WordPress Custom Web Design or Theme Build?

Few businesses can prosper today without a professional web presence and at the centre of any quality digital strategy is, invariably, a great website.

Here’s the truth of that statement: in 2016, 82% of consumers researched products and services online before making a purchase and that online market is currently growing three times faster than bricks-and-mortar retail.

So, having identified that a quality web design does matter to your business, the next choice is choosing the right approach to web development, i.e. how you’re going to create your website.

We’ve written this article about WordPress—the world’s most popular website build platform—to inspire some lightbulb moments as you decide the right web design approach for you.

The popularity of WordPress

You can’t really argue with the popularity of WordPress as the go-to for professional web designs. In 2017, it powers a quarter of the world’s websites while its six nearest competitors account for less than 10%, combined.

So, what is it that WordPress does so well?

Two of its core web development benefits are:

  1. the easy-to-use back-end interface that means anyone can manage content simply,
  2. the flexibility around how you build your website.

There are other reasons for WordPress’ popularity but these are good places to begin.

We’ll focus on the flexibility of WordPress web designs later, but if you’d like to talk about managing your own content, feel free to get in touch with us and we’ll happily chat you through it.

Which website is right for my business?

WordPress offers two distinct web development options:

  1. Choose from one of WordPress’ pre-made page templates (known as ‘themes’).
  2. Create a new web design from scratch.

WordPress themes are designs that have been created by WordPress developers (among others) which act like frames for you to populate with your own content. There are free and premium themes to choose from with the latter offering a little more in terms of flexibility and function.

There are thousands of themes to choose from. Yet still, it’s not an infinitie selection and there will always be an element of compromise with a theme build. Why? Because you have to fit your business into the web design’s inflexible frame.

To get a web design that specifically fits your business, you’ll need a WordPress web development. Working with web design specialists like us, you’ll get a bespoke WordPress site built for you from scratch so every element can be adjusted to suit you, not the other way around.

Both options have their pros and cons, of course. Getting your head around these should help you choose the right web development option for your business.

Pros of a Custom WordPress Web Development

Being built from scratch, it can help you stand out

Standing out from the crowd—being unique—is a priority for almost every business. As the centrepiece of your digital marketing, your website needs to get noticed for the right reasons.

Built from scratch by a team of specialists, a custom WordPress web development is a bespoke creation that enables a web presence that’s entirely distinctive from your competitors. 

From brand-matching colour schemes selected by professional designers to optimised UX design that arrives from specialist developers, a custom design helps your website look and feel unique.

In contrast, a WordPress theme-built website is likely to share at least some elements of design and functionality with your competitors.  

And if you choose a popular theme, anything distinctive you do create could be easily replicated by a competitor looking to mimic the advantages you’ve found.

But, looked at the right way, the popularity of WordPress and its pre-made themes is also an opportunity to stand out from the crowd. Choosing a custom-built WordPress website is a powerful way to make sure your business is the distinctive alternative to the theme-based status quo.

Being scalable, it gives room to grow

Let’s jump into the future and assume that at some point you’re going to want to change something. Maybe you’re going to add more products or services, go through a rebranding or simply wish to keep pace with new innovations that boost your web design’s potential. 

The crux of the issue with theme-built sites is this: it is difficult to make real changes to a WordPress theme. 

Even with premium themes, which offer greater flexibility than free templates, the scope of changing even small elements like colour schemes or default fonts can be frustratingly problematic. 

Alongside the difficulty, even the most experienced web developer cannot guarantee that making edits won’t negatively affect your website’s performance. Even one error in the thousands of lines of code can have a significant impact on its reliability and speed. 

Contrast this with a custom WordPress web development. 

By building every element, your web designers create a website that’s fully scalable. This makes future developments of your website simpler and quicker while also offering more performance reliability because the designer wrote every line of the code themselves.

For this reason alone, any business planning to grow in the future or simply keep pace with online developments, would benefit from choosing a custom WordPress development.

Beyond the build, it gives you access to experts

One of the key points with any element of your business, particularly those related to technology, is ensuring that you can resolve any issues quickly and with a minimum of fuss. 

If an issue goes undetected or unresolved for any length of time, it can have a clear detrimental impact on your business: from losing of sales to damaging to your reputation.

Now, it should be noted that not every web development agency will offer comprehensive support beyond the build phase. We do—see our range of support packages here—but be careful to assume this is a standard practice.

But why should you need support at all, if the back-end management is straightforward?

Well, imagine you have a webpage that’s suddenly developed a formatting glitch caused by a general WordPress update that affects your theme. Your content is suddenly  strewn all over the page making it, at best, pretty unappealing to use. It’s a problem that needs fixing and quickly to minimise its negative impact on your business.

With a theme build, you could ask the WordPress community of users for help or get in touch with the designer or ‘customiser’ who first set up the theme for you. While these may resolve the issue, it is likely to be time-consuming—researching answers, implementing them properly and then checking their efficacy through testing—and possibly quite costly. 

Also, taking the steps to stop the problem may only patch over a deeper problem that remains unreoslved, meaning the issue can easily come back. A theme not being regularly updated and struggling to keep up with WordPress’ own updates is a good example of such an issue.

Having a specialist on-hand ensures you’ll get an expert solution fast. A custom build offers flexibility not only in the build but also in the support phase. When your web developer writes the code, he/she is also able solve any underlying web design issues with a minimum of fuss. 

No patches; long-lasting solutions.

This point leads us neatly onto one of the main misconceptions of web design: affordability.

A myth about WordPress theme builds

A WordPress theme build does appear to be more affordable because the initial costs are typically lower. 

Why these stresses? Because you need to look beyond the initial costs to really judge a web design’s long-term ROI and affordability.

You can normally get a premium WordPress theme site built for hundreds rather than thousands of pounds. But while you’ll spend less upfront, over time the maintenance costs can spiral, largely because of the time-consuming nature of editing an existing theme successfully.

This often brings the costs of theme-built website on par with a custom build, if not actually making it the more expensive—and restrictive—option. 

Choosing your WordPress web design

No solution is right for every business, but the flexibility, scalability and long-term affordability of a custom WordPress web development makes it an investment that’s likely to pay off in the end.

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