It may shock you to hear that not all WordPress sites are created equal. WordPress is ideal for creating custom websites that look exactly how you want. And while custom vs. theme may sound like similar terms if they have the word “WordPress” in front of it, there are distinct differences between the two. Today we are going to share what it means to have a custom WordPress site vs. a WordPress Theme and why they will give you two very different results if you don’t know what you are getting.
Welcome to Marketing and a Mic. We’re here to give you a variety of digital marketing tips, trends, and useful guides to help your business get results. When it comes to the WordPress design language, there can be a lot of uncertainty. Most often, when someone says they have a WordPress site, they may think they have a custom-designed site – but they don’t.
What is a WordPress Theme Template?
When it comes to WordPress, themes serve as the foundation for creating your website, and they have their uses, especially if you are just starting out and have a particular budget. When you visit any WordPress site, you will always see a theme in place. It can either be the default theme, a free theme, a premium theme, or a custom theme. A theme serves as the foundation for your WordPress design and determines the general look and functionality. Themes also come with preselected groups of plugins and features that are geared toward specific website uses. For example, some themes are categorized based on the type of business, such as eCommerce, photographers, real estate, etc.
Once the theme is applied, the placeholder content can be swapped out for your own content and media. Depending on the customized options of that theme, the color palette and other aesthetics can also be changed. Feature plugins can be applied to an active theme to help customize the look and functionality of the site.
Free themes naturally will have limited customization options and less support for any WordPress updates. They will generally look plainer in design, and the variety is very limited. Premium themes are those that have been developed and updated by a developer and listed for sale. The cost of a premium theme is a wide range. They can be anywhere from the cost of a pair of shoes to thousands of dollars. The higher the cost of the premium theme, the more function and control you get in return.
Drawbacks to Consider with Theme Templates
Design and Style are Limited
Your website won’t be a one-of-a-kind, and the design will be limited to a WordPress theme that was built to appeal to a wide audience rather than one unique to your specific businesses. Branding opportunities are limited as well because you are stuck with the default color palettes. So, the limited customization may not properly reflect your brand.
Excessive Code and Overlap
Using a growing number of plug-ins to add more functionality to a WordPress site can increase the amount of code on the backend and slow down your site. More code from more plug-ins on theme templates means more of a chance for conflicts in the HTML and possible errors in the operation of the site. Excess code can lead to slower overall site speeds, which can be an annoyance to website visitors and hurt your SEO rankings.
Limited future changes and migration
This is a big one, particularly if you plan to make changes or more over your hosting. If you want to move to a different page builder or a custom theme, you can just migrate/move over your pages and content. Instead, you will have to start from scratch. This is because template themes come with pre-applied shortcodes in the theme. These are essentially “watered-down” codes that will become broken or non-useable with any migration.
Limited Support & Security
Support for theme templates can be limited. To keep all your features and extras running smoothly, you’ll have to be reliant on third parties that you don’t have a direct relationship with. If a conflict arises with a plug-in or an update needs to that place, it will be up to you to make sure those requirements happen. Because the premium theme is self-managing, the business owner, to someone on staff, must be the one staying on top of managing and updating plugins, updates, and security.
What is A Custom WordPress Site?
A custom WordPress site uses a theme that is built from scratch for the specific website. It has been created by a WordPress web developer for a unique client. The bulk of the customization is done to match the design and branding for that specific company. This includes implementing designed features, streamlining the backend code, and creating features that service the customer base. Custom WordPress Theme typically ranges from the thousand to the tens of thousands of dollars depending upon the size and needs of the site. Custom WordPress Themes give business owners full capabilities to and ownership of their site.
Advantages of a Custom WordPress Theme
Because you are designing your WordPress site using custom modules and directly editing the code of the site, a WordPress developer can unlock the full potential of their site. The backend can be customized to integrate plugins with existing business systems and resources like inventory management, CRMS, call centers, customer service departments, social media management, and more.
A customer WordPress site will generally have faster page speed and performance. This is because only the functionality of the site needs to be included. This seamless and streamlined build reduces the number of plugins used to operate the website. Remember, the more outside plugins you need, the more bloated your site can get will add-on features, thus slowing it down. Custom sites eliminate all that will all the bells and whistles already baked in.
Unique Design for Branding
When looking for a one-of-a-kind design with elements that match the look and feel of your brand, a custom WordPress theme is the answer.
This is particularly important when developing the design of your site to match existing graphics and content. Unique layouts, heavily featured media, animations, illustrations, and other modern design elements can be more easily applied with a custom-designed site.
With all the responsibilities that come with maintaining a website, custom WordPress sites come with ongoing support. So, there’s less worrying about keeping up the theme, plugins, security, and updates.
If a conflict is found, a team is already on hand to solve the issue and edit the code if needed. Plugins can be added without conflict or downtime to the operation of the site. In other words, your WordPress is constantly being maintained by an expert, so you can be hands-off.
SEO and Digital Marketing
With the proper implementation of a digital marketing strategy and SEO, your custom-designed WordPress theme can also incorporate important SEO elements and build them into the site to improve your online visibility.
When you build your Custom WordPress Theme with a professional Digital Marketing Agency, they can bake in all the necessary design code and functionality to ensure your website is optimized for search engines and potential customers.
Which Should You Choose?
Now that you understand better what you get and don’t get with these 2 WordPress designs, you’ll need to consider what matters to you most when deciding which to choose. The answer comes down to 3 main factors: Cost, Time, and Flexibility.
WordPress Themes are often much cheaper to start up and can cost a few hundred dollars to keep up and running. Custom WordPress themes start, at a minimum, a few thousand dollars. Like everything in life, however, you get what you pay for, so WordPress themes will get you with their limitations.
As we mentioned before, Premium themes come with a nice template to work from, but you will be responsible for the demo work. This means the design added plugins and kept up with the necessary upgrades and security. WordPress sites do take time to build, so if you decide to go that route, consider it taking 4-6 weeks before it’s complete. But you remain hand-offs since a team of experts is building it.
With a premium theme, you are typically locked into a design and configuration. If you choose a theme, make sure it has the right sidebars, width, and header configurations you need, because you are limited to any customization. So, there you have it. In a nutshell, a WordPress theme is dependent on budget, time, brand, and support. There is no right or wrong answer, but you need to consider how important your website is to your long-term marketing goals.
If you need any help with setting up a WordPress website or if you’re looking for more ways to drive traffic to your business, we would love to help. Don’t forget that our podcast also goes live on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and you can catch the replay on Instagram. You can also subscribe to our YouTube Channel for more resources to help your digital marketing plan.