When you decide to launch a WordPress-based project, you need to decide what website building approach will be the best choice for you or your client. Should you build a custom WordPress theme or look for premium web designs in the digital marketplaces? The answer to this question depends on many factors, including your budget, goals, time to complete the project, etc. Both options are good. However, they are suited for different purposes. In this article, let’s find out the difference and decide what option will be the best choice for your new WordPress site. 

The Basics 

WordPress is the world’s leading CMS widely used for a wide range of purposes and web design projects. It powers more than 39,5% of all websites available on the Internet (as of the first quarter of 2021). The content management system has one of the biggest communities of web developers making WordPress themes and extensions suited for a wide range of needs. The growing demand resulted in a wide range of free WordPress themes hitting the market. Freebies may be the best choice for educational purposes and small business projects where users want to familiarize themselves with the WordPress functionality and find out what options they need to achieve the best result in web development.

Freebies are great, but when you need to launch something competitive and outstanding, premium and custom WordPress themes are the right way to go. 

Custom WordPress Theme VS Premium Web Design

Let’s put first things first and make a clear statement that all WordPress websites you can come across on the web share a common core of code that website visitors cannot see. Only the website administrator can see it after logging in, maintaining, and updating their web pages. 

The most common features that you can find in the admin view include adding pages and blog posts, uploading media files, adding plugins, etc. The thing that website visitors see is only the outer shell. It’s called a page template, which can be purely visual or include extra functionality, visual effects, eCommerce tools, commenting/liking/sharing options, etc. Page templates can be built and customized specifically for your web project (custom WordPress themes) or their components may be adjusted in advance (free or premium WordPress themes). That’s the main difference. 

What is a Premium WordPress Theme?

A web design solution referred to as a theme is commonly understood as a ready-to-go set of templates that demonstrate how a future website based on this theme will look. Such themes are already loaded with visual effects and all the needed tools and features you need to launch a niche-specific online resource. There are thousands of ready-made themes available on the web. Whenever you come across a solution that perfectly matches your business style, all you need to do is download it and import to your site while replacing the default content with the articles and images you have. It’s one of the quickest ways to launch a website, which doesn’t require too much effort and expenses to be completed. 

To let a wider range of users work with ready-made themes, developers integrate them with intuitive page builders that provide for a quick and code-free modification of ready-made layouts. Additional code combinations are also provided to let users work with the themes’ code whenever it’s needed. 

When a Premium WordPress Theme is a Good Choice?

A good example of suggesting a customer to choose a premium WordPress theme is by picking a ready-made solution for a website that has already hit the web. It may be hard to convince a client to invest into the development of a custom web design. As a wise alternative, a client can spend more on SEO and copywriting services for their website. 

Suppose you come across with a ready-made WordPress designed just the way you wanted and included all the needed functionality you were looking for. In that case, it’s better to opt for this solution and spend extra hours on web development. You may even handle different aspects of your future website all by yourself while simply working in the drag-and-drop interface. The saved time and money can be more useful for the integration of extra tools and features into your website. For example, you can add animation effects to different elements of your site. To let users get in touch with your company’s representatives, you may invest into adding contact forms or online booking functionality.

There are always two sides to a coin. Using premium WordPress themes brings many advantages. However, whenever you need to apply any kind of changes to the design or functionality of the chosen theme, it’s better to bring the needed modifications to the PSD of your template. It’s when a custom WordPress theme should be a better choice. As we’ve already said above, an exception to the rule are those premium WordPress themes that are already loaded with page builders. Instead of tweaking the source code, intuitive page builders make it easier and faster to apply the needed changes to any pre-designed WordPress solution.  

Premium WordPress themes have additional software integrations that let you update your website without much development skills needed. However, when you need to apply any modifications that are not integrated into your premium theme yet, you need to apply all the needed modifications to the theme’s code. It may be an issue if you are not very tech-savvy. A minor error can break the code and crash your site. 

Pros:

  • Websites that are built using premium WordPress themes often cost less than those built with custom templates. They are best suited for companies with a very restricted budget and time. 
  • Premium themes are flexible and include a variety of customization options.
  • While looking for a ready-made WordPress theme for your site, you choose a web design that matches a particular topic. Niche-specific themes include extra tools and plugins that are commonly used in a particular business field. 
  • Premium themes also come with additional code to provide all the features for the wider user base.
  • If you are happy with the way a particular theme looks and do not need much customization to be applied, you can import its demo to your website and launch your site after uploading your content and visuals. 

Cons:

  • If your site requires a lot of features, then customizing premium themes can become an overhead.
  • When picking a premium WordPress theme to launch your site, you need to be careful with choosing the theme itself and the plugins it features. The code generated by pre-made themes may not be optimized for SEO. Considering the frequency at which Google changes its search algorithms, it’s vital to make your website compliant with the latest SEO tendencies. 

What is a Custom WordPress Theme?

A custom WordPress theme is a one-of solution that a web developer creates for a particular website, according to the design files and specifications provided by a client. The way a custom WordPress theme will look and feel depends on the customer’s request. For example, they can mimic existing themes or be unique. 

Besides their peculiar feature of creating one custom WordPress theme for one website, custom-made web designs share various features common to premium WordPress themes. They are updates similar to the rest WordPress themes whenever a new update, security and bug fixes are rolled out. So, opting for a custom theme-built WordPress theme, you shouldn’t be worried that your website will be outdated or face the risk of malfunction.  

In some cases, building websites with custom WordPress themes may be more expensive than using premium web designs. Companies and entrepreneurs with a limited budget using a pre-made WordPress theme may be a good alternative to investing extra cash into a custom-made project. 

Custom Themes Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Custom WordPress themes offer more flexibility and better performance than ready-to-go designs. 
  • If you want your website to be one-of-a-kind, a custom WordPress theme is the way to go. 
  • Custom themes offer the best flexibility and performance. 
  • The website will be built from scratch, which gives the designer come up with creative ideas for that unique look of your site. 
  • Since custom themes include the functionality that is required for your website, there won’t be any additional/unused code. It will have a positive impact on page loading speed and SEO. 

Cons:

  • The downside of using custom WordPress themes is the cost – because everything will be built from scratch.
  • It also takes more time to create a custom theme-based site than a web project launched with a ready-to-go solution. 

What’s the Best Choice for Your Site? 

Let’s sum up the comparison and decide if it’s a premium or a custom WordPress theme that works best for your site. A premium WordPress theme will work better for you if: 

  • You have limited time and budget to launch your site. 
  • You need a small website or blog. 
  • You lack design or coding skills. 
  • You have found a ready-made theme that perfectly meets your expectations. 
  • You are not going to make any functionality updates in the future. 

A custom WordPress theme will be the best choice for you if:

  • You would like your site to look unique.
  • You cannot find a premium theme that meets your needs. 
  • You want to update your website with more functionality in the future. 
  • You want to feel certain that your website is well-coded and SEO-friendly. 
  • You need a lean admin panel that includes only those options that you or your client needs, nothing extra. 
More articles by themes
If you notice that your website starts redirecting users to unknown websites, it is likely it was hacked. WordPress...
If you notice your WordPress website doesn’t load as fast as it used to, chances are its performance is...
Security is all we need. There are many ways to make your website a safer place on the Internet....

Contact

Feel free to reach out with a member of our team! We are excited to begin our collaboration!
Alex Osmichenko
Alex Osmichenko
CEO, Founder
Dima Osmichenko
Dima Osmichenko
COO
Clutch Logo
Reviewed on Clutch

Send a Project Brief

Fill out and send a form. Our Advisor Team will contact you promptly!

    Note: We will not spam you and your contact information will not be shared.