WordPress has really come a long way from its humble beginnings as a simple blogging platform to the powerful website builder and robust content management system it is today. Over the past several years WordPress has become the go-to CMS for custom WordPress development. One great thing about WordPress when looking at it as a web developer is that it is flexible and easy to create a fully custom WordPress theme. WordPress makes it easy to store custom data on the backend and then easily render it on the frontend.
If you’re thinking about having a custom website built for your brand or business you should really consider using a custom WordPress theme.
When it comes to risk vs. reward, a custom WordPress theme is a great investment for your business. Today, it is not enough to simply have a website, it should be fast, well-designed, user-friendly, and it should fit your brand’s message and feel. Many businesses will try to save money by paying a web designer to modify a commercial theme. However, the end result ends up looking sloppy and “hacked together” – two terms no one wants to be associated with their website.
At the end of the day, if your goal is to have the best possible online presence for your brand or business, then you should have a custom website. Here are a few reasons why you should bite the bullet and choose the custom WordPress template.
Customizations and Updates
One of the biggest values of a custom WordPress theme is that the content management system will be custom tailored to your content. Most web design agencies will make sure it is easy for the client to add, edit and modify all of the content on their WordPress website.
When it comes to commercial WordPress templates, you are required to use the pre-built content sections that come with the theme. This not only makes it more difficult to add new sections to a page but can also impact the page’s design.
For instance, say you wish to re-arrange two sections and remove one section from your home page. While you may be able to do this using the theme editor, it may result in something that just does not look good. And if the website owner can’t make the design work, no one is happy.
We use a plugin called Advanced Custom Fields in almost all of our custom WordPress themes. This plugin lets us add any number of custom text inputs, image inputs, file uploads and much more to any page. This allows us to give the WordPress website owner limitless flexibility when managing their website content.
Commercial themes are also very reliant on big editorial style photos to drive the design. Most website owners find that they swap out the theme stock photos for their actual photography, the websites lack the same aesthetic appeal. This is because the commercial theme was designed around those specific photos.
When we design a custom WordPress template from scratch, we start with the media assets that you have available. We then custom tailor our website designs to your brand media, brand guidelines, and brand message. This means that once your website is finished, your photos and videos will enhance your websites messaging and aesthetics, not take away from them.
Stand Out From The Competition
It’s no secret that competition is fierce online, especially when it comes to small businesses and local services. If you want to stand out from your competition, the first thing you should do is have a website that not only stands out but really communicates your message.
In most cases, you will offer the same general services as your competitors, but what do you do that sets you apart? Do you offer better prices, better customer service, better hours? A website that is designed with your message in mind will more clearly communicate your competitive advantage to your customers.
Also, customers will oftentimes feel more comfort and confidence with a business that has an aesthetically appealing website. When you invest in a website that looks great and is easy to use, your customers will notice. By making it easy for customers to find your business and services, you’re drastically increasing the chances of converting a website visitor into a new customer.
The design of your website is very important when it comes to establishing trust in the minds of potential customers. When you use a custom WordPress theme, you know your design will stand out from the crowd. Your custom WordPress website will also more effectively communicate the value that your business provides.
Avoid Bugs & Conflicts
When it comes to a small business website, the most important thing is that it is always working. Even though WordPress is very user-friendly, you are always running the risk of excessive bugs and conflicts when you use a commercial theme.
The goal for the developer of a commercial theme is to include as many bells and whistles as possible so that there’s something for everyone. While this makes sense in theory, often times this results in a lot of excessive code running on the frontend and backend of your website.
This means that normal processes like updating plugins, updating your WordPress version, or installing new plugins could ultimately break part or all of your website.
When you hire a web design agency to build a custom theme, you can have confidence in the website code base. To start, a custom theme will only include as much code as is needed and no more than that. This means your site won’t experience “code bloat”, and you will have a much smaller chance for code conflicts.
A custom WP theme will also typically rely on as few third-party plugins as possible. Commercial themes may utilize plugins to integrate with social media or build image sliders, a custom theme will almost always build these components bespoke for the website. Doing it this way allows the web design studio to ensure that the slider will not compromise page speed.
Don’t Forget About Page Speed
One major concern for any website owner is how fast your website loads. Not only is it just a better overall user experience when your website is fast, but WordPress website speed is also extremely important when it comes to website rankings in Google.
Custom WordPress Theme Optimization
As we mentioned before, commercial themes are also very reliant on big editorial style photos. While many website owners don’t realize this, photos can get extremely large, sometimes in excess of 20 megabytes. However, when an image is saved for the web, you should always try to keep the total image size under 300kb – 400kb depending on the dimensions.
Because many commercial theme designs are so reliant on images though, this requires that website owners upload 5, sometimes 10, large images to a single page. As a result, the overall website page size will balloon, and total website page load times will increase.
When designing a custom WordPress theme, we consider our use of photo and video in the overall messaging as well as how it will impact the overall page size. We also make sure to utilize various forms of image compression before images are uploaded to our websites as well as once on the server. In many cases, we’ll also utilize CDN services like Cloudinary or Cloudflare to better serve images to users throughout the world.
Support Updates & Management
When you purchase a custom WordPress theme you are also purchasing a different level of support. The typical web design agency will provide personal, rapid support, especially during the first month or two that a website is live.
When we work with a business to develop a custom WordPress theme, we also include multiple hours of training, warranty support, and ongoing support. We like to make sure that our clients know exactly how to manage their websites, and when something isn’t quite as they’d expected, we fix it quickly.
When you purchase a commercial theme, there is usually some sort of support you are able to purchase for an additional yearly cost. These support services are generally very slow. You are entered into a support queue with a number of other users and can wait days in some situations before getting a response.
Also, commercial theme support will almost never provide theme customizations or modifications without charging additional fees. While many customizations will be quick and painless, it can be very risky to rely on theme support for more complex customizations.
In most instances, developers of commercial WordPress themes don’t offer any customization support or support for integrations third-party plugins or tools.
Most importantly, when we develop a custom WordPress theme, we are developing it for the most recent version of WordPress at the time. This ensures we will be using the most up to date WordPress code base and that there is a much lower risk of integrating third-party software.
When a theme or WordPress install is not up to date, you run the risk of experiencing security vulnerabilities, plugin conflicts, and code deprecation.
While many free or commercial WordPress themes receive regular updates, most WordPress website owners have no way of knowing just when a theme was developed or when it was last updated. In addition, the average website owner would have no way of understanding what the most recent updates covered or the overall quality of the code base.
Investing In A Custom WordPress Theme
If you are looking to get your business online as quickly as possible for the least amount of money, it can be tempting to use a commercial WordPress theme. In some situations, a commercial theme may be all your business needs. However, as many website owners can tell you, this is usually a bad decision.
If you plan to build a long-lasting, aesthetically pleasing presence online, investing in a custom WordPress theme is probably your best bet. If you’re interested in learning more about our WordPress development services or seeing some of our custom WordPress work, contact us today to schedule a free consultation.