Learn How to Build A Website 10x Faster Using WordPress Premium Tools



Learn how to use WordPress as a pro to deliver rapid results to your clients!

 How to be the most effective in your work?

In order to be the most effective in their work, it is very important for professional web designers and developers to learn and utilize the right tools. Today, I wanted to clear once and for all why using WordPress is the best choice for most freelancers. I will also cover how to make your workflow super productive by using theme framework.

As a professional web designer, there are lots of important things you need to do when building a website. You need to ensure that the site looks great, loads fast, is responsive, and looks clean on all devices. By choosing WordPress to build your websites, you are already setting yourself miles ahead of other web designers. How? You can build websites for clients in lightning speed and be able to spend more time helping them reach their specific goals and objectives.

WordPress is truly the best solution you can use when building most client websites. Few exceptions would be web applications because you really need to build everything from scratch. For example, in building AwesomeWeb job search site, we used Ruby on Rails. We started out by using the WordPress/CodeIgniter combination but for such custom development solutions, WordPress just wasn’t flexible enough.

Most clients, however, won’t need custom solutions. In 98% of cases, clients will need something common, like an online store, personal brand, portfolio, membership, blog, to get simple business websites done. You can build all of these easily with WordPress and basic programming language knowledge. If you don’t have them yet or you haven’t updated your skills recently, check out this course.

There is a reason why even big brands start using WordPress. Speed and simplicity.

 Why WordPress?

WordPress is the most popular content management system (CMS) for a reason. Twenty-two percent of all websites online – that’s around 80 million websites – are built using WordPress. Some of the major reasons why WordPress is so popular are because:

  • It is easy to learn – WordPress is open source software. It’s also simple and has extensive documentation as well as free training videos
  • It has many plugins and themes – You don’t need to be a rockstar developer to start building sites with WordPress. In some cases, you don’t even need to touch code to achieve the results you want.
  • It is powerful – You can build so much, like an online store, blog, membership, contact forms, very easily and rapidly by simply utilizing premium themes and plugins.

There are thousands of free and premium themes available online. It can be tempting to go for a free theme without paying anything, but before you make that decision, read on..


Investment vs being dedicated freebie seeker. I say it’s not worth the gamble, not here.

Why use a Paid WordPress Theme vs Free Theme?

The benefits of using a premium theme provider versus a free theme are many. The most important reason why you shouldn’t use a free WordPress theme is its lack of support, documentation, and updates.

Think about it, if developer creates and releases theme for free, he doesn’t make any money from it. But he still needs to earn living some way. Free WordPress theme cannot be a long term choice, because developer doesn’t have the incentive to support theme for free, provide documentation and update it during the years. Would you do all this work for free?

You cannot expect training resources, documentation, free support and updates, when a developer isn’t making any money from it. Even if he is the kindest person on earth, earning his own livelihood will always be a priority. Moreover, free themes will almost always be of lower quality than a premium theme.

You get what you pay for.

Premium themes come with cleaner code and better functionality. All premium theme providers offer a high quality design, in-depth documentation, and world class support. Support is extremely important because something always goes wrong or doesn’t work as expected.

If you choose a free theme, you rely on other people’s goodwill to help you in forums. When you choose to buy premium WordPress themes, you pay for support and theme providers are liable to helping you.

Best of all, premium WordPress templates are very affordable because of the steep competition in the market. That’s good news for you! You can buy one premium theme for around $50 or get access to all theme shop themes and support for around $100-$300/year. You can easily make that money back from one client!

I started 1stWebDesigner 7 years ago with a free WordPress theme but now, I don’t even look at free themes. Simply because it’s not worth the trouble. I suggest you pay $50 for a beautiful, customizable WordPress theme you like with the assurance that there will be documentation and support included, which will save you a lot of time. This also means that you’ll spend much of your time trying to figure out things on your own.

Paid WordPress Themes vs Theme Frameworks vs Custom WordPress Development

When you’re going to build a custom WordPress design, there are only few ways you would start.

Many professional web designers follow these steps:

  1. Brainstorm, get an idea of what needs to be built, how design should look like
  2. Create a wireframe and design website concept in Photoshop
  3. Convert PSD to HTML/CSS template
  4. Add HTML/CSS to WordPress installation
  5. Add functionality and dynamic elements like blog, online store.

Some web designers start directly with HTML/CSS and then move to WordPress; while others go directly from PSD to WordPress, which is already a pretty effective way to work!

Smart and experienced web designers, however, begin with a starter theme or framework, pick the layout and functionality, and design the website around it. This is arguably the most productive and efficient way to create a website. We, at 1stWebDesigner, are big believers of this approach.

For example, the previous 1stWebDesigner design took us more than a year to complete when we did it the “good” way starting with sketching, wire framing, and custom coding everything into WordPress.

The recent redesign, however, only took us 2 weeks to deliver. We started with Genesis framework (read review here), picked a child theme with the layout we wanted, customized the design, added functionality, and we were done. Talk about being efficient.

Custom WordPress theme creation is a good choice if you are working with high-paying clients, who are ready to pay for custom solutions. Custom code is necessary for apps, web software creation, and really big brands. In those cases, you won’t even use WordPress. However, most clients don’t need that. What they need is a simple business website which fulfills their goals. They will not appreciate your super clean code as much as they will appreciate fast delivery and a website which was converted to help them make more money.


What is under the hood?

What is a WordPress theme framework?

Before you start picking out a theme framework or using one at all, it is important to understand exactly what theme framework is and what it can do for you.

WP framework basically is an advanced WordPress theme on drugs. Whenever you build a website, you often use the same components. You lay the foundation first, you pick the design and layout (header, footer, single column, 2-column). Next, you take major functionality into account – online store, sales page, membership, andblog. Lastly, you consider additional functionality, like contact forms, security, SEO optimization, and responsiveness.

WordPress theme frameworks are starter themes you use as a foundation to create your own designs. Frameworks significantly speed up website development process. As a web developer who constantly creates custom WordPress themes, you are probably fed up with all these repetitive tasks, like writing the same code over and over again and frequently checking your mark-up. Theme frameworks offer a lot of built-in functionality and customization options, so you don’t need to code everything from scratch.

Frameworks are designed to work as parent themes (themes you use a foundation). Parent theme is the core you do not touch. You would use a child theme to create unique designs and additional functionality.

Why web designers and developers use WordPress theme frameworks?

The biggest reason why designers use framework is to speed up their development process. Theme frameworks drastically reduce the development time because you don’t need to start from scratch. You use framework as a foundation WordPress theme, then you add functionality by using different modules – like drag-drop functionality, sliders, online store. You can usually access functionality by simply activating built-in WordPress framework short codes.

Instead of creating and coding a theme from scratch, creating a WordPress website can be as simple as creating a new style.css file, customizing some functionality, and adding visuals your client needs. Then, you are done!

Your client is satisfied because of rapid delivery! On the other hand, you are happy because you just hacked your way through the development process and created the website the client wanted super fast! Now, you can invest extra time working with your client and ensure that the website fulfills your client’s goals and yields the right results.

Benefits and drawbacks of using theme framework

It is a fact that there will always be pros and cons to your decision.

Pros of using WP framework:

  • Time saving, efficient development, speed and ease of development – as mentioned earlier using a theme framework can drastically reduce the development time and let you deliver quickly.
  • Support and community of experienced WordPress developers – most popular WordPress theme frameworks have a huge community behind them, helping you to fix the bugs and find solutions quickly
  • Built-in functionality – adding powerful functionality is super easy with integrations big theme shops provide
  • Code quality – code is written using best practices and  WordPress standards. Optimized CSS, HTML, PHP functions, SEO
  • Upgrades – ease of updating for future releases of WordPress, no need for you to worry about it.

Cons of using WP framework:

  • Learning curve – it will take time to master any of these frameworks.
  • Cost – framework is a bit more expensive then premium theme, but it’s well worth it
  • Limitation – frameworks define what you can and cannot do. You cannot break these barriers. This can be drawback for super creative designers, but in most cases it’s a big pro, not con
  • Unnecessary code – Frameworks come with tons of built-in functionality which you may not use. This code may slow down your website if you are not careful to clean your website from features you don’t use.

Should I use a framework?

While there is an extra learning curve and cost involved, you MUST definitely use theme framework if you are serious about WordPress website development . Your speed and performance will significantly improve 10x! You will be able to handle more and better clients. What more, you will be able to satisfy their needs and spend more time understanding their goals. By doing so, you will be able to grow your business.

Building a website from scratch is like building a house without a blueprint. Starting with a framework is like using a blueprint.

I asked Nicholas Tart, a designer with 5 years of experience, about his opinion on this question:

“I used a framework with 100% of my clients. It came down to my hours. I could build a custom theme, but laying my design on top of a framework gave me a 50-hour head start. That way, I could focus on what was important and deliver a website on a framework that is widely supported. The client gets a better website and I use my time more effectively, both of which mean I can charge more.”

It is really a no-brainer that you should use WordPress and that you should learn and use framework or starter theme to serve your clients well. We intentionally focus on recommending WordPress because we believe you want to be a successful freelancer. For most freelance designers, their issue is not the programming and designing knowledge, but the lack of business skills. Clients will pay you for the results you bring in to them by creating converting website. In order to do that, you need to focus less on technology and learn some marketing skills.


  • The first WordPress framework review is live, where we analyzed in detail Genesis framework by StudioPress. Genesis is the top choice for web professionals, but is it right for you? Find out now!
  • The second review is live, this time we analyzed even more affordable, but super powerful premium WordPress theme solution – What is The Best Professional WordPress Theme To Use in 2015?

In the next article we will review in detail two of the top and contrasting WordPress theme frameworks you can use to speed up your web development process. Learn about the best WordPress framework for your specific needs!

Have you used WordPress frameworks or starter themes? What has been your experience?



    • Dainis Graveris

      It’s not about doing it yourself, Jessica. It’s precisely about not doing it yourself and saving time in the process. All so you can focus on working with client more closely to provide direct results with his website, not just simply develop website..that’s what most people do.

      • Hi Dainis, I totally agree with your point. But, I was talking about blog owners who has a limited budget. When it comes to real big business, as you said, they can use these tools and that will make both parties work very easier!

  1. I have tried many free WordPress themes and they all suck and lack major functionality.

    If you want to be a professional free lance web designer then using a premium WordPress theme or framework is the way to go.

  2. I just learn how to use bootstrap with wordpress. it is quite helpfull with responsive design. besides bootstrap what other framework that we can use to speedup the development of wordpress you would recommend?

    • Dainis Graveris

      What I dont like with Ruby it’s how hard or time-consuming it is to always do something. There are no plugins, no themes..no quick hacks you can have. Gems are not too many and even creating simple landing page takes us several days, where with WP it would take few hours. I guess it depends from what you need to build – I would only use Ruby for super specific solutions, web apps, not general website building.

      What about Bootstrap? :) Why is it your next choice, Fernando?

  3. I think headway is better coz they give an empty slate and we can create any kind of design from it. best for photoshop to wordpress conversion as far as i know, no other theme can come near headway :-)

  4. Manoj Kumar

    I agree and seriously this posting is very helpful to me because from two months I always read this blog and I have got more knowledge to this post.

  5. Raji

    please i just want to start learning web designing but not pretty sure if starting with WordPress will be ideal or not. please advice me and give me some guide lines in any one you think is best ideal to start with. i will be very grateful if you can reply my.

  6. P.Prestos

    I agree. Web owners should go for paid wordpress as it allows more customization and flexibility. Another reason is the availability of plugins. WP is mostly know for its plugins library. If a person is not using WP to build site, then he is missing on the most part of WP.

    • Dainis Graveris

      Will maybe review Headway in the future, but what would you say Karstein, how does it fare against Genesis?

  7. Arun Kallarackal

    Well, this question has been haunting me for a while. But time and again, I’ve been reading about the advantages of using Framework on my blog. Went through the cons you listed in the article. But the advantages outweigh the cons, easily!


  8. Anks

    Thanks for sharing the great article! looking forward to framework article of yours. I’m looking into enhancing my knowledge using bootstrap framework with WordPress CMS. Could you please throw some light over it? Thanks again! Cheers :)

    • Dainis Graveris

      With bootstrap framework do you mean http://roots.io/ ? I just did the follow-up article about first framework, which was Genesis. Also Anks would appreciate more specific questions, that you are interested in about bootstrap framework?

      • sean rithya

        How about using cdn for making site load faster? I think it’s very easy technique that just spend less than $10 per month. example maxcdn can use for two sites. and for my experience, i can increase user, and my site performance also great.

    • Dainis Graveris

      I guess it depends from what theme or plugins you are using. Most premium themes nowadays offer automatic updates, so you don’t even need to remember to update. The good thing is that since WP community is so big, vulnerabilities are found fast and fixed fast. With other CMS, you might never know about vulnerability issue until your site gets hacked.

  9. “Most clients, however, won’t need custom solutions. In 98% of cases, clients will need something common, like an online store, personal brand….”

    Where did 98% come from? Personal bias? TBH I’m not saying reinvent the wheel and write piece of code on every site from scratch but this is a great way to sell yourself as a commodity web provider. I see it all the time “We build with WordPress! It’s the best way to build your website. Used by half the web! Blah blah blah.”

    Joe Blow web designer comes in fresh out of high school and says he can build it for less then you and now it becomes a race to the bottom. When will web designers realize the tool doesn’t really matter all that much? It’s about solving a client’s problem. Sometimes WP solves the problem, oftentimes you need a more powerful tool. I like Craft myself. Maybe that’s just the clients I work with. WP is great for the 5 page brochure based site with a blog style website but as soon as you get into some bigger sites, it starts to show its limitations.

    • Dainis Graveris

      Hello Dave, appreciate your input man! 98% comes from personal experience over 8 years and talking to designer friends. Sure you can still say it’s biased opinion.

      To be honest I wouldn’t talk to clients much about CMS or language I use (I see you don’t mention Craft on your portfolio site too – why would you? Clients don’t care about that).They care about results, outcome. You are right, it’s about solving a client’s problem! What kind of problems your clients have, that you solve them using Craft?

      Then there is another market you may be talking about, it’s specialized market, where you basically learn not so well known programming language, even Ruby on Rails is a great example. And you sell yourself as an expert in that specialized field. That is a great market for hardcore programmers.

      In this case, why I am talking about WordPress is that we know in most cases you will be set very well, by using just this CMS and be able to deliver results fast.

      Dave, I would really love to hear about day to day client problems you encounter, where oftentimes you feel like WordPress is not powerful enough? We could discuss more specifics because it looks like you are selling mobile friendly web design, where you might get clients, with general website needs.

      • If all you’re building is brochure based websites, WP works pretty well here. But as you start to work with bigger clients, they can get that anymore, they’re looking for other functionality. WP starts to really break down after you have more than a couple post types, taxonomies, and custom fields. I regularly used Advanced Custom Fields (ACF) on pretty much every WP install I use which adds yet another dependency to the mix. The future of the web is in structured data and WP out-of-the-box falls flat on its face in that respect.

        Craft is built from the ground up to handle things like custom fields and multiple content types. Most WP users would never think of making their own recipe database with WP for example; you’d probably grab one from the repo, yet it’s incredible simple to build one up in Craft. You’d need fields like cooking time, prep, servings, ingredients, etc. And then to actually serve up the right data, you’d have to write a crazy tax_query to handle a request like “show me all recipes that include chicken as an ingredient that have a prep time of less than 20 mins”.

        Or say you have a few employees who work at a company. You need to show name, title, years at company, and maybe if the company is hip, they have a blog where each employee can post. Wouldn’t it be great to show their posts/articles on their bio page? Craft makes all that incredibly easy since everything is relatable to each other, right down to assets, out of the box. If you were using WordPress, it would take a considerably more amount of work to do that. A CMS is just an interface to a database; Craft makes it easy to pull out what you need, where you need it, and manipulate it how you want it with no “loop” to jump through.

        On a bigger site, creating content becomes a priority. Sometimes it needs to be signed off. There’s not a great way to send a reviewable copy of a post/page before it goes live. Craft lets you have live drafts that live along side the current version that allow editors to send to reviewers using a special URL; when you’re ready to go live, just publish it and it gets published over the current version. WP can sort of do this with a couple plugins but it’s a terrible workflow if you have to do it a lot. And the preview of post/page is terrible; the number of times I’ve had to tell clients “the editor window isn’t the final display, you have preview first.” Craft’s Live Preview makes that experience much better.

        Ultimately I think it comes down to philosophy. Everyone has their own process of how they work. In Craft, the front end is completely up to you. There’s no plugins you need to override the styles of when the author decides to change the class of the plugin or theme or breakage to worry about when any of that updates.

        • Dave, thanks a lot for your valuable response and clarification about Craft! Really appreciate it!

          Seems like I should take a closer look at Craft and consider reviewing it as well. I’ve been hearing good things about it, even as big WordPress advocate. I think you are right, that it comes down to philosophy. Here at 1stWebDesigner we are actually educating readers to not focus so much on tools, think more about business mindset, how to serve clients better by looking at their objectives, not just technical aspects.

          It’s about the thinking that’s necessary if you want to open your own agency and have a team to help you one day.

  10. Andris

    I am web architect on RoR. Comment about client needs.
    Yes, client first need simple web page, like an online store, personal brand, portfolio, membership, blog, to get simple business websites done [..] But most of cases they end up with individual (special) functionality and then you are stack with WP theme. Solution – learn how to code and it long term investment that you can make! :)

    • Dainis Graveris

      Hey Andris, can you mention a few examples with special functionality you needed to build, you believe wouldn’t be possible with WordPress? In most cases, you can simply find missing functionality with additional plugins, extensions. That is the benefit of using the most popular CMS in the world.

      Also you are looking from RoR point of view, the same way as you add functionality (hard-code) it with RoR, you do it with PHP with WordPress. But there are so many more plugins out there compared to Ruby on Rails gems. It is so much more painful to design functionality on RoR for AwesomeWeb, where on WordPress it would take few minutes.

  11. Great read!!!
    I recently had a client ask me for a custom website developed from her Photoshop design. I began sweating my pants off on how I shall integrate WordPress for the blog page. After reading this article I found a framework to use, installed a local server and soon I shall have my first custom wordpress website on the www.

    • Dainis Graveris

      Meh, which framework did you pick? We will be analyzing best frameworks in followup articles :) Hint, Genesis. X theme.

      • I went for Genesis unfortunately my client has delayed on getting project up and running, which is kinda good it has given me time to trying custom theme development/conversion of HTML & CSS site into WP + get the hang of WP functions.

        Quick question – Which in your opinion you recommend for an online store and event management plugin/s for me to use on custom theme built from scratch or on top of Genesis and has the flexibility for clients to update the store & events/calender themselves?

        • Dainis Graveris

          Online store, woocommerce is the most popular solution, havent got need for event management plugin, so cannot really make suggestion myself. Maybe somebody in the audience can jump in.

          • Thank you much appreciated. And yes please keep doing what you are doing here and elsewhere on the www, inspiring people like myself.