by Ivana Djudic on July 10, 2019

WordPress Theme vs. Custom Web Design: Pros and Cons

wordpress theme vs custom design

When it comes to building a website, your design matters. While it’s true function and content play a large role in the user experience, the fact remains that people have come to expect attractive designs when navigating the internet.

Luckily, if you choose WordPress as your Content Management System (CMS), design and functionality go hand-in-hand. Of the 172 million active websites online today, 75 million of those are using WordPress. As a WordPress website owner, you’ll quickly realize you have some decisions to make about your own design. Namely, do you opt for a WordPress theme or a custom web design? In this guide, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of both so you can choose what’s best for your needs, budget, and audience.

This is a guest post written by Ivana Djudic, who is the manager of Qode Interactive. If you would like to write a guest post on our blog feel free to contact us.

Why Your WordPress Design Matters

What’s so important about design? When Google has already shown they favor user performance, site speed, and so on, why bother worrying about the design? As we said before, the design will always matter. In fact, 38% of users will stop interacting with a website that’s not attractive. That’s not something you can afford if you’re trying to encourage users to engage with your content and convert to customers.

WordPress Theme vs. Custom Web Design

According to a recent study from Adobe, if given 15 minutes of time, 59% of people will read or browse through something beautifully designed rather than plain and boring. This might sound shallow, but it makes sense. Good design is simply more trustworthy and enjoyable. It shows that the business takes itself seriously and professionally.

When you invest in design, you help your website stand out, resonate with the right audience, and engage with users. The right website design also includes branding elements, making it more memorable. Design and function are not mutually exclusive; they’re two sides of the same coin. With WordPress, you have two primary options for designing your website: using a theme or a custom design. Now, let’s explore the differences between these options once and for all.

Pros and Cons of WordPress Themes

A WordPress theme is a pre-made design that was created specifically to work with the WordPress platform. There are both paid and free themes, and they’re priced to fit any budget.

Themes today have come a long way. Though the term itself might evoke the idea that these are cookie-cutter designs, that couldn’t be further from the truth. WordPress themes come equipped with a variety of features in a range of styles to suit just about any need.

✅ What are the pros of using a WordPress theme?

  • Significantly cheaper – When it comes to cost, you can’t beat using a theme. Most paid themes are priced anywhere between $10 – $100, and this makes them a great fit for businesses of all sizes.
  • Customizable – Despite the idea that these are one-size-fits-all solutions, they’re surprisingly customizable. You’ll likely have the freedom to change things like font, text size, layout, colors, and more to brand your website to your needs.
  • No skills needed – WordPress themes require no coding or design skills.
  • Faster – Installing a WordPress theme is as easy as a few clicks. Once you customize your theme, you’re good to go in a matter of minutes.
  • Scalable – Because WordPress themes are designed to work quickly and with a variety of websites, they’re easy to scale. You can easily add new pages and content without worrying about creating new designs.
  • Long-term support – Finally, most themes (especially paid themes) come with long-term developer support without any extra cost. That means you don’t have to worry about WordPress updates or changes negatively impacting your website.
  • SEO friendly – Most WordPress themes come with ready-made SEO solutions. And even if the theme you choose isn’t fully optimized for SEO, there are tons of great SEO plugins available for WordPress.

❌ What are the cons of using a WordPress theme?

  • Not custom – While there are a lot of customization options, you’re ultimately bound to the theme’s elements and design in many ways. If you need complex features or customization, you’ll need to do these yourself.
  • Initial support – Because these are a DIY solution, you’ll need to be comfortable installing and customizing the theme yourself, or you’ll need to hire someone to do it for you.

Pros and Cons of WordPress Custom Designs

When you build a WordPress website from scratch, this is known as a custom design. Usually, this is when you work with a professional web designer or developer to build your website from ground zero. This requires a lot of knowledge about both front-end and back-end development.

Because the website design is built with the specific website’s needs in mind, it’s much more customizable and unique. There will literally be no other website like it, and it can tick all of your must-have features. That being said, all of these personalizations come at a cost.

WordPress Custom Designs

✅ Pros of WordPress Custom Designs

  • Built for your needs – These custom designs are built with your website in mind, not the other way around. They’ll be highly functional, and they will include all of the extra features you likely won’t find in a theme.
  • Unique – Assuming nobody copies your design, these customizations will be completely unique, helping brand your website.
  • Greater support – Finally, you’ll have access to greater support during the design and development process, and the website design will likely be implemented for you. That means you have less to do on your own.

❌ Cons of WordPress Custom Designs

  • Expensive – As you might expect, these custom designs do not come cheap. Hiring a web developer or designer can cost you several thousands of dollars. You might have to continue paying in the future for additional support as well, rather than paying a single fee for a theme once.
  • Take longer – Custom designs take a much longer time to build. You can’t download them on demand, and you could expect to spend weeks or even months waiting for a final design.
  • Limited support – While you’ll have greater access to support while building your website, you’ll need to most likely pay extra for continued support. If you experience an issue down the line or need to grow, this will be an added expense.

Which Design Option is Right for You?

Now that you understand the pros and cons of each, which option is right for your website? Like most things, there are a number of factors to consider like your current budget, time restraints, and your individual website needs.

Ultimately, the best-fit option for most WordPress websites is to choose a theme that you can customize to your liking. This option is affordable, fast, and accessible. Even if you think you might need more options, later on, it’s likely smarter to start with a theme and then determine exactly what you might need from a custom design later on.

If you have a large, flexible budget and a laundry list of customizations, skip the theme and head straight to a custom designer. There will never be a one-size-fits-all choice, but you can do your best to choose something that will suit your website not only today but also in the future.

At the end of the day, there are advantages and disadvantages to each option. Some businesses benefit from the robust, custom options of working with a designer while others thrive with a premade theme. Either way, knowing the pros and cons of both options will set you up for success.

Ivana Djudic

About Author

Having been working in the SEO industry for over 4 years, Ivana has also gained interest in content management and WordPress and has been actively involved in these fields for over 3 years. Since she studied graphic and web design, Ivana also has all the necessary skills for creating well-designed websites and illustrations.