Keep Your Site Functionality in WordPress Plugins (Not Themes)

You’ll often find themes — especially on theme marketplaces like ThemeForest or Mojo — that are packed with functionality. We’re talking testimonials, portfolios, sliders and more to make the theme more attractive to end users. You can end up spending a significant amount of time customizing and tweaking these theme features to get your site looking exactly how you want.

But did you know you could lose this functionality if you up and decide to change themes one day? All that hard work at customization would go down the tubes. This is why it’s so important to add the functionality you want using plugins, not themes. Allow me to explain.

The Limitations of WordPress Theme Functions

It can be very tempting to select the most feature-rich theme out there when you’re in the market for a new theme. After all, some of the functions offered are so impressive — they can turn your site into a responsive, multimedia haven with just a few clicks.

And yes, these themes look fantastic. They really do. Which is why I know so many of you out there will still choose theme functions over plugins. And that’s perfectly okay if you find that’s what works best for you. All I ask is that you hear me out for just a second.

Let’s take a look at one potential scenario: One day, after spending countless hours customizing your theme’s portfolio or slider, you may decide that you need to change your theme. Maybe you want a new look, or you’re changing the focus of your business.

Whatever the reason, there will come a day when you want to give your site a major overhaul, and that means swapping themes. And I hate to tell you this, but all that work you put into the custom slider, portfolio, or what-have-you will disappear if it’s tied to the feature set included with one particular theme.

You’d have to either build these features back up using plugins or using the features that come with your new theme. Either way, you stand to waste a lot of time on the same tasks, over and over again. And when you’re busy managing the day-to-day operations of your site and running your business, you really don’t have time to get involved in this kind of repetition.

Adding Functions With WordPress Plugins

Investing in a theme that offers a nice design but maybe not the largest feature set is probably a better bet. Why? Because you can easily add the features you want using plugins. There are several benefits to taking this approach:

WordPress Plugin Directory

  • You can keep your site lean and mean.
    Themes with a ton of features built-in tend to be bloated, which reduces site load time and can increase your bounce rate. Too many plugins can have a similar effect, but by picking and choosing what features you want, you’ll only need to install a handful of plugins. Basically, your site will be running only the things you need, no more no less, which means you can ensure it’s well optimized for speed.
  • You can experiment more easily.
    Don’t like how a particular theme looks? No problem. Swap it out with a new one. Since your functions are tied to your plugins and not your theme, you can change the look and feel of your site whenever you want without affecting any major part of the end-user’s experience.
  • You can add new features as they become available.
    While you could always add plugins to a feature-rich theme, keeping your theme simple allows you to turn on (and off) functions via plugins as you see fit. You’re no longer tied to a set of functions that are only updated when the theme is updated. Mix and match or add the latest features as they become available.


There are many different themes out there with feature sets that range from offering the bare minimum to including everything but the kitchen sink.

The approach you take will depend on your individual needs, but if you keep your site functionality in WordPress plugins, you will have more flexibility and control over how your site is received and how easy it is to maintain.

Now, over to you. What do you prefer? A theme with all the bells and whistles, or a slimmed down, plugin-based approach?


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