WordPress Theme vs Custom Template Design

When it comes to designing a website, as professional developers we are faced with many choices, but none more important than whether to start designing a website from scratch or whether to find an existing template or WordPress theme.

WordPressThere are some amazing themes available now – from the likes of Studiopress (Genesis), Woo Themes and Themeforest that have a good foothold in the WordPress theme market.  But be aware of their structure.  It may not fit your business model.

Fundamentally there is no right or wrong – however the biggest deciding factor is down to the clients requirements not just now – but in the future.

As a marketer, it’s incredibly important to get to understand fully the business for which you are building a website for.  Not just the products or services they are selling – but the future plans for the business in order to determine a strategy online.

So I thought I would put together Pro’s and Con’s of both:

Existing WordPress theme – Advantages

  1. Thousands to choose from – almost too many
  2. By choosing a popular theme with well known developers, the ongoing support can be good
  3. Can make putting a website together very straightforward and simple
  4. If you choose a popular framework like Genesis, then it’s easy to swap the themes around, but essentially keeping the same structure in place.
  5. Potentially more profitable as no development work required.


  1. Can take you a long time to find the right theme for the client
  2. There are still a lot of themes that are not responsive – ie, that will work well on a mobile.
  3. Once you’ve found something the client wants, then all is fine until they want to change the layout “slightly”.  Most of the time “slightly” means development work, which means creating a child theme.
  4. Once you’ve created a child theme, then the chances are more changes are required to the theme, which means even more development work.
  5. The original designer/developer of theme could potentially move on to other things in future, which means there is no support for changes, so the theme will have no updates.

Designing new Theme from Scratch – Advantages

  1. Working from a blank page is always easier. However, getting a detailed brief from the client is paramount to making sure all aspects are considered and allowed for.
  2. The client can have a lot more input into the design – within reason though.
  3. As designers/developers, it’s important to follow new trends – so to create something new is always satisfying.
  4. Gives you the opportunity to create your own framework and your own plugins to give you the exact flexibility that you require for the site.


  1. Can take a lot longer – both to design and to build
  2. Needs a lot more development work
  3. Can be a lot more expensive for reasons above

Conclusion – new house vs old house?

Fundamentally, you can liken building a website from a theme to moving into an old house.  Primarily you like the layout, but you might want to knock a few walls down and change the colours, and build an extension…

…whereas building a website from scratch means you buy the plot of land and build it from the ground up putting the walls where you want them in the first place – no knocking down involved!

So this goes back to my earlier point – what shape is the business likely to want to be in in the next few years – build something sturdy enough that’s going to last within the clients expectations.

This is another reason why professional businesses should be wary when working with individual freelancers – they normally come with one point of view and one skill, not the many marketing skills required for a long term web design project.

Let me know what you think?

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