WordPress Websites – Premium Themes Vs Custom Designs

3rd July 2017

To theme, or not to theme: that is the question!

You want a new website. You’ve decided WordPress is a good fit for your needs. Now you need to know how and where to get one from. When it comes to having a new WordPress website built for your business, you have two choices.

  1. Premium ready-made theme
  2. Bespoke custom-built theme

Lets break it down…


Premium ready-made WordPress themes

These themes are ready-made; pre-build and ready to use. You can buy themes designed for various industries so that the design fits your type of business, for example, creative, corporate, potfolio, industrial, construction etc.

Cost

The cost of a premuim theme can vary greatly from $5 to around $60 depending on the features and complexity of the theme.

Setup

The idea of a ready-made premium WordPress theme is that it is ready to go. All you have to do is drop in your logo, add your images, text and any other content, change the colours of the website to suit your brand (if the theme allows it), and you’re good to go.

Of course not all themes are this simple, some are much more difficult to set up than others. You are also sometimes limited to what type of content and elements you can put in certain places of your web pages, meaning that most of the time you will need your content to fit the structure of the theme as it has been designed and built in a certain way that cannot be changed unless the code is changed, which isn’t going to happen.

Features

Premium themes are usually a one-size-fits-all kind of thing which means they are usually bloated with features that most purchasers will never use. Most themes will include things like reviews, testimonials, case studies, sliders, galleries, online shop etc. Most of which won’t be used in most cases making many features of the theme redundant and a bit of a waste. The size of these themes can also sometimes make yourwebsite sluggish due to the amount of code and things it needs to load, and nobody likes a slow website!

Furthmore, almost 100% of themes these days are built using a plugin called Visual Composer which is used to put parts of the website together using a drag and drop feature for things like sliders, sidebars, widgets, image galleries, groups of text etc. While Visual Composer allows you to have a lot of flexibility with the layout of the website, it is however very bloated and quite difficult and frustrating to learn and use for most people. It also has been known to break websites when used incorrectly.

Support

The Developers of premuim themes offer support. You usually get about six months of free support but to get continued support you will need to pay an additional cost for extended support. Theme Developers will also realease updates for their themes which mostly covers bug fixes. This also means that if you discover a bug yourself or are having any problems with their themes, then you can contact them for help or advice.

Pro’s of premuim themes
  • Cost effective – They cost much less than bespoke websites. A custom-built WordPress theme could cost thousands of pounds, whereas a premuim theme is likely to set you back less than £100.
  • Quick – The setup of a premuim theme is usually quite quick to install, setup and populate. Depending on the type of theme, features, amount of pages, content and templates you have, it could be done in less than a day. Although the more larger websites using more complex themes have been known to take several weeks.
  • Support – Theme support from Developers is usually quite good. Your theme developers will realease theme updates to fix bugs and stay up to date with coding best practises etc (or at least they should be doing). However, some support is better than others. Some can be helpful with proving answers to your problems, whilst it has been known for some to not act quickly enough and not be as helpful as you’d like.
Con’s of premuim themes
  • One-size-fits-all – This is my biggest problem with premium themes. They are loaded with tons of features and bloated code which most of the time is not used and ultimately are just wasted unwanted features that not only complicate how to find your way around the theme and cusomtise it, but also slows your website down quite considerably. Premuim themes are now made to suite everyone, or at least a wide range of people / businesses.
  • Not unique – When purchasing a premuim WordPress theme from somewhere liek themeforest, you will discover that hundreds, sometimes thousands, even sometimes millions of other people have bought the same theme as you. Yep, you guessed it, your website is far from unique. There will be many other websites online with the exact same wesbite as you, just different text and images.
  • Performance – The speed of your wesbsite using a premuim theme compared to a bespoke theme will be significantly slower most of the time. There is just too much ‘stuff’ premuim themes have to load before a user is presented with one of your web pages.
  • Support – I know I have also put this under Pro’s, but premuim theme support can be good and / or bad. Support for premuim WordPress themes is all done online using an online ticketing system, somtimes email. You can’t just pick up the phone and speak to your Developer and ask them to fix something. Also, basic free support is only available for six months so after that time you are snookered unless you pay extra for extended support. And even then the support isn’t always great and can sometimes be very slow to respond or solve your problems.

Bespoke custom-built WordPress themes

Bespoke themes are built from scratch, just for you, according to your specific needs and requirements. You tell your Designers and Developers what you want and they come up with a custom design based on your brief and then they build it from the ground up. Your very own unique custom-build WordPress theme.

Cost

The cost of a custom-built theme can also vary greatly depending on the features and complexity of it. But I wouldn’t expect to pay anything less than £1000 from any decent agency. Personally I would say the average cost is around £3000 to £5000 for most brochure websites and anything from £6000 upwards for ecommerce.

Setup

The creation of a custom WordPress theme takes much longer than their ready-made rivals. Bespoke themes have to be designed, built and tested. These steps are already completed with premuim themes. If you’re not in a rush and don’t want your website built and ready for you ‘yesterday’ then expect to wait several weeks on average for you custom theme to be ready for you. However, smaller themes can be built in less than a week, and the larger and more compmlex themes can take several months. Don’t forget, the Developers of premuim themes probably spent months (sometimes years) building their themes so that they are ready for you almost immediately.

The process with bespoke themes usually goes something like this: Get a brief from the client, create a sitemap, decide on features, gather content, create the design, show the design to the client, tweak the design according to client feedback, get the design signed off by the client, start the build of the website, add content, test, show a working prototype to the client, make amendments according to client feedback, complete the build, test, show the finished product to the client, make final changes according to client feedback.

As you can see, this can be a lengthy and painful process for us Designers and Developers.

Features

With a custom-built WordPress theme you can have any features you like. This isn’t a one-size-fits-all theme that needs to cater to the needs of every man and his dog, this theme is built specifically for you and your website needs. If you dont need a blog, no problem. If you dont want or have any case studies, no problem, we won’t include any of this. But if you specifically need a homepage image slider, tesimonials section, membership feature and a blog, then that is exaclty what you’ll getm nothing more, nothning less; no unnecessary bloat to worry about. You can still log in to your custom WordPress theme and add, edit and delete content just like any other theme.

Support

Support is usually much better when you have access to you own Designer and Developer that create your website specifiaclly for you. Support again isn’t free (no supoprt is ever free), but it’s very unlikely that your theme will have issues as it’s been vigerously tested several times and we know it’s exaclty what you want. The only time you should need any kind of support in this case is when you want to change any of the structure or styling of your custom theme which will include costs for development time. However, some agencies offer retainer packages which would include this in their annual retainer fees, but thats another topic for another time.

Pro’s of custom-built themes
  • Unique – Your custom-build WordPress theme has been designed and built specifically for you meaning that it’s unique and does exactly what you want it to do and look the way you want it.
  • Performance – Custom themes are not loaded with bloat and unnecessary features, they do not need to cater to the needs of every man and his dog. They are lightweight and optimised to be as efficient as possible.
  • Support – Support from your Designer and Developer is always just a phone call or an email away. They are available most of the time and are responsible for the maintenance of your theme. They are sometimes also local and are available to meet you face-to-face so you feel more at ease knowing that you are in safe hands.
Con’s of custom-built themes
  • Price – Bespoke themes can cost thousands of pounds more than a ready-mady WordPress theme. You do get a more robust and presonalised product but you pay a premuim for this privilege. So if you have a tight budget then this may not be the option for you.
  • Time – If you need a website asap then this isn’t going to suit you. A good amount of time needs to be invested in the creation of a bespoke theme, and the process from start to completion can sometimes be a fairly long road.

Conclusion

If you are on a budget, you need a website fairly quickly, you don’t mind slower loading web pages, don’t mind the learning curve of Visual Composer, and not having a unique design isn’t an issue for you, then it wouldn’t hurt to purchase a premium ready-made WordPress theme.

However, if you have a decent budget, time isn’t too much of an issue and you want something unique, then a bespoke custom-build WordPress theme is the option for you.

Occasionally this isn’t even an option. For example, if your requirements are too bespoke, sometimes a ready-made theme doesn’t exist to suit your requirements and a custom theme is the only route to take.

To wrap up, talking from experience I would always opt for a custom-built WordPress theme over a ready-made theme as there are far more benefits to having your own unique bespoke WordPress theme, as long as budget and time allows it.

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