Custom WordPress Web Design vs Premade Themes

Today, if a business wants to survive, it’s essential that they have a website. But figuring out the best way to go about it all can be rather nerve-wracking. Whether you’re redesigning or starting from scratch, there three tiers to website building that you should consider — let’s discuss these.

Every business needs a website, but figuring out how to go about it can be nerve-wracking. Whether you’re due for a redesign or need to create a new site from scratch, there are three tiers of website creation to consider: the DIY SaaS website, the premade theme website, or the custom-built website.

At Southern Web, we offer both custom WordPress development and premade WordPress theme development, which allows us to help clients with a variety of budgets and scopes. In this piece, we break down the differences between custom WordPress web development and premade template themes so you can determine which route is best to take for your business.

The Benefits of Custom Web Design

1. Limitless customization

With a custom website, your imagination is the limit. Okay, maybe your budget plays a factor, too, but the sentiment remains:

Having a website designed for you from scratch gives you complete creative control of your brand’s digital face.

Going the custom route allows you to dictate your wants and needs on a granular level — not just adjusting colors and fonts, but the actual structure and features of your site, as well. While using a premade WordPress theme can turn out gorgeous, you ultimately have to be okay working with what the theme allows.

2. There’s no site out there like yours

While premade template sites do a fine job for many businesses and organizations out there, many major brands require a website that is designed and built with a specific vision, aesthetic, and functionality in mind. Sharing the same premade theme with countless other businesses out there kind of goes against those principles.

Think about when you try on clothing in a store. You can choose an outfit off the rack in your size and, if it’s true to size, the piece will probably fit fine. Even if the pants are a smidge too long or the shirt is a tiny bit tight in the shoulders, you can generally “make it work.” But if you have ever worn a garment constructed from scratch with your measurements in mind, you know it makes a huge difference. Not only does a custom-made outfit fit perfectly, but no one else will be wearing the same outfit as you.

The same applies for custom web design and development. With a custom site, you know you’re getting a one-of-a-kind product that is designed specifically for your needs — it’s a perfect fit from the start.

3. Ideal for complex scopes & future growth

Another reason to choose a custom designed website is if you know your site will require complex features or template types that can’t be addressed within the confines of a “canned” theme.

For example, let’s say you’re a company that sells beverages, and you’re coming into a project with a very specific visual idea for how you want your company’s “Find a Distributor” locator tool to appear and function. Unfortunately, you may have to make serious compromises on that vision based on what your premade theme allows.

That’s not the case with a custom site! If you dream it, an expert design and development team can make it a reality.

Not only does a custom site allow for endless creativity from the get-go, but it also allows for greater scalability and flexibility as your business grows and your needs change. If you decide you want to add a new feature or template type to your custom site later down the road, you don’t have to worry about being restricted by a template theme.

The Benefits of Premade Themes

We love custom WordPress sites, but we can’t discount the value & ease of a template theme site. While they do not offer as many opportunities for customizability and scalability, choosing a theme “off the rack” can get the job done if you’re on a budget. There are three main reasons you might want to go the premade route:

1. Budget-friendly!

Money is, by far, one of the most common reasons that people choose to go with a premade theme for their website. When you add up all the costs of building a website, a theme license is one of the most affordable components. If you consider yourself fairly tech-savvy and decide to go the DIY route, you can save a lot of money by installing and customizing the theme yourself.

Even if you don’t have the technical chops to go the full-on DIY route, hiring a developer or digital agency to install and customize your theme is still a pretty excellent bang for your buck. Not only does a developer know what they’re doing, but they can help you find creative solutions for working around the limitations of a premade theme.

Plus, when you work with an agency, you’re likely getting much more than just a theme install. For example, when we take on template theme projects (which we call “express web development”), we generally follow the same project process used for our custom projects (minus the wireframes and design phases). This means our express clients still enjoy all the benefits of working with a professional web design agency. We assign a project manage to guide the project, facilitate discovery and asset collection, refine your site’s information architecture, create content if necessary, build the theme according to your specifications, provide opportunities for revisions, and execute an extensive pre- and post-launch checklist to ensure your site is immaculate. And you get all of that at a fraction of the price of a huge custom development project.

2. Speedier project timelines

One of the reasons we label our template web development services as “express” is that these projects have vastly shorter turnaround times than custom web design and development services.

Depending on the circumstances, some express project can be fast-tracked for clients experiencing major time crunches. For example, maybe you need to get a new website up before a major product launch or ahead of the biggest industry conference of the year.

3. More customizable than you might think

While a template site will never offer as much versatility as a custom built site, you might be surprised to learn just how much of a theme’s design can be tailored to your aesthetics and needs.

The ability to change colors and fonts is standard, but some templates offer even more robust features. This will largely depend on the theme you choose. As you’re browsing themes, you’ll obviously want to find one that looks appealing, but you should also dig deeper and see what kind of extra elements, widgets, formatting options, or special templates are built into the theme.

Do you know you want your new site to have social media widgets? Visual charts or stat counters? A calculator tool? Styled testimonial blocks? Some theme packages even include multiple options for common template types (like the homepage, contact page, full-width landing pages, etc), which allows you to mix and match template types. These are all example of features you can find in premade themes, but you just have to know to look for them.

Drew Barton Avatar
Founder & CEO

6 min read