WordPress has become one of the most widely-used open-source website design and content management system since it began in 2003. One of its most attractive features is its simple and easily customizable platform. If you know how to use a word processor then you will have no problem navigating the elements of WordPress. You don’t need in-depth knowledge of coding languages like HTML or CSS to create a professional-looking website with WordPress.
If you’re just starting, though, you might be confused about some of the options that WordPress offers. For example, do you use a premium WordPress theme or a custom theme for your site?
Let’s examine these two choices in greater detail.
What is a WordPress theme?
A theme is the base design or style of any website. It encompasses the color palette, images, fonts, layout, and other content. Think of it as a template that you can customize to your needs. WordPress offers three types of themes: free, premium, and custom.
The theme you choose determines the look of your site and its functionality. There are themes for commerce, photography, writing, real estate—there is a vast number of themes to browse through.
Once you have chosen a theme, you can download it to your admin dashboard where you can start customizing or populating it as you wish.
What is a premium theme?
This is a theme that has been created by a web developer or programmer and sold off-the-shelf. The price depends on what you want your website to contain. If you want e-commerce functionality or media galleries, then you will have to pay more. The higher the price, the more functions and control you will get.
A premium theme can be categorized into two general types:
- single-purpose – for a specific line of business.
- multi-purpose – for businesses that need multiple features and applications.
Advantages of using a premium theme
- Affordability – the license for a premium theme can be as low as $35. Payment is made upfront and some developers include six months of customer support and money-back guarantees in their packages.
- Manageable – a premium theme doesn’t need a lot of collaboration with the developer. This means that you or someone from your team can do the necessary customizations and changes you need. You don’t have to bring in an outsider or hire a programmer to do the work you want.
- Fast turnaround – since the theme has already been developed and packaged before it is sold, then you can design your site quickly and you will be able to launch it in a short amount of time. Depending on what you need, you can make your website go live within a few hours.
- Simplicity – changing a theme to get the look and feel you want is an easy point-and-click process. The system offers a series of options that you can browse through and evaluate before choosing the one you like.
- Plug-ins – WordPress has a lot of plug-ins that can add applications like social media widgets or Google Analytics that make your website easier to use and navigate.
Disadvantages of using a premium theme
- Limited options – with premium themes, you get what you pay for. If you choose the lower-priced license then you will have limited functions and designs to choose from. Customization will also be minimal. Certain themes may also not have unique functions or specialized options like user dashboards or responsive maps.
- Updates – plug-ins need to be maintained and updated by the developers so that your website will remain error-free. This means that even if you don’t need to collaborate with a developer, you still have to rely on that person for future updates.
- Training – since a premium theme is a self-managed platform, then you or a member of your team need to learn how to manipulate the platform. This may entail hours or days of training if you or your team doesn’t know how to use WordPress. Though some people require only minimal training, it is still important to know the inner workings of WordPress. For example, although plug-ins are great, too many of them could lead to conflicts within the site or slow it down. Only someone with knowledge of WordPress would be able to maintain the balance between aesthetics and functionality.
- Bloated features – since developers want their themes to be bought, they usually add functions that will appeal to a broad range of users. This could sometimes lead to overlapping plug-ins.
- Difficult migration – if you want to change the theme of your site in the future, it will be hard to migrate content built with a premium theme. You will have to start your new website from scratch because your current premium theme has codes that cannot be migrated easily to a different theme that uses different codes.
What is a custom theme?
A custom WordPress theme is built from scratch and maintained by the website design services of a team or agency following the specific requirements of a company. The codes may start with a template but these are modified for the site. So each site created through a custom theme is unique and follows the brand and desired features of a company.
A custom theme is a good option for businesses that conduct e-commerce or have high traffic. However, since it requires more work from a developer or programmer, it is more expensive than all the other theme options on WordPress.
Advantages of using a custom theme
- Full customization – you can unlock the full potential and access all of its resources like call center systems, customer management systems (CRMs), inventory systems, points of sale, and social media platforms.
You can even have the codes modified so you can integrate it into your company’s existing systems. This ensures that the new website is both unique and all web design elements follow and enhance the company’s branding on each page. A company also has full control over conversion rates and user experience.
- Speed – only the essential plug-ins and elements are incorporated into a custom theme. This makes the website work faster since all functions are streamlined.
- Expert maintenance and optimization – the creation and maintenance of the website are taken care of by experts so you won’t have to worry about upgrades. The programmers or developers also know how to handle emergencies such as security attacks or overlapping plug-ins.
Plus, these WordPress experts know how to optimize your site for SEO and digital marketing, which can improve conversion rates. This guarantees not just content but platform optimization so your website can be viewed using a desktop, tablet, or mobile phone without any problems.
Disadvantages of using a custom theme
- Cost – as stated above, a custom theme is more expensive because of the work that it needs to set up and maintain. A basic custom theme can start at $5,000 per year but a site with more features can start at $15,000 per year. You will also have to set aside monthly costs of maintenance and site support. If you’re looking for website design services in Auckland, it’s better to select a designer or agency that will work within your budget because this type of website will need advanced coding that only experts can do.
- Development period – since a custom theme is built from scratch and customized to the specific needs of a company, the process will take a while. Do not expect to have a functioning website in just a few hours or days. The coding of one page can take hours if the customization is unique. You should also foresee that a considerable amount of time will be needed for the cycle of reviews, feedback, and redesign that will inevitably take place, especially if the developer does not know your company’s brand, custom, or industry. Even if the new site is going to be integrated into existing systems, it will still take time to finish the consolidation.
- Coordination – you will need to invest not just money but time for the web design and development of a custom theme. As the client, you or a designated member of your team will need to actively and constantly coordinate with the developer from the start of the project until it is already running.
What theme should you get?
Based on these pros and cons, one of the most fundamental factors that would affect your decision is resources.
Use a premium theme if you:
- need a basic website design that will not require multiple functions or will not be expanded in the future (i.e., you just need to establish a presence online).
- have a limited budget that can be allocated for the creation, maintenance, and support of a website (although you might want to consider additional costs that you may incur when you need to update in the future).
- find an off-the-shelf theme that already fits all your needs.
- need to launch your website immediately without worrying about performance.
Use a custom theme if you:
- have complex needs or several functions that you want to be incorporated into your website, including content optimization.
- need to make a lot of modifications to a theme to suit your requirements.
- have plans to expand your business or customer support in the future, which will require additional functions or styles.
- have the funds and resources, including time, to build and maintain a website from scratch.