New Website: Site Theme or Custom Site?

There are COUNTLESS options to build a new website today. Businesses are finding it harder and harder to decide whether they need a pre-built site theme or a custom site. We’ll talk about the pros and cons of each in this article. No matter what you decide for your business, we recommend that every website is built on a content management system (CMS) to ensure it’s easy to update in the future.

Pre-Built Site Theme

Pre-built site themes are prevalent because the core functionality is already built. This allows for rapid deployment of a new website. They are packed with features and cool functionality that help you envision how your content could come to life. Most pre-built themes have a live demo so you can take it for a test drive.

The downside is you can’t tell how well the site is built until you purchase and install it. We have recommended pre-built themes for many clients and have had a few that were a nightmare to work with on the admin side – something we would not know by viewing their demos. Also, while the themes do an excellent job building out tons of features, only about 30% of these features get used in a real site, leaving the business with a theme that’s bloated with unnecessary code. This will have an impact on the site’s overall performance if not managed properly.

  • Budget-friendly website
  • Live demo lets you see exactly what you’re getting
  • Robust and usually very scalable
  • Shorter build time
  • Theme developers usually offer 6 months of support
  • Since it’s a theme, your business won’t be the only one with that design
  • Bloated code base for features that likely won’t get used (really, you’re not going to need ten different image gallery types)
  • Steer clear of free themes – they always have security issues
  • Restricted changes to overall site layout (you’ll have to roll with the site navigation options they have or else you’ll need a developer to make changes)
  • Not all themes are responsive
  • Some “responsive” themes aren’t truly mobile-friendly
  • Some themes aren’t SEO-friendly

Custom Website

Custom websites give you a lot more freedom and flexibility. These are designed with your business and your viewers in mind. Most website builders have a similar method to ours; we develop a few creative concepts for you to review. When you select one, we build a couple of inner page templates and once everything is approved on the creative side, we then begin development.

Custom sites are usually pretty lightweight – no bloated code full of features that you don’t need. This cuts down on potential security holes, keeps your site running fast, and when done right, allows your site to be very scalable. You will want to ensure your designers/developers are keeping mobile and tablet viewports in mind. With over 70% of internet traffic now being done on mobile, designs should be mobile-first then expand out.

  • Completely tailored design so your business will stand out
  • Custom functionality for your business needs
  • No bloated code
  • Site is tested for all browsers
  • Scalable with your business
  • A custom site is more expensive than a theme
  • Design/development time is longer than using a theme

We found a useful infographic from Atilus that explains this very well.

The company you choose to work with should partner with you to determine what makes the most sense for your business. We usually recommend the pre-built theme for newer businesses, smaller businesses, or businesses with a tight budget. They’re effective, they can be made to look very good, but there are trade-offs. For larger businesses or a business that really needs to separate themselves from the competition, a custom design on top of a CMS is the way to go!

If you enjoyed this article, be sure to share it. If you have questions about the article or are considering a website revamp for your business, contact us and we’ll see what we can do for you!

Template Site vs. Custom Build
Post by Patrick

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