Deciding on a WordPress Theme vs a Custom Theme

As a professional and freelancer developer I’ve been asked many times, “why should I buy a custom site from you when I can buy one online for under $100?” And that’s a great question. It’s definitely something to consider as well as your level of expertise to get that prebuilt theme do everything you’re hoping it will.

Prebuilt Themes

There are hundreds of pre-built themes for you to purchase either through the WordPress Theme Directory or a premium theme through a third party. These pre-built themes are perfect for those who have some basic knowledge of web standards and some basic understanding of SEO. If you don’t know these then I definitely suggest spending some time doing your homework to avoid frustration and to receive better results from your hard work.

Pre-built themes come in a wide variety and can be setup to fit whatever needs you may have for your personal or small business site. These are definitely designed to save you time and money but they have their limitations. Some of the limitations are:

  • Lots of excess code slowing down the site
  • Design limitations
  • Limited access to customizations
  • Limited menu options

WordPress provides many ways to style your page. However, you have have to be aware of the user experience and that your design is cohesive so that you’re not taking away from your call to actions or content itself. It’s easy to get carried away and end up with a hot mess.

One major downfall to most of the pre-built themes is the inclusion of a visual composer. This tool can seem extremely helpful to the novice user trying to setup a responsive website for the first time. However, from my experience working with them on many sites that have come with the composer pre-installed they tend to be very finicky and tend to break. They break either because of incompatibilities with your installed plugins or JavaScript errors that can usually be spotted in the console of your browser. When they break there are portions of the pages that are converted to raw html which is virtually impossible to recover. I’m not saying to never use them but be careful when you do and be sure to make all of your backups before any updates.

Custom Themes

A custom theme for WordPress really unlocks the possibilities to what you can do and what you site can look like. The only real limitation are time and your budget. With a custom built them you have two options. Either mimic a pre-built theme’s basic structure but customize out to fit your business’s needs or go with a custom design that is then made into a custom theme.

You can save a bit more time and money if you choose to mimic a pre-built theme. Since in most cases you can bypass the cost of the site design and it can shave a couple weeks or so off of the build process. This is definitely the better choice if you’re on a tighter budget.

Should you have a larger budget and your needs are more extensive then fully custom design and theme may be for you. With a custom design you can really make your business standout and make a statement in your market. Once you approve the design your developer will build out the design into usable code for WordPress. With a custom site you have the option of custom templates for your homepage, gallery, shop, blog, contact page, you name it. Anything can be built or configured to your needs.

Which Should You Choose?

Go with which ever option best fits your:

  • Budget
  • Time constraints
  • Web expertise/skill level

If you’re still unsure, then contact me and I’ll be happy to discuss it with you help you make the best decision for you and your business.