When it comes to deciding the best approach for designing a website for your business, whether it’s the first iteration or a complete redesign project, the time will come when you have to decide between a theme-based design or a custom web design.
Just to be clear, in WordPress terminology, a theme is a collection of templates for a website. Templates are the files which control how the pages on your site will be displayed. Themes are usually organized around a certain look or feel among a collection of templates.
Do-it-yourself or generic agencies usually sell themes or theme packages. When you choose a website design from a catalog of ready-made sites, you typically select a theme that includes useful and harmonious templates.
But when you opt for a themed site, you have to prepare for the day you will outgrow it.
On the flipside, you could go custom from the start. Custom web design can be more expensive, true, but no good designer would advise a business to purchase this such a product unless were worth it in the long run.
As Jason Brewer from Brolik explains:
“If your budget is above $20,000: You might want to start looking at a website design company that can build a fully custom website experience and support the website after it launches.”
Limitations Of Theme-Based Designs
The most obvious disadvantage of a theme is the fact that, if you’re buying it from a theme developer or downloading it for free, there’s a good chance that tens if not hundreds of other sites are using it to. When you’re trying to stand out from the competition, the last thing you need is a website that can’t be picked out of the proverbial lineup.
Another problem that people don’t realize about choosing a prefab theme is the exposure to security vulnerabilities. This is due to the fact that when you chose a theme, the chances are that you’re using a widely popular software platform like WordPress. These popular platforms often get hit by malware and hackers. If your site requires deep security for your customers, a custom site may be of better value to you.
Some theme website owners find that once you go beyond the basics of template selection, you find a steep learning curve. You can choose a plugin that can be configured for a given need—for example, a specific post type or page template specific to a product or service—but the process of configuration is sometimes complicated and subtle. You and your staff may be tasked to write a lot of technical code to customize templates.
On the other hand, custom web design allows you to build in the exact functionalities that are necessary to make your website useful to your business. When coupled with a custom CMS, a custom design can better match your specific company’s needs and goals without the hassle of bending and breaking something that was designed to be used by many, many other sites.
Why Choose A Custom Web Design?
Other than budget, a custom website may be your best solution if:
- You have strict expectations about how your brand is presented.
- You need a lot of customization on the front and back end, and don't want to deal with the restrictions imposed by templates or an out-of-the-box CMS.
- Your site requires advanced functionality like ecommerce, lead capture, and customer portals.
- The website has to be ready for web-based applications.
- You want full ownership of the site and may want to move it or manipulate it in the future.
- You really want to spend the time and money to get it right.
At the end of the day, if you need a cheap and basic brochure site for your business, you can get away with choosing something off the shelf. This assumes that you don’t plan on growing any time soon, or that your business doesn’t require much more from its website than to convey minimal information. This is the common choice for those who build a website just for the sake of having one.
But as your business grows, your website will need to scale accordingly. If you begin to sell more products or have a need to market on a much higher level, you’ll quickly outgrow what everyone else is doing. At that point, you will likely be better off investing in something custom that will be able to adapt and serve your exact business needs.