WordPress powers more than one-quarter of all websites, which means it has a wide user base. While it’s quite common to hear about free WordPress themes and site-building tools, professional-level users may need to pay to get better results. One choice is to purchase a paid or premium WP theme, and another is to have one developed. However, it’s often difficult to choose between these options. Here, site owners will learn why they should choose custom WordPress themes over premium theme templates.
A Quick Guide to Custom WP Theme Development
WordPress is a content management system or CMS. In simple terms, a CMS is a tool that’s installed on a server and used to manage and upload new content, edit designs, and ensure that everything works the way it should. The first step in development is to install WP on the client’s server, from which content can quickly be posted. This is the simplest and fastest way to get a mobile-friendly, optimized site up, and features can easily be added via plugins.
What’s the Difference Between Custom and Premium Themes?
The WordPress sites developers build fall into two categories: PSD-to-WordPress and theme-based builds. PSD-to-WordPress sites are built to the client’s exact specifications, while theme-based builds are based on pre-existing themes. All sites have core code that remains unseen by visitors, and this code allows admins to maintain and update sites. Functions such as adding pages, adding plugins, uploading images, and commenting are all located in the admin panel, and these features are part of what makes WordPress so friendly. The parts visitors see are page templates, which may include booking forms, e-commerce, or other features. These components can be customized, or they can be made ahead of time in premium or free themes.
Premium Theme-Based Sites
What most users refer to as themes are prefabricated templates that contain a site’s visual elements, as well as plugins that add certain functions. These themes are created by developers who sell them in bulk to numerous users. While these themes have a bit of flexibility, their code limits what users can do.
Custom WordPress Themes
With custom WordPress sites, developers create page templates and functionalities according to a site or client’s specifications and design files. These custom designs may mimic other themes, but that’s not always the case. Rather, they can be adapted to the designer and site owner’s style. All parts are designed to work together, and there are no additional components that may cause problems during later updates. Custom WordPress themes are ideal for users with some level of development skills.
Tips on Choosing Between Premium and Custom Themes
Most developers are reluctant to use premium themes to build clients’ sites. However, if that’s what the client wants, that’s what they get. To show the differences and help users make informed decisions, we’ll list some scenarios below.
- If a client wants his or her website to look like a certain theme, it may be difficult to convince them to pay for a custom site as opposed to SEO or quality content. For instance, if the client wants a simple website and there’s a perfect theme for it, development time is reduced significantly.
- If the customer wants changes to be made to a theme’s functionality or design, the developer may incorporate them into a PSD and submit a custom build. This approach is better and easier than trying to directly modify a site’s code. Page load speeds and quality are two good reasons to avoid theme-based sites. Prefabricated themes may increase load times because of all the code and scripts that are not being used. Not only do slow load times adversely affect the user’s experience, but they may also lead to serious Google penalties.
- Many developers avoid recommending theme-based websites, and for good reason. Many times, clients want developers to fix broken sites because free and premium themes aren’t widely supported, and the site may crash with a plugin update. In other cases, when a theme is modified according to the client’s request, updates may break it entirely. When a client wants to add functionality to an existing website, it may take much longer to complete a project. Some functions take more time to integrate into a theme than it would take to rebuild a custom website.
Rebuilding a WordPress website is often the preferred option, but some stubborn souls would still rather spend time adding functions to a theme than spend it building a site from the ground up. Additionally, when a client keeps coming back with functionality requests, things can get even more complicated.
Why Clients Prefer Custom Themes
Creative control is part of being a site owner, as is making important decisions. Below are a few things a client may want to retain control of:
- Image displays
- Custom sidebar coding
- Changing font colors and sizes
- Home page layouts
- Blog snippet displays
- Footer displays
- Slider controls
- Contact form choices
If a client wants things just right and they’re concerned about small details, they should consider that templates won’t give them the control they want. However, a custom site allows them to choose what they want and how they want it.
To summarize the differences between custom WordPress themes and premium themes, we’ll review the reasons for a client to choose one option over the other. Choose a premium theme-based site if:
- The budget is low
- Site requirements are small
- The client lacks development skills, design aptitude, or inspiration
- There’s a theme that ideally suits the client’s requirements
- There are no plans to update the site’s functionality
Choose a custom theme if:
- The client needs a design that meets certain functional or aesthetic requirements
- There isn’t a theme that fulfills the client’s needs without extensive modifications
- There are plans to update the site’s functionality in the future
- The client and developer want to ensure that the site’s quality and page load speed are optimized, and that related problems can easily be resolved
- A client has few development skills and wants a pared-down admin panel
Business owners from all walks of life should consider investing in an effective website. Starting off with a template and working one’s way up to a custom site is acceptable, especially for those on limited budgets, but like everything else in life, one gets what they pay for. To bring more customers to a site and keep them there long enough to make a purchase, effective WordPress development is necessary.