WordPress theme – is custom-made or pre-built best for my site?

It’s becoming commonplace that people go to one of the many commercial WordPress theme marketplaces, search through the list for a theme that suits what their business does, purchase that, and use it on their site. In theory, this is great. It lets you get a head-start in functionality as everything you need is “all included” in that theme. But there are also downsides to it.

What’s good about all-in-one WordPress theme?

There’s just so much flexibility. One theme can power a site that is a blog, an online store, a catalogue or magazine site,, and more. You can change colours, layouts, content areas, and customise everything around the site and really make it “your own”.

On top of that, if you’re going to just install a theme and make a few adjustments, a good theme can be all that you need, and will be cheaper than a custom-built WordPress theme.

What’s bad about all-in-one WordPress themes?

Themes are becoming almighty behemoths that have to do everything for everyone. They include so much functionality that you can technically build almost any site using a single theme. That’s great for someone that wants to learn one theme, and one theme only, but just how many set up screens, configuration options, drag-and-drop builders and options pages are really needed to get a single site running?

On top of all that there’s also one rule that we have yet to see broken – flexibility = load time. The more advanced and flexible a theme is, the more resources it requires and the longer it takes to process and load. Yes, I’ve heard “servers are getting faster all the time”, “caching will solve all problems” and the best ever “we just like that theme”, but that’s not the answer.

Using a custom-built WordPress theme on your site

Custom-built WordPress themes are really an essential for any site that needs something better than off-the-shelf.

We started off using free and commercial themes, and then customising these with the customers colours and basic layouts, but everything is still constrained. You have to use their layouts, their columns, their responsive restructuring, their sidebars, their widgets.. and more. By the time that we’d gotten a commercial theme to a point where we liked it, it normally took 20 to 30 hours, counting the design and development time. After doing this for a couple of months we ended up trying custom themes, and it turned out that we could get a better result that suited what our designers wanted to do, and it would take 30 to 40 hours to do. Sure, that’s more time, but the end result was delivering the customer a site that was not the same as anything else out there, didn’t follow “standard” layouts, and we had complete control and ownership over.

Should we use a custom WordPress theme, or a pre-built WordPress theme?

The answer really does come down to budget. Some companies and people just don’t have the resources to get a custom-built WordPress theme designed and developed. If that’s you, then a good pre-built WordPress theme will give you a good overall result.

However, if you are looking for something individual, that suits your business operations and goals, and isn’t just another copy of every other site running that same theme, then you should really look at getting a custom-built WordPress theme done for your site.

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