As you probably know, one reason that makes WordPress so popular is it is built on themes. There are thousands, if not millions, of themes to choose from and many are free or available at low cost. You can change the entire look of your site with a single click. And many offer extra functionality like photography portfolios, real estate listings, and shopping carts. Just buy the right theme, it seems, and you are set to go.
But just because you paid for a theme can you claim it as your own? Sure you can do anything your want with it, add photos, change styles, tweak and modify it to your heart’s content. But can you then claim yourself as the designer?
Well, that is what the owners of a web designer contest decided when told by a contestant that another contestant had taken a WordPress theme, made a few changes, and entered it. The contest owners reaction was that by purchasing the theme, the work was in fact “commissioned” and therefore the entrants own to submit. Here is a screenshot of the original theme and the entry:
Now, you could claim that choosing a theme is an art in itself. And updating it to reflect your own company’s needs requires careful execution. A WordPress theme is just raw material, waiting for your talent and skill to turn it into a living work of art.
But, really, come on. The entrant didn’t do any of the work being judged on. Shouldn’t the original designer of the theme get the award? Well, says my devil’s advocate, does the horse that wins a race get the award? Does the jockey? No, the owner does. So why should this be any different? You can go back and forth on this forever and there is no right answer, except that maybe most contests for web design are senseless.
But this does strike a nerve for anyone who has used a WordPress theme. Sure you can get great results “right out of the box”. Take a theme, add your logo and content, and you have a great website at a fraction of the cost of creating and coding a site from scratch. But can you say you created original work? And have a unique solution for a business website that addresses its specific needs and sets it apart from its competitors?
Well, maybe not. But maybe so. Creativity is in the design process. And using WordPress is not going to change that. We start with rough sketches. We look for inspiration. We do research. And we don’t limit ourselves to solutions only because it fits and available theme. But if we find a theme that meets the project’s needs, and we can save ourselves time and our client money by using it, are we plagiarizing? No, just using good common sense.