WordPress Themes: Custom or Existing?

First, let’s define a theme. The WordPress Codex says:

Fundamentally, the WordPress Theme system is a way to “skin” your weblog. Yet, it is more than just a “skin.” Skinning your site implies that only the design is changed. WordPress Themes can provide much more control over the look and presentation of the material on your website.

In other words, a theme is the set of files that makes up the look and feel of a WordPress website. It’s all the graphics, styles, and images along with the core WordPress functionality. Every WordPress site needs one and they can range from very generic to super complex. Currently, any new installation of WordPress is packaged with the Twenty Eleven and Twenty Ten themes. Yeah, pretty basic in terms of design.

Alright, so now that we know what a theme is, let’s discuss the options for using a theme in a new website design.

  1. Find or buy an existing theme from sites such as ThemeForest, Elegant Themes, etc.
  2. Have a theme custom-designed for you by a web designer (like me).

Let’s look at some pros + cons of each.

Pros of using an existing theme

  • Very economical. Themes range from free to $50.
  • Fast. If you know what you are doing, installing and configuring a theme can be done in under an hour.

Cons of using an existing theme

  • No differentiation. Your site can end up looking just like someone else’s which can completely dilute your brand.
  • Installation + theme setup difficultly. Installing a theme yourself does require some technical knowledge and computer savvy. If attaching a file to email or downloading a photo from Facebook scare you, then installing a theme will too. Once the theme is installed, adding your logo and changing the colors does require technical savvy.

Pros of hiring a designer to design a custom theme

  • Brand differentiation. A custom-design theme means that no one else’s site will look like yours. Your brand will stay true.
  • Easy of theme installation + setup. Having a theme custom-designed for you means that the designer installs + sets up everything. At the end of the project, you’re handed a perfectly beautiful and functioning website that’s easy to maintain.

Cons of hiring a designer to design a custom theme

  • Cost. Depending on the designer’s level of experience, custom themes can start at $2,500.
  • Timeliness. Custom WordPress theme design + build can take anywhere from 4-8 weeks.

In the end, it’s really about cost, time, and the importance of brand differentiation to you.

About Jill Anderson

Hi, I’m Jill, a WordPress WordPress designer/developer who partners with talented designers, copywriters, and agencies on their websites, and their client’s sites. I’m passionate about crafting beautiful and innovative WordPress websites focused on clear positioning and positive user experiences. Get my free report, Get Your Website Done: 12 Actionable Steps for Designers, and check out my Client Onboarding Toolkit, a simple 4-step digital course for converting prospects into a paying clients.


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2 thoughts on “WordPress Themes: Custom or Existing?

  1. Great article! I’d say branding should be very high on the list for any company or individual seeking to differentiate themselves from the pack.

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