits your company, therefore, lowering your sales conversion rate, further reducing your chances of getting funded.