Home // Custom Vs. Premium Themes – Which Is Right for You?

Many times, while working with clients for a new website build, we find that their previous site used a premium (or even a free) theme. Often these clients feel like they have outgrown their current theme, or it doesn’t fit the brand or mission of their company’s site. As a business grows, a more dynamic and custom theme is more appropriate to expand with the business but what is a custom vs. premium theme? How does it differ from the themes you can purchase and activate immediately on your site?  

Premium Themes have a very specific place 

When it comes to launching a website, and launching a website quickly, nothing is as fast as a Premium Theme. With just a purchase and an install, you’re ready to start adding content and customizing your site. The development time is zero or minimal, and as you or someone you’ve hired goes through and builds out the pages, you’re making decisions on user experience, page flow, and layout as you go. The site is designed in real time, instead of molding the content and the strategy to fit a templated layout.  

This is also the cheapest option for building a website if you don’t know how to code. A premium theme off the market could cost about $60, whereas a custom theme could be thousands depending on the functionality and design. However, the time/effort it will take you to set this up yourself could be more than you bargained for, especially if you’re trying to produce a vibrant, interactive website.  

But why shouldn’t I use a Premium Theme? 

When you started your business, what type of planning was involved? Did it happen overnight or did setting up business take days, weeks (or maybe years)? The same thought process that went into setting up your business should be taken with your website, an extension of your business and brand online.  

When looking for the perfect premium theme, you want the most flexibility and the most features the market has to offer to create dynamic layouts on pages and posts. However, this flexibility is a double-edged sword. The more features and functionality you have, the bulkier the theme. If you aren’t using some of the templates / blocks included in the theme, the code for this is still on the theme, and  is loaded every time someone pulls up your site. This means your site may slow page speed and drop search engine optimization (SEO) value, especially if the purchased theme is packed with shiny features.   

Support and additions can be more difficult compared to a custom theme. When adding new features or functionality, you typically need to hire a developer, as you’re at the mercy of theme updates by the company that originally produced it. This developer will not be familiar with the set up / code of the theme, so the customization will be more difficult than if they were working with their own code (eventually costing more money). Most likely a child theme will be necessary so the changes they’ve made will not be overwritten when new theme updates come out.  

Something else to keep in mind is the time and effort upkeeping the site might be. Websites are not a “set it and forget it” product. To remain relevant and have the best chance of your site functioning properly, ranking high with Google, fresh and regular content is crucial. The time spent creating a new post or setting up a page on your site with a premium theme adds up, and it could be a deterrent for pushing the latest content on a site.  

What’s the other option? 

When investing in a custom theme, it is entirely built for your brand, your needs, and your audience. This means it’s not another templated site with an alternate color scheme thrown on top of it. Each design is unique, taking you and your business and putting them at the forefront. The needs and goals for your business is taken into consideration, and the optimal solutions are developed without the extra bulk of a premium theme.  

Updates and additions are usually much smoother, especially if you keep in contact with the developer/team that created the theme. They are familiar with the code, how it is organized, and how each part works, so making changes becomes less of a headache for everyone involved. There are many times when a client will reach out to us when interested in a new feature on their site, and we quickly assign a developer to it and have it up and running in a few hours – instead of spending time trying to decipher another company’s code.  

This familiarity is also true when it comes to complications/bugs on the site. Sometimes a plugin update can completely take down or break a site. When this happens with a premium theme, you’re at the mercy of their support team – if they even have one, and often if it a plugin complication the theme developers won’t touch it and will simply leave it to you to find an alternate plugin. With a custom theme, the developer will often jump on the issue immediately and have your site back up and running in no time, or they will notice an issue during site maintenance and fix it without any downtime or interruption on the frontend of the site, preventing the issue from happening in the first place.  

What you should consider with a Custom Theme 

The main disadvantage to having a custom theme can summed up in two words: Time and Money. Like anything else custom-made, these projects are often not cheap and can take several weeks to months to complete depending on the scope and intricacy. The quality of the website you receive however, will be one that will last your company years and greet thousands (or millions, BILLIONS!) of people in its lifetime. It’s an investment, much like a fancy new sign or a fleet of trucks with a custom wrap on them. The bottom line is a website is not the place to cut corners or save money, because it serves as a first impression to many customers and can have a lasting impact and a significant return on investment

Find the best option for you 

There is not a one-size-fits-all solution that we can recommend, as each project is unique.  You will need to decide a custom vs. premium theme.

If you’re unsure of the direction you should go, reach out to our team to discuss your options.