One of the main decisions business owners are faced with when they consider putting up a WordPress website for their company is this: should we create a custom WordPress theme, or select one of the free or premium WordPress themes available on the market? This is the question that I intend to help you answer today.
Probably the first thing you will learn when considering these options is that creating a custom WordPress theme requires a larger budget. It may cost upwards of 2000 USD, while premium themes are usually available at below 100 USD. And yet, many companies choose building a custom theme over using a pre-made one. In this article I wanted to give you some reasons why they decide to make that investment, and why you might want to consider it too.
What are WordPress themes
Before we delve deeper into what the benefits of using custom themes are, you might want to read a bit more about how WordPress sites work. To use a metaphor, a WordPress website is a bit like a newspaper kiosk. The owner of the kiosk chooses what newspapers to put up on display for customers viewing the kiosk from the outside. If the owner wants to change what’s currently on display, they can do that easily by replacing the newspapers with newer press. This is more or less how a website based on WordPress functions. The WordPress engine has a panel for the administrator of the site, which allows them to quickly and painlessly change the content visible to the users.
If the owner of the kiosk wishes to retain their customers, they will take care in what newspapers they choose to display and in what order. This is crucial if they want their customers to return for fresh releases every day. However, if the owner wants to attract new customers, there is one more thing that they will need to do, which is to take care of the kiosk booth itself. They will make sure it looks clean, attractive, and stands out to passers-by.
This is exactly what a WordPress theme does for the website - it defines its look and feel. If you want to attract new business, you have to ensure that the site looks unique and stylish. It needs to match your company branding, and be pleasant for the users to interact with. This is the first reason why creating a custom WordPress theme might be right for you.
Unique layout vs. reusable template
When building a custom WordPress theme, you have full control over how the site will look and behave, and what effects and functionalities will be present on the pages. This makes it far easier to deliver a unique experience to your users, which is in line with the branding you created for your company. There are virtually limitless possibilities to what can be achieved in terms of layout and effects on the frontend. After all, the developers will create the site according to your own design.
Compared to that, a free or premium theme, which is used by dozens, maybe hundreds of companies around the world will leave less of an impression on the visitors. There is only so much originality that you can inject in a template that has a limited number of options. If a user notices that the site uses a commonly reused theme, they might feel less tempted to interact with the site.
Flexibility and customization
When ordering a custom WordPress theme, you can specify exactly what amount of customization and flexibility you will need to easily manage the content on your site. Using the new Gutenberg editor, and building your theme in a modular way, will make many changes on the website possible without the help of a developer.
If you buy a pre-made theme, you may try to customize it a bit using the help of a developer. However, editing a pre-made theme may be problematic. Those themes come with a lot of dependencies and additional functionality that the dev will need to work around. In some extreme cases it might turn out that rebuilding a theme from scratch will take less time than adding a custom feature to a pre-made one! Thus, you might get stuck with the options that the theme originally offers.
Speaking of customization and functionality, it is important to consider also the backend of the site. Pre-made themes are designed to appeal to as many site owners as possible, and because of that they will always contain a large number of options. Some of these may turn out to be useful, some of them you might end up never using. A custom WordPress theme will come with a panel that is tailored to your expectations. It will possess all of the functionality you need, and only the functionality you need. This will make it easier for you or your co-workers to maintain the site, and save precious time when adding or editing content.
Cutting off all of the unwanted functionality also makes the theme itself lighter and easier to maintain and expand. Instead of a number of pre-installed plugins, the theme will only have the plugins that are absolutely necessary for the site to function properly. All of this is important if you want to improve the site speed, but also to make room for new features and functionalities in the future.
The right choice for you
There are instances when choosing a pre-made WordPress theme will be the right way for you. If you are not sure if your business currently has the budget for developing a custom theme, and you are alright with the layout and options of one of the available free or premium themes, you might be better off choosing that path. You can always create a custom theme for your company website later on, once you decide the right moment has come.
However, if you want to create a unique and powerful website that will leave a lasting impression on your users, and will make it easier for them to identify with your business, you will probably want to consider investing in a custom WordPress theme. Putting extra time and budget into creating a site that is tailored to your needs will make it easier for you to maintain and expand it in the future, and will make it easier for your company to stand out among the competitors.