So you’re all set to build a website for your business. You’ve chosen WordPress as the content management system for your website because of all the great things you’ve heard about it. After all, it’s the most popular website creation platform in the world for a reason. Of course, you have everything planned out. You know how you want it to look and the necessary functionality you’ll need. You may have also started to take a look at some of the themes and plugins that you might want to use. But at this point you need to slow down and more carefully consider your options before rushing into anything.
Building a website is so much more than just deciding on the themes and plugins you’ll be using. The competition out there is fierce, which makes it very difficult for an emerging website to establish a strong online presence. Not only do you need to have an attractive, fully functional website, but you also need to establish a unique brand identity at the same time.
WordPress comes with a very diverse selection of themes and plugins. Whether you are building a portfolio website, a food blog or an online store, you can easily find a relevant theme to suit your needs. However, you have to wonder whether simply picking a ready-made theme is really what you should do? Can you even build your website with a pre-built theme? Will a cookie cutter theme give your website the features and uniqueness that it needs or will a custom theme be necessary? The answer is not so simple.
Some webmasters are able to take a pre-made WordPress theme and build a fully functional website. Typically these are more simple websites, but still it can be done in certain instances. But for websites that are more complex or that will require very specific features, custom theme development is ideal. In reality, no two businesses are exactly alike and the same is true for a business’ website requirements. So the choice of using either a pre-made or a custom WordPress theme depends on a variety of factors.
Here are some points to take into consideration when deciding whether your WordPress theme should be custom or pre-built.
Pre-made WordPress Themes
Pre-made WordPress themes are developed by professional web developers. The developers that produce these themes are sometimes part of larger development agencies or they work independently. These themes are available online at the WordPress theme repository or at various third party theme marketplace websites. The primary benefits of using these themes is that they are affordable, there is a wide variety of themes readily available and the developers that make these themes take on the responsibility of maintaining them.
Though some of these themes are more costly than others, most of them cost no more than $100. So you can pick out just about any theme and you will find a reasonable price tag attached to it. And when it comes to choosing a theme, be prepared to be overwhelmed by the volume of options that are available. The WordPress theme marketplace is, without a doubt, the most diverse and deep of any other content management system theme marketplace. No matter what the niche of your website is, you will surely find a suitable theme.
Future-proofing is another common reason for utilizing a pre-made WordPress theme. The most recommended themes typically come with great support for WordPress updates over time, which can occur frequently. The best themes of them all come with full customer support, regular feature updates and have many customization options. Unfortunately, not every WordPress theme is developed with these things in mind.
The downside of pre-made WordPress themes has a lot in common with their strengths. With the theme marketplace being so large for WordPress, it can be a daunting and time consuming task to try to sort through them all to find the perfect theme for the job. And if you make the wrong choice, it may come back to haunt you later. No two theme developers are exactly alike either.
You may find a theme that looks perfect for what you are looking for, only later to find out that the developer for that theme didn’t take into consideration WordPress theme development standards and practices when they created it. Worse still they are seldom available for support requests when something goes wrong. And with a theme like that, it’s only a matter of time before something goes wrong. Then you have to either wait for that developer to eventually come along and fix your broken theme, which you may have to even pay for, or you have to contract with another developer to fix the problem. Either way, this is going to cost you.
If a WordPress or plugin update comes along and completely breaks your website, this can be damaging to your business. This could potentially lower your website rank, it can hurt your reputation with your client base, and it can cost a lot of money to fix in some instances. Maybe even more than it would have cost to make a custom theme instead.
Be aware of the downside of pre-made themes. Know who you are purchasing the theme from. Is the developer well known in the industry? Do they strictly adhere to the coding standards when building a theme? Check whether they have a good reputation for offering customer support. If you find positive answers to all of these questions, then it’s likely safe to proceed with the pre-made WordPress theme. Just be cautious and know what could possibly go wrong.
Custom WordPress Themes
Knowing what you know now, you might wonder why anyone would even consider a custom theme when you can get a reasonably priced theme that is readily available online right now. It’s simple really. A custom WordPress theme gives you the flexibility, efficiency and the complete control that you can’t really get in many pre-made themes. Not only that, but you will also be absolutely certain that you have a unique design to represent your business online. This gives you the benefit of setting your business apart from your competitors right from the very start.
Pre-made themes frequently come with a lot more features and functionality than you will even need for your website. Or maybe some of the features you get don’t work exactly how you want them to, which means they will have to either be modified or replaced with plugins. This presents a problem in that your website has code incorporated into it that will never be used. This can negatively impact the performance and maintainability of the website. When using a pre-made theme, you also run the risk of having your website look just like other websites or even worse, a competitor’s website.
With a custom WordPress theme, you don’t have any of these problems. You get the exact features and functionality that you need and nothing more. That means no bloated, unnecessary code cluttering your website, making it more efficient. You can easily add or delete any functionality according to your needs. Want an image slider on the home page or in a custom post template? Have your developer add it. Don’t want a navigation menu in the header on certain pages? Remove it. Also, your web design is completely custom made so there is little chance that your website will look like any other. This also means you won’t have to struggle with the existing markup of a pre-made theme to get the look you want.
The biggest downside of using a custom theme is the cost associated with them. Building a quality custom theme with all the features that you need can cost you hundreds of dollars or more if you need advanced functionality. This is especially true if you are hiring a reputable WordPress development company or an independent WordPress developer to do the job. This is typically a deal breaker for the majority of business owners who have a limited budget for their website. But just remember, you get what you pay for. The affordability of pre-made themes can be a double-edged sword too.
One problem that both pre-made and custom WordPress themes share alike is the potential for problems with updates. These updates always have the potential to cause problems, depending on what is being updated and how well your theme was coded. With a custom theme, if you run into problems with updates, you will likely have to contract with the developer again to fix the issues.
Although there may be some additional costs involved when you encounter bugs when updating WordPress where a custom theme is involved, at least you already have a direct relationship with the developer. Because of this, getting the theme fixed in a timely manner should be no problem. So there are some aspects of this arrangement that can still be beneficial.
So which is better? That really depends on your situation. Pre-made themes are plentiful, readily available and won’t burn a hole in your pocket. So if you have a limited budget, you can always go this route. On the other hand, if budget less important and getting the features and functionality right is a much higher priority, a custom theme is the right way to go.
In either case, you must be certain that you have chosen the right developer for your theme, whether it is pre-made or custom. Because you are going to need support at some point. This makes the developer that you choose one of the more important aspects of this decision.