When it comes to the design, branding and functionality for a new website using WordPress (or in fact any good CMS), there are two major choices you need to make: custom web design or commercial website themes.
The popularity of WordPress means that there are many specialist developers producing excellent off-the-shelf themes. Equally there are many good web design and development companies that will listen to your requirements and build a website exactly to your specification. So what are they and what are the pros and cons of each development path?
What is custom web design?
A custom site is developed from scratch — the information flows , graphics, functions, and administrative back-end are all designed based on your unique specifications. If you have a well-established branding which must be adhered to, then you should consider a custom web design. The theme is then developed and installed within WordPress as with commercial website themes.
What are commercial website themes?
You can purchase the theme and it can be installed and configured on your WordPress website. Although this is best done by someone who is experienced in web development and WordPress.
Pros and cons of custom web design
- Unique design, tailored to match your branding exactly
- You can specify the exact functionality requirements
- You can build in features that will give you the edge over your competitors
- Build in future growth and expansion
- It is much more expensive
- Some ‘custom’ designs are simply variations of past work
- You will need to dedicate considerable staff resource to specify the requirements as a poor specification which leaves out requirements will cause numerous problems in the future
- There is a risk of being tied to one company if they have developed customised features and you should expect to pay some ongoing maintenance costs
- Keeping up with security and changing WordPress versions will need an ongoing agreement
Pros and cons of commercial website themes
- Much cheaper
- Web design and functions are already tested and working
- Shorter development times
- It can still be customised to branding by a skilled web developer
- Less staff resource required to specify the website
- The website design will not be unique
- The theme will still need customisation to fit your branding
- Staff resource will still be required to specify, test and approve the final website
- Maintenance for security and changing WordPress versions will still be required
The final choice boils down to budget and staff resources. If you are a start-up or smaller business without a large budget or spare staff resource then you should opt for using a commercial website theme. If you are a larger company or have specific requirements then you should opt for a custom web design. At the heart of this consideration is the ever-expanding WordPress universe which boasts a thriving marketplace of excellent commercial website themes and specialist web developers who can develop excellent custom websites to your exact specification.