When trying to manage many WordPress sites on a daily basis I find that it can be highly advantageous to use as few WordPress themes as possible among them all. The more different WordPress themes that I employ onto my sites, the more unique management issues I introduce to my environment. For that reason alone, I’ve learned to try to use as few different WordPress themes as possible spread among my 40+ WordPress sites.
By using one theme across the majority of my sites, I’m generally able to work much more efficiently with all of them. I lean towards the Canvas theme from Woothemes for most sites under my ownership at this time. Here’s why.
The Theme Familiarity Advantage
It really helps me to get a new website up and running as quickly as possible if I already generally know how a theme works and how to push it to its limits. I like knowing that I can install a WordPress them, load up my content and generally get a site up and running in a day without sitting and scratching my head, trying to figure out how to make an unfamiliar WordPress theme do what I want it to do. And I prevent myself from maybe even coming up short by having a gross misunderstanding of what a particular theme can actually do.
I rarely am able to build a good understanding of a WordPress theme with one single implementation on one website, so by using a theme repeatedly across many sites helps me to learn more about all the intricacies of the theme and how to push it in different directions for different uses.
With the Canvas theme, for example, I’ve built a good understanding of the various page templates and how to use them to my advantage. I’ve also learned various shortcodes and CSS tricks to tweaks the things that can’t be tweaked through the theme settings, and have those on hand to easily implement into new sites when I’m setting them up. I like that efficiency.
I’ve seen other developers do the same with other WordPress themes – building a good enough understanding of the themes that they can create fantastic looking websites in a matter of hours.
In my opinion, in the affiliate marketing world that I operate in, this type of advantage is huge. I can crank out a decent or maybe even good looking website to test an idea within a single day or less, and still have enough flexibility with the theme to bring the website to a higher level if the idea flies and the website proves to be worth continuing to build upon.
The Cost Advantage
The theme that I’m using on most of my sites, Canvas, was a single license purchase, and then I can use that theme across as many domains as I want. That it pretty good financial advantage compared to having to buy a new theme license for a unique theme for every website, which is an easy trap to fall into with WordPress.
Some theme providers might even offer a set of themes that offer unique visual looks or layouts but use the same framework on the back-end to manage the site designs and layouts. Woothemes is kind of like this. You can purchase a license to use all their theme across any number of domains for $399 (as of the time I wrote this) for example. You get access to a bunch of themes that look different, giving you further visual flexibility, but allowing you to use the Woothemes framework to manage all of the various themes which can help give you the advantage of familiarity that we touched on.
Certain Themes Work Better for This Concept
Let’s face it, many WordPress themes are very visually unique and they more or less will force your website to have a certain look or feel because the design concepts are strong and the design capabilities are less than flexible. This isn’t a bad thing in general. WordPress themes that are styled to highly specific visual concepts have their place and can be very useful for projects that need a unique look and need a design head-start. We want something more flexible for the concepts I’m touching on here, however.
Many other themes or frameworks are out there that offer you the ability to design lots of types of sites within one familiar framework.
Some frameworks that come to mind are:
Some of these frameworks might be more geared towards developer types (people who can code) and will typically support many themes published by the framework provider.
There are also many all-in-one WordPress themes out there that aim to offer enough flexibility within the theme itself to be able to create many unique looking websites with one theme. Some of the multi-purpose all-in-one themes that come to mind are:
Canvas and Divi are probably the most cost-effective of the three I just listed. The reason is that you can buy one license and use it across as many domains/websites as you want to. The Avada theme, on the other hand, requires a license purchase for each domain that will be using the theme. So in my case, for example, with 40+ websites, using Avada across all of them would not be affordable at all, I’d have to buy 40+ Avada licenses, and Canvas or Divi will be extremely affordable due to being able to use one license across all my domains.
The Maintenance Advantage
WordPress website and themes will need maintenance from time to time. Things might change from version to version. Maybe a feature is dropped or added, or maybe the theme changes how it handles certain features or design concepts. When this happens, chances are that you will need to make some tweaks or changes to your website to keep up with the theme or framework changes.
In my situation, if I had installed 40 different WordPress themes across all my sites, I would likely be creating a maintenance headache for myself. How so? Here’s how I look at it.
If I was using a different theme on each of my WordPress sites – that would be 40 different themes that I’m tracking change logs for, 40 different themes that I’m having to update and test regularly as the developers push out new versions, 40 different themes that I’m having to learn how to effectively work with so that I don’t set myself up for any crazy maintenance issues due to improperly implementing features. And I could go on.
By using only one theme (or at least less than a few themes) the potential maintenance is greatly reduced because I can duplicate my application of knowledge to each of my websites. I’ll only be tracking and maintaining one theme or maybe couple different themes as opposed to 40 themes.
The disadvantage here is that if there is a major game-breaking bug in a theme that I use for all my sites it could suck to have all those eggs in one basket. I’ve never run into this yet, however. And if it did happen to me at this point the overall net effect of time spent maintaining my sites would likely be very small due to the years of advantages I’ve gained from sticking with a small number of themes across my sites.