An off-the-rack theme is just what it sounds like — it is a theme purchased “off the rack.”
Not a physical rack, of course, but a digital one. When you use a website-building platform like WordPress or similar, you have the option to use one of many different kinds of themes, all of which have been pre-programmed for your convenience.
So, why do so many people use these off-the-rack themes? And why should you think twice about implementing one for your website?
Why are they so popular?
Off-the-rack themes are popular for several reasons.
They are convenient — You don’t need to spend time designing your site because you can simply select a theme and begin without delay.
They are user-friendly — It can be difficult to design a theme for yourself. If you do not have the expertise, you may decide to just select a pre-existing one off the rack.
They are functionality-rich — Design is tricky, but so is mapping the functionality of your website. Off-the-rack themes come in various different iterations, and you are likely to find one that supports most of the functionality you need.
All of these factors come together to make off-the-rack themes an attractive choice. But, tread carefully, because using these themes means making big compromises.
These are the kinds of compromises you will need to make if you opt for an off-the-rack theme:
Design and functionality are dictated to you — Yes, you will be able to customise your theme, but only to some extent. Much of the design and functionality of the website will be dictated by the theme — not exactly a great environment for innovation.
You will lose your brand identity — The trouble with off-the-rack themes is that they are available to everyone. You may find another brand out there with the same theme as you, which can lead to confusion, as well as erode your unique identity.
Scaling might be difficult — Your theme might support your business as it currently is, but what about when you grow and require new functionality? This might become difficult with an off-the-rack theme, and you might end up needing a complete overhaul, brand and all!
Website speed — You might find that your website is slowed down by all the different features that are packed in, some of which you may not even use.
Lack of compatibility with your content — Just because the theme looks great on the rack doesn’t mean it’s going to look right with your content. Once you have added your content and images, the once-pristine theme may now look distorted and unbalanced.
Don’t be swayed by the convenience.
It’s worth investing in a theme of your own and keeping that brand identity strong while enjoying all of the functionality you need.