Custom WordPress Theme vs Bought Template: Which Is Best?

When building a WordPress website, should you use an off-the-shelf template or invest in a custom WordPress theme? Is the cookie cutter approach right for you, or should your wesite be bespoke? Read on to learn what the key differences are and why many developers prefer one option over the other. You’ll also discover the main benefits of each and gain insight into making the right choice for your own site.

Why Use WordPress?

WordPress continues to dominate the CMS (Content Management System) landscape, holding 61% of the market share. An estimated half a billion site owners use WP to run their websites. The result is a staggering 35% of the Internet is now run by this software.

One of the major advantages of using WordPress as your website’s content management system is its simplicity.

Even those with a little know-how can manage content through the admin. Adding content works like using a text editor and everything combines to rank well on Google. WordPress allows you to change every style and element of your site. And in line with the ‘keeping things simple’ philosophy, it uses a fully editable theme system.

Yet WordPress gets some criticism because many sites look the same. How can you ensure your website stands out from the crowd? Yet retain all the powerful features WP has to offer? We compare the option of custom WordPress theme development versus pre-made templates.

What Are WordPress Themes?

WordPress themes include a range of styles and files that alter how your site looks and feels. These can even change dynamically depending on the user’s device. For example, a theme will look a lot different on a mobile phone than on a laptop.

A WordPress theme can include different layouts which are static or responsive to the user’s behaviour. A theme can:

  • display content exactly where you want it to appear
  • recognize specific devices, screen sizes, etc. and accommodate them according
  • change typography and design elements
  • show images and videos and make them appear as visitors scroll

Themes produce layout files called templates that structure the content on the page.

A typical home page includes a header, footer, sidebar, and main page templates. There are no limits to the number of layouts in a theme and each can be fully customised.

Pre-Built WordPress Template

There are a wide selection of pre-built template themes to browse and add to your site. Many are free but some are premium which means you must pay for the privilege of using them. You can find pre-built themes that have various features, layouts, columns, and styles. Categories include portfolio, blog, business, travel and others. They’re simple enough to install and plenty of people do.

And that, unfortunately, is one of the problems of using a pre-built theme. Because a lot of people use an off-the-shelf WP theme, sites tend to look the same. All that’s changed is a logo or tagline. Even colour schemes tend to look alike.

Custom WordPress Theme Development

Developers love WordPress because they can design custom themes that work on WP’s┬ásolid foundation.

Our designers and coders at Jimmyweb create bespoke designs that are unique to your businesses. Our clients recognize the need to stand out from the competition and see their website as a way to do that. Not only should custom WordPress development reflect your brand and perform the functions unique to your business, but it must also rank well with Google.

Thankfully, a custom theme allows you to optimise for search engines at the highest level. You don’t need to worry about semantically incorrect code from a poorly-made pre-built theme. Everything, when designed and built well, works towards excellent SEO.

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Pre-Made WordPress Templates vs Custom Themes

Below we take an honest look and highlight some of the pros and cons of custom designed themes versus pre-built WordPress templates. To keep things balanced, here are the major benefits and some drawbacks of each.

Pre-Made Bought Templates – Pros and Cons

  • Pro: Can be cheap
  • Pro: Can be quicker to go live

Why do businesses choose to use a pre-built WordPress template? Usually its because of the price. Many templates are either free or cost less than $100 (plus the cost of someone to set it all up). That’s great if you need a cheap website up-and-running, and can overlook some of the downsides.

Pre-made templates can be altered which means a designer with very little experience can whip up a site, drop in your logo and content with relative ease. You can also move elements around if you wish so the site doesn’t feel too uniform. If your needs are simple, and if its done well, this can be an affordable solution. Page builders (a type of plugin that many bought templates rely on) can allow for some greater freedom to re-arrange content, but even these can have some downsides.

Which leads to the cons…

Designers of these templates often make them over-complicated so that they can do everything for everyone. It’s easy to become overwhelmed when you use the admin section of a site built with a bought template. Because they’re designed for many use-cases, the result is often overkill – bloated by functionality that you will never need. That makes it difficult to manage the site and edit content.

Many bought templates rely too heavily on plugins to do the most basic of tasks. This “plugin soup” can slow down the site, make things hard for you (the admin) to manage content, and can often introduce security risks (the more plugins you use, the higher the risk that one will introduce a security vulnerability).

And the page builder plugins mentioned earlier – they can have a steep learning curve and can be quite cumbersome and frustrating at times to use (again, built with all the functionality that you’ll never need).

Custom Designed Themes – Pros and Cons

  • Pro: Unique design
  • Pro: Can look more professional
  • Pro: Less bloated code
  • Pro: More secure
  • Pro: Easier to manage
  • Pro: Easier to extend
  • Pro: Faster to load

Site owners who choose the pre-built option say they’re put off by the cost of custom WordPress development services. Yes, it’s true that custom designs are at a premium and this can be seen as a con, but you really do get what you pay for. Just as all cars will get you from A to B, not all models are a Ferrari.

A custom solution also lets you integrate WP plugins more efficiently and effectively, utilising only the plugins that make sense. Unlike a pre-built WordPress template, a custom built WordPress site with minimal plugins takes advantage of leaner code to deliver marked improvement in security and performance. The page loads faster. And happier customers mean repeat business.

Should You Buy or Build a Custom WordPress Theme?

Wordpress Themes The answer depends on what you need your website to do.

If you don’t mind your online presence looking a little generic, and budget is the primary consideration, then a free or bought pre-built theme might be a suitable option. You can still edit them in a small way to show your logo and colours and go live with a fairly basic site that does the job.

But if you want to stand out from your competition and present a memorable experience of your brand to your customers, always choose a custom designed WordPress site.

Custom WordPress Development Services With Jimmyweb

WordPress is beloved by the web because of its simplicity and flexibility. When a site is built the right way, it will be easy to manage and maintain, and provide a great user experience for visitors. Sites built with a difficult bought template end up frustrating the client – leading to the client not using the site (not creating/adding/updating content) to build their business.

We are proud to say we only develop high-quality custom WordPress themes for our clients.

Every site is unique because all of our clients are unique. You deserve to promote your brand in the best possible way. That means no off-the-shelf WordPress templates. Contact us to see how Jimmyweb can match your bespoke requirements. From WooCommerce to WordPress to Shopify, we can build the online presence you deserve.