Are you considering to use WordPress for your next project?
WordPress is the most widely used CMS (content management system) in the world. According to the latest stats, 34% of all websites on the internet are built on WordPress.
This popularity has given WordPress so much user feedback for improvements, that it is now arguably the best platform out there.
There are two approaches when developing a website on WordPress.
- Use a stock WordPress theme (one that is built for anyone to buy and plugin)
- Develop a custom WordPress theme
I would like to tackle the pros/cons of creating a custom WordPress theme VS using a stock theme which has been favored in the last couple of years.
First, let’s get familiar with the “theme”. There are core pre-built WordPress functionalities: pages, posts, comments, image upload, etc.
The WordPress theme is a group of files that controls the visual aspect of the website but also can control specific extended functionality, and these parts are not included WordPress’ core, so it needs to be built from scratch (eg: book an apartment, rent a car, schedule a meeting)
What is a stock or multi-purpose WordPress theme?
The so-called “swiss army knife” theme, can be bought for around $60. One theme has up to 50-60 pre-made templates designed and developed for websites from various industries (construction, real estate, health & charity, hospitality, technology, etc…)
One theme to rule them all.
You just need to buy a theme, install, choose a template that fits your business and fill in your website content.
What is a custom-made WordPress theme?
Custom made themes are designed and developed from scratch according to the client demands for his particular website.
It means that if you are a car dealer, you’ll get a website with an exact functionality (car listing, car details, and specifications, search and filters according to the category or car characteristics).
Custom-made WordPress themes also have a unique design that no one else on the web has that is tailor-made to fit your customers’ needs.
You might think that something like this is already included in a multi-purpose theme if I choose a template for car dealers, why would I hire a developer to make the same thing for me?
A multi-purpose theme can do everything. ALMOST.
You’ll find a lot of options in the multi-purpose theme, but you’ll never be able to customize it in the way that you want. Even if you hire a developer to do this for you, he will spend several hours just figuring out how the theme works in order to make changes to it.
As your website might need a specific feature, you’ll have to compromise and accept the limitation of the multi-purpose theme. That’s not good as it will make an impact on your website’s usability, and you will end up with fewer visitors/customers than you expected.
Let me mention one example from a couple of years ago. A client wanted to hire us to do updates to his existing site.
His request was related to the event calendar. The website was running on a multi-purpose WordPress theme.
We tried to build an additional feature into the calendar, but that wasn’t possible due to the theme’s limitations.
In the end, the only option was to rebuild the entire calendar, bypassing the stock theme that they had. With the time trying to figure out the stock theme and not being able to edit the calendar, the option to rebuild the calendar was too costly that the client ended up without the calendar feature they asked for.
In short, there is no stock theme that can be customized near the level of custom made theme.
Code quality is questionable.
If you have a multi-purpose theme that serves designs and functionalities for 50 different website templates, do you think that the code is optimized?
Of course not.
It has an enormous number of features and options and that requires a ton of code.
A custom-made theme only includes the code that’s necessary for your website. It is lighter, faster, and easy to work with.
It’s a clear difference when comparing the number of lines of code between custom made, and multi-purpose theme. A multi-purpose theme can be heavier, usually by 10 times.
While premium themes often rely on plugins, an experienced developer will minimize the usage of plugins.
Using a lot of plugins will slow down your website because you don’t know if the plugin code is well written and optimized. In addition, plugins often get outdated, breaking your site with a single WordPress update.
For instance, in our development process, only ACF Pro and Yoast plugins are used. In most cases, everything else is developed from scratch.
You might wonder why?
Because we know the ins and outs of our code, how it’s structured and how to add additional features without the use of plugins.
Crucial website speed.
Google indicated that site speed is one of the factors used by its algorithm to rank pages.
16% of web users claim they will only wait a maximum of 5 seconds before abandoning a website. That’s why the page speed is extremely important for usability.
Multi-purpose themes are very robust with many layers and can often create issues for hosting.
Honestly, they are too slow.
Working with an experienced developer or team will provide you a fully optimized website.
Besides for having a custom theme, a few additional hints on how to speed up your website are:
- Compress images,
- Minify CSS and JS code
- Enable gzip compression
- Reduce the number of HTTP requests
- Make sure you have a good hosting
You can use gtmetrix.com to measure the results. Here is the result from one of the latest websites we did.
Support and updates
Every website requires regular care. You as a business owner, even if you have good intentions, sometimes you don’t have time to maintain and update your website.
If something is broken and you are using a multi-purpose theme, you are on your own. You can get some general advice from the theme’s support but they won’t actually solve your problem.
There could be an issue with WordPress and the plugin updates for multi-purpose themes, and then the website will go down. A blank page will spear when someone visits your website. You can see how that will hurt your business.
If you hire a web development company to build a website, you’ll get the technical support as well.
Easy to use
As I already mentioned, a multi-purpose theme has a lot of features, options, settings, even a page builder. It’s easy to get lost in its admin panel when there are so many options. In addition, of those options, you won’t use 80% of them.
Let’s face it. The more options you have, the more trouble it will give you.
Complicated page builders make the site difficult to manage. Things could get messy.
On the other side, with a custom-made theme, you’ll get only those options that are necessary for you.
Check the screenshot. There are 4 sections on the home separated into the 4 panels. Hero section has background image upload, a field for title and subtitle. How easy is that?
With a custom-made theme, you’ll easily and effectively maintain the website and publish content.
Think about how your customers will see you.
I want to ask you one question.
Why do you want to build a website?
Is it because you want to reach more clients/customers and grow your business?
Do you think that’s possible in the hundreds of websites if you don’t stand out?
You are just another bird in the flock as there are several more websites using the same premium theme.
You need to be unique. Your website will be noticeable for your customers if it’s tailored according to their needs. That can’t be accomplished with a premium theme no matter how much it seems to be perfect for your business.
Provide them exclusive experience, intuitive and easy to use interface. The website is the backbone of your business, be credible and trustworthy.
Stand out from the crowd.
Just to recap:
WordPress is a good solution for your next website. You just need to think through how you want to use it.
Many big brands and celebrities use WordPress for their websites. Mercedes-Benz, Mozilla Blog, Walt Disney, Rolling Stones, Ketty Perry, Snoop Dogg, etc…
They chose this CMS as it has a solid core, but you will notice that all of these websites are built as a custom-made theme.
They’re thinking about their customers, how about you?