WordPress Website Custom Theme VS Customised Theme

July 20, 2015 By Phillip Wendell

Most business owners when they engage a company to build them a WordPress powered website have little to no understanding of the difference between a custom WordPress theme and a customised WordPress theme. From my experiences as a project manager who has delivered both types of these sites the difference is huge.

What is a Customised Theme?

A customised theme is essentially a pre designed wordpress theme that is purchased from a site that allows developers of these themes to list and sell them over and over again. These usually cost between $50 – $100 to purchase and download. A company selling websites this way will buy one of these themes (or use one they bought earlier for another client) and then do some basic customisation (change the logo and colours) and present it as a finished product to a client.

What is a Custom Theme?

A custom WordPress theme starts with a graphic designer that designs the website and all the elements within the website first. This allows for very customised designs and a lot of flexibility in layout. Once the designs are approved they are coded into html / css first. In the coding or ‘cutup’ stage the developers may use a ‘framework’ to allow for speed in this process. Once the cutup is completed the site is integrated into WordPress with each area of content, image, menu, widget and form setup in the WordPress back end to allow for future customisation and site growth. The approximate time for this process is 20-50 hours.

Which one should I choose?

The choice here is very situational, and is very much budget dependant, but you should know the difference in what you are buying. Unfortunately there are web developers out there that sell customised themes as custom themes without clearly explaining the difference to their clients. Personally I believe this isn’t a good practice as regardless of how happy the client is with the result, they do actually understand what they have purchased.

Pros of Customised Themes

  • Very low cost to deploy – between $100 – $500
  • Easy for anyone to setup with minimal learning or experience
  • Ticket based or forum support for the themes and often a community of users around the theme
  • Often have WYSIWYG editors to change the themes appearance
  • Very fast turnaround

Cons of Customised Themes

  • They can be open to security vulnerabilities
  • You will have sites that look exactly the same as yours (back in 2008 Click Click Media’s site was built on a customised theme, the colour scheme, edits and layouts were copied by 18 other sites without any variation)
  • If you choose the wrong theme they can be very slow to load
  • You are stuck to variations of a single design
  • You can end up paying custom theme rates for a customised theme if dealing with an unethical developer

Pros of Custom Themes

  • A unique design that fits your brand and strategy
  • Ability to customise workflows and back end functionality
  • Can design the site with conversions as a focus
  • Very fast, lightweight and clean code
  • A lot more secure than customised themes
  • Can have much better SEO benefits

Cons of Custom Themes

  • Much more expensive than a customised theme
  • Can take a lot longer to develop
  • You will need to be involved in the creative process
  • You will need to work with the developers on scope and requirements

My thoughts on customised themes.

If you are publishing a blog or journal or have a website as a hobby then customised themes are definitely the way to go, however if you have any commercial aspirations then do the right thing and invest into a custom theme. I have seen companies investing a few hundred dollars into a website and then spending tens of thousands on paid advertising which in my opinion is a massive waste of potential. These days at Click Click Media we do everything as a custom theme, even landing pages because the potential marketing gains are so significant that the cost of custom design and development pales in comparison.

The biggest costs in digital marketing is missed opportunity

How much do we charge for a custom theme?

It depends on the scope of the project, we have invested huge amounts of time into refining the process to be able to deliver custom themes that actually compete with what some developers are charging for customised themes. At the end of the day, as we are primarily an online marketing company we know that the additional cost is worth it and we only use custom themes for our pay per lead campaigns.