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Template vs Custom: Which WordPress Theme Should You Choose?

By November 18, 2019February 22nd, 2021One Comment
Template vs Custom Built theme - Cover


Whether you’re building a new website or rebuilding an existing one, you need to choose whether you use a template theme or a custom-built theme. Both will rebuild the website core, bringing it up-to-date with the latest best practice and allowing it to work in the best possible way for you.

Template and custom themes each have their pros and cons that you need to consider before making your final decision. We’ve been working with WordPress in the web design industry for over 20 years, so we’ve learnt a thing or two about both. Here’s our take on what works best, when.

Template vs Custom: Which WordPress Theme Should You Choose? 1What are the pros of a template WordPress theme?

  • Using a template theme will save you money, so it’s a good option if your budget is tight.
  • With a template theme, additional support will be available from the developer if something breaks.
  • Sometimes template themes can be easier to change in-house. Although we’re good at making our custom themes flexible too.
  • If the theme isn’t customised too much after install, updates can be provided by the developer and can be quick to implement.
  • On a template theme, a web builder will be added, so you can design any page between header and footer

What are the cons of a template WordPress theme?

  • The additional support you get with a template theme is generally very slow. It can take weeks to find solutions.
  • With a template theme, the build is often bloated with extra code and so it runs slower than a custom theme.
  • Sometimes the theme developer disappears and there is no support at all. And the website can have so much code that it’s difficult to fix effectively.
  • If you want to customise the theme a lot, there can be restrictions and plugin conflicts.
  • The quality of template theme is variable and we only work with a few proven themes.
  • Sometimes when performing a developer update on a template theme, major changes are included. This can change all pages on a website and then we would have to manually fix them to restore the original look and feel

What are the pros of a custom WordPress theme?

  • Custom WordPress themes are very fast as there’s no unnecessary code.
  • Custom themes are very customisable.
  • As with a template theme, a web builder will be added so you can design any page between the header and the footer.
  • Plugins work better on a custom theme as they conflict less with code.
  • Maintenance can be quicker and cheaper with a custom theme as there’s less code.
  • Custom themes are ideal for large sites.

What are the cons of a custom WordPress theme?

  • Custom themes generally cost more to build initially.
  • Custom themes also take longer to build (which drives the higher setup costs)
  • If a custom theme is built by a developer that’s not aligned with WordPress best practice, they can be troublesome, but the same goes for an off the shelf template that’s poorly made.

A template WordPress theme might work for you if:

  • You only need a small website.
  • You have a very limited budget.
  • You lack design inspiration or ideas, or you’re really unsure about what you want or what would look best.
  • You’ve already found a theme that you’re excited about right out-of-the-box.
  • You don’t plan to make many functionality updates to it in the future.

A custom WordPress theme might work better for you if:

  • You feel your site deserves a unique design to fit your aesthetic and functional requests.
  • There’s no theme that fits your needs without modifications.
  • You’re likely to make functionality updates in future.
  • You want to ensure your site is optimised for page loading speed and quality, and that any such issues can be easily resolved later on.
    You want a lean admin dashboard, with just the options that you’ll need to customise later on.

So what’s best, a template theme or custom theme?

A custom theme is a better choice if your budget allows because it gives you scope to do whatever you need. It will be better from an SEO point of view too because it’s less bloated with code, which makes your website faster. Some of the biggest companies in the world use WordPress to power their websites, but they use custom-coded WordPress themes to achieve the design they want.

A premium template theme can be a viable solution if you need to keep costs to a minimum.

So really, the choice is yours. But whatever you choose, we will always advise you how best to achieve your growth goals, within your given budget. We prioritise building a long-term, sustainable relationship over our own profits, every time. Get in touch today to see how our web design can help you.

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[…] Theme design – The theme design dictates how your site will look and feel, from the colour scheme to fonts and page layout. You can choose a template or custom-built theme. […]

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