Ben is a lifelong Nintendo fan who likes to build websites, and make video games. He buys way too much Lego.
I’ve mentioned it before but I run a WordPress themes site called Pro Theme Design. On it, I sell premium WordPress themes – but I don’t use WordPress to power the site.
This probably seems like a strange thing to do since WordPress is incredibly powerful and many people successfully run online stores with it. But I don’t like to do what many people do because they do it. So I took a step back.
In October 2014 when Darren and I rebooted Pro Theme Design we changed the homepage to a single page website that linked to our themes on wordpress.com. I had decided it was best to focus on wordpress.com – so I wanted to make the website as easy to manage as possible. You couldn’t even buy the themes for self hosted sites. So the site became a static html page.
This was really refreshing – it felt good to be doing something different and not be tied to thinking in the ‘WordPress way’. So when I decided to start selling self hosted themes again, I decided to stick to using a static site.
Pro Theme Design is now powered by a PHP microframework called FlightPHP. There’s no database, all the data is in text files stored as arrays. There’s no dynamic features (ie forms/ processing type stuff). The contact forms, analytics etc are all powered by third party services. So why did I do this?
A learning exercise
As I mentioned above – I feel spending too much time in the WordPress bubble can be bad. I’m not going to grow as a developer if I don’t try new things. By working with a PHP Framework that I haven’t used before, by ditching databases, by integrating with third party services, I can learn.
It’s fun to do things that are different. Working on the same things day in day out can be boring. Doing something even a little bit different is good for the mind.
It’s more resilient
By not relying on WordPress and third party plugins there’s less for me to have to worry about. Server requirements are lower, and the site is nice and fast (which is good for both users and SEO). So it’s less likely to break. Now of course I have to consider that I am using third party services but I am careful to chose ones that I think are good quality and will be as stable as I can hope for. Plus I try to have fallbacks or easy methods for disabling things in case of problems.
Obviously I could do this with WordPress as well, but since the entire site is PHP files, I thought it would be interesting to open it up. The code for the entire site is on Github. It’s open for others to learn from, or to create pull requests or issues. I’d love it if someone else helped to improve my website (although I can’t imagine it actually happening :)).
It’s quicker to develop
Believe it or not – I actually find it quicker to work with than WordPress. I know the site is set up in a strange way that only I understand, but it works well for me, and I quite enjoy just writing some html to add an article, or tweak some php to change the routes.
I think a combination of speed, and learning, and change of pace make for good reasons to do something different. I think it’s good not to get too locked in to certain ways of doing things since it can make me shortsighted – not open minded.
If you’re interested in seeing more about how I have built the site, then you can see a list of the technologies used to build Pro Theme Design, the site code on Github, and the site pattern library.