Custom or Ready WordPress Theme? - Find out the pros and cons
Many people are faced with a choice: custom or ready-made WordPress theme? Which of these two options is better? What should you consider? We answer!
This is exactly how Bartholomew Kilian pointed out the difference on our blog some time ago, describing noteworthy WordPress themes.
If we try to illustrate this with a specific example, then the template can be, for example, the header.php file responsible for presenting the header in the theme. It can also be a 404.php file that defines the look of the 404 error subpage. The template is also a single.php file that defines the look of a single blog post.
And so on and so on.
In turn, all of the above files (along with others such as style.css - usually the main CSS file responsible for appearance) together make up a theme. Into a single, neat whole.
That's why in this particular post we're looking at the next theme - a custom or pre-built WordPress theme?
Custom or Ready WordPress Theme? - the reasons for the dilemma
There are quite a few sites on the market through which you can buy ready-made themes. The most popular of these is undoubtedly ThemeForest.
It would seem that in such a situation, creating a theme from scratch does not make sense.
But is it really so?
If there are sites based on individual WordPress themes created from scratch, then something is wrong.
Below I have listed the most important key areas to look out for when faced with a dilemma like "Custom vs. Prebuilt WordPress Theme?".
Custom or Ready WordPress Theme? - what you should pay attention to
1. Implementation time
If you decide to entrust the creation of a website to a third-party company based on some ready-made theme, an important part of the work is already done by their employees. They have a ready-made theme at their disposal, which already contains hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of files. This undoubtedly affects the working time, as it simplifies the whole task.
However, if you want the above company to create a theme for you from scratch, the lead time will be longer as they will have to work from scratch.
First of all, you need to develop schemes for different types of subpages in order to know what exactly should be on them. A graphic is then created, which is then converted into a "clickable" form for the website. Finally, it remains to implement the necessary functions of wordpress.
How much time exactly does it take to create a website using the first and second modes? It depends on the specific company, although it is certain that building a site based on a ready-made theme reduces the aforementioned working time.
Next, we have something that - let's not hide - everyone pays attention to. This is where the dilemma "custom or pre-built WordPress theme?" takes on its sharpest form.
The prices for the most popular themes on ThemeForest, which I already mentioned, fluctuate around $60. Prices may vary slightly up or down, but the most popular themes start at $250.
A custom-designed theme costs significantly more. The immediate reason for this is the time it takes to create it. A "ready" theme can be downloaded in a few minutes, while a custom theme must first be created.
Again, when it comes to specific pricing, I have to use the now famous phrase "it depends" because every company has its own way of working and billing projects.
A finished theme can be sold as many times as you like. It's a great way to make money - create a theme once and then sell it in bulk with a guarantee of support for a certain period of time.
However, the catch is that anyone can buy a theme. There is no exclusivity here.
Therefore, there is a risk of meeting somewhere on the Internet a site similar to another precisely because it is based on the same topic.
There is also a lack of a certain sense of uniqueness, the realization that something is made to order. A worthy brand takes care to have its own carefully crafted image. When using "off-the-shelf" products, the likelihood of some items appearing on other sites is much higher.
Therefore, in the question of which is better - a custom WordPress theme or a ready-made theme - this can be extremely important.
4. Equipped with ready-made options
Ready-made themes are deliberately equipped with the maximum number of options to satisfy the requests of as many people as possible. No wonder they have hundreds or even thousands of ready-made configuration options that can be easily "clicked" in a relatively short period of time.
This can be compared to a universal clothing size, which can be both a disadvantage and an advantage. It may suit a sufficient number of people, but if a person has more specific requirements, it may not meet the detailed recommendations.
However, the fact is that ready-made themes are mainly created for people who want to change something in them quite often. This is possible without any knowledge of HTML, JS, CSS or PHP, because, as I mentioned, a lot can be "clichéd".
I also know people who don't like pre-made themes because their admin panels are often very chaotic, even overly complex. The desire to find the right option often turns into frustration, as finding one checkbox can sometimes take forever.
Therefore, it is very important to check as much information about the topic as possible when making a decision and placing a bet on a ready-made theme. Basically I'm talking about the level of support, the frequency of responses to public requests, the regularity of releases of updates, and of course the reviews and feedback.
5. Code cleanliness and speed
Custom or pre-built WordPress theme? This point may seem relevant to you, although at first glance it may not seem so.
In the vast majority of cases, the code of ready-made themes is a real "chaff". I know that this argument may be completely unimportant to a non-specialist, but there is something very important behind it.
In order for website code to be understandable (both for people working with the code, and for search engine robots and all other similar tools) and effective, it must be written in the right way. Certain elements must appear in the correct order one after the other, one must not be inside another, and they must also be inserted using the correct technique.
The so-called page builders used in pre-installed themes unfortunately lead to code semantics that are far from optimal.
Yes, they allow users to "click" on many things in the admin panel, but the cost is performance issues and significant code redundancy.
The W3C validator shows - in this case - more than a hundred errors. Other versions also contain bugs, usually from a few dozen to just over a hundred.
Ready-made themes have many features - various counters, modals, carousels, tabs, preloaders and so on. On the one hand, it is very good that there are so many of them - there are simply plenty to choose from.
On the other hand, many features of many themes that end up not being used on the site still load on page load. This results in unnecessary kilobytes (or even megabytes) of data and redundant requests (i.e. requests sent to the server), which ultimately results in worse load times and sometimes a "heavy" page experience.
Of course, we are not doomed to this state of affairs in advance. There are themes that are both better and worse optimized for this. You might as well outsource an external company to speed up theme development and implement optimization solutions.
However, all this is a consequence of the fact that motives are created for mass sale. They are stuffed with as many features as possible to increase the likelihood that they will appeal to the widest possible audience.
Custom Theme, built from scratch, uses only the features that are really needed on a particular site. The programmer won't waste time programming something that won't end up being used anyway. As a result, individual topics in the vast majority of cases are simply easier.
When considering which is better - a custom WordPress theme or a ready-made theme, you should pay attention to updates.
By purchasing a theme from the aforementioned ThemeForest site, you also get the option to update the theme when the theme authors "release" an updated or improved version.
This is important not only in terms of getting new features, but also for WordPress security reasons.
Updates come out for a reason. Yes, they add options and fix bugs, but they also patch holes.
The site just needs to be reviewed from time to time, checked and tried to improve as much as possible. Having access to a constantly updated theme adds a layer of security.
Individual themes are not automatically updated as they are custom made. Therefore, updating the theme should simply be left to the theme developer (or any other company that will dig into someone else's code).
7. The degree of SEO optimization
This point is closely related to point five, where I touched on the topic of optimized code.
Well, part of SEO optimization is to make sure that the website code is as good as it can be. The dilemma of "custom vs. prebuilt WordPress theme" plays a key role here.
After all, it must be analyzed by search engine robots, which decide which positions to assign to this page for certain keywords in the search results.
What's more, those who manage the site using the dashboard may not realize that, for example, marking text as "Heading 1" in the visual editor instead of simply increasing the font size can affect the SEO-correctness of the subpage. The effect is the same - increasing the font size, but in code, these two scripts are responsible for completely different things.
For a site to be SEO-optimized worthy, its elements must be used and inserted in the right way. Semantically correct and in the correct context.
Ready themes, because they consist of a predefined "look" of the page and ready-to-insert elements, do not have these elements tailored to your specific page - your industry and relevant keywords.
They adapt to everyone, which is really... not to anything in particular.
Many aspects of SEO are actually done "in passing" when creating a theme, where the graphic designer and SEO specialist must nevertheless work together to ensure that the final product is optimal in every way. Not only in terms of appearance, but also in terms of code correctness.
Therefore, the risk of code bloat and the use of unnecessary elements in individually written themes is incomparably lower than in the case of ready-made themes.
8. Support & Documentation
When you buy a theme from ThemeForest, you get the documentation that comes with it. In it, the authors explain a lot of things that may be useful to you when using the theme.
The level of documentation varies - some are more complete, others less so, but there are certainly times when the documentation is helpful.
What's more, you also purchase support for a certain period (usually six months).If you have any doubts while using the theme or you want to achieve a certain effect on the site, you just need to contact the theme authors and they will help you.
The issue of support in the case of an individual theme, of course, is decided by each company also individually.
Custom or Ready WordPress Theme? - a summary of the text
Let's try to briefly summarize the advantages of both options.
Ready Theme is a great option for those who prefer a lower price, faster implementation time and the ability to "click" on many things in the panel on their own. It is also important to have access to regular updates and support while using the theme.
A custom theme, on the other hand, is unique - it's written specifically for a particular site. In theory, it is characterized by faster and more efficient operation, as well as better code optimization.
Therefore, it is impossible to say which option is better, as it depends on the individual or company. Someone may care about arguments A, B and C in favor of a ready-made theme, and someone prefers to bet on an individual one for reasons X, Y and Z.
Or you have your own special type and you can unequivocally say, what type of motives indisputably wins? If you have other thoughts on which option is better - a custom or pre-built WordPress theme - let us know in the comments.