Pre-built themes were always my “thang.” They are complementary to my utilitarian mindset and offer a quick solution. Shopify, Squarespace, and Wix have built massive companies checking that box for users.
During the early stages of Resident Haven, a pre-built was the obvious choice. A single-app license is about $30 and provides styled components to use on your own website. Usually these themes are built on top of frameworks, most notably Bootstrap.
These themes are emotionally sold as the complete package. The demo pages with dummy data look incredible and get your imagination running. The reality is more bleek, and I likely won’t use themes going forward.
I switched to Bulma.io, a free lightweight framework (alternative to Bootstrap) that offers styling to make a modern website look good [enough] for the following reasons:
- The site was was sluggish. Resident Haven will be used by people on a farm with potentially spotty cell phone reception, and I needed to make site speed a top priority. The pre-built theme had so much unused cruft that was causing slow pages and bloat. This is a solvable issue, but I didn’t take the time to do so.
- The theme looked gorgeous in the demos, but when it came to actually making my own widgets and layouts, I was working against the grain. When I wanted to create unique pages for my own usage, it required many lines of code to have it match the rest of the components.
- Ultimately, my hand was forced because of the license. I started to charge for Resident Haven ($2/mo), and the license I purchased for the theme was no longer valid. I would have had to upgrade to the $1,300 license which is unreasonable for my needs.
The switch to Bulma.io took about 4 days to complete, but the site now runs about 10x faster and adding new components to match is much easier. The only downside I foresee is the site feeling cold without a cohesive design. I call this one a win.