Why Choose Custom?
I made a decision a couple of years back to focus my business on creating custom built themes for WordPress. I believe there is concern among some small business owners that custom websites are a luxury and that websites based on modifying a pre-developed theme are more affordable.
In fact, many clients who approach me expect that I will provide them with a modified, pre-developed theme and they have the impression that I can modify the theme into any design they’d like without much effort. It is true that I can create a website with a pre-built theme quickly and cheaply but it won’t be a custom design. The best case scenario with this approach is that your site will look like the theme in the theme demo (except with your content). Any major changes to this style, will require a lot of work — potentially on-going. I find clients browse for themes before consulting a developer, and do so expecting changes to happen to what they see, instead of taking the themes at face-value.
Even if it is possible to get the theme to support your style changes, there are many problems with this approach:
- The developer you are hiring to help you will not have full control over the style of your website. Updates to the theme, which are absolutely necessary to maintain for security reasons, can break your style without notice. This can take longer to fix because your developer may need to wait for tech support tickets to go through from the theme creators.
- Some layout, font and colour changes, and jquery features, you may have been hoping for, may not be compatible with the theme.
- It will be more difficult for you to make edits to your website yourself because the developer won’t have control over how the WordPress admin area interacts with the theme.
- Any features that you are not using leave unnecessary extra code on your site which may impact your site’s performance.
- This is frustrating work that feels less like creating something meaningful and more like repairing something broken.
- By far, the most common issue with this approach is that the content that the client has to work with doesn’t fit in the space provided by the theme. Often the reason why clients like a theme that they find is because the theme developer filled the demo with content that fits — perhaps even designed the theme around the stock photos and filler text.
What about frameworks?
There are themes that have been built with customization in mind, which can allow for a much more custom look and have reasonably-priced licenses, but those framework-style themes are not easy to construct sites with and they are never, ever fully customizable. These themes also add a lot of unused code that can slow down your website performance. Just think of all the options that must be built into these themes to allow them to suit any style of website — that you will never use on your site. Also, you won’t really be speeding up or making easier any part of development and you have to pay for the theme license on top of the full development process. You will still require a design to be created and approved and you will require a similar amount of time spent on building that design into a working website.
If you want bespoke, get bespoke
A truly custom built theme, if built properly, will:
- perform better
- make your website much easier for you to edit or maintain yourself
- be more secure
- be future-proof
- actually leave you feeling satisfied with your website at launch.
In order to create a site best suited to meet your needs, it’s important to start either from scratch or from a design provided by a professional website designer. Web designers spend all of their working hours studying how visitors use websites, and what technologies are up-and-coming. Even the most technically-aware clients still think about designing their website based on older designs that will lead to their site needing a complete overhaul in a year or two. A website designer can think in terms of the latest designs and technologies that will lead to a much more lasting design, saving you money in the long run. Clients often know how websites typically look but not what the motivations were behind the designs, nor where the future of website design is heading. Most clients think about websites in terms of features without considering typography, responsiveness to browsers and screen sizes, accessibility, security and how the eye moves over a page. Web designers will take all of this into consideration and the resulting design will be much more purposeful and user-friendly.
So, when you think that it is time to move from a free website to a custom design, realize that the cost will begin at $2500 and work upward from there. This may sound expensive but keep-in-mind the savings built-in:
- A more secure site requires less tech support
- Modern themes will not get out-dated as fast
- Speedy and secure sites rank higher in search results
- Carefully planned designs lead to more engaging sites that lead to more customer interactions and more sales
- Patches, updates and new feature requests can happen more quickly and be cleaner and better executed