A search for ‘wordpress themes‘ returns almost 95 million results. WordPress is so popular that countless theme developers sell, or even give away, themes.
Should a business use an off-the-shelf theme, or is it preferable or necessary to have a custom theme specially designed?
Pros and cons of an off-the-shelf WordPress theme
First, the Pros
You can get some off-the-shelf templates for free. Some of them are very pretty and decently coded. Even “premium” themes are mostly very affordable — expect to spend $35 to $75 for a theme that’s suitable for a basic portfolio or business site.
Website build time
If you need a basic site – say five pages or so – and you have the content ready, an off-the-shelf theme can get you up and running in a day or so. This works well if you’re launching a startup business and just want to get something off the ground quickly.
It gives a professional presence
There’s only one thing worse than having no website at all, and that’s having an unprofessional, amateur website. The can do more harm than good for your business.
An off-the-shelf theme is designed by a professional and will look good. In some cases, it will look and work well enough to be an acceptable solution.
And now, the cons
It doesn’t look the way you thought it would
The screenshots for off-the-shelf templates often look fabulous, but how will the site look once your branding and content is inserted? Does the space set aside for the logo, for example, work for the shape of your logo? Are the theme color choices compatible with your colors? Does your content fit the pre-determined sections of the theme?
An off-the-shelf theme is built to appeal to the broadest audience possible. For example, a lot of companies have three main service areas – so a lot of themes are built to highlight three service areas. But what if you want to highlight four service areas? Can you do this with the theme you like?
Generally if you want to change anything fundamental to the design of an off-the-shelf theme you need to know how to go “under the hood” and make changes to the code (or pay someone to do this for you). The cost of doing this can rapidly add up. So if you have specific needs, a theme that is built just for you from the beginning can be a wiser choice.
The best off-the-shelf themes tend to be very popular. And because of the sheer number of WordPress websites out there, chances are you’ll end up with a website that looks very similar to thousands of others. (Some of those sites might even be your competitors.)
Developing a brand that is distinctive and consistent is important and an off-the-shelf theme makes this harder to do.
If you download a free off-the-shelf theme you won’t receive any support if you run into trouble setting it out. Even with a premium theme, you will receive brief answers rather than solid support.
There is definitely a place for an off-the-shelf theme, and that place, I feel, is on a personal website or blog. An off-the-shelf theme is also an economical way to get a quick start when you’re just starting up.
But if you run an established business, and you’re serious about your brand and marketing, you should give serious consideration to investing in a custom theme.
We’re happy to help. We certainly don’t believe in forcing our customers to buy things they don’t want or need. So get in touch and we’ll talk through your options.