For most popular CMS platforms, there are a wealth of fully-built premade themes available which offer an array of layouts, color schemes, and usability features. But before you go out and buy some off the shelf WordPress theme, it’s wise to consider all the options.

Now before you write this off as shameless self-promotion, let’s just get a couple facts out into the open: Yes, we’re in the web development business, and yes we build custom themes. However, it’s good to recognize that we do this for one simple reason: We want to provide our clients with the best possible product for their needs.

Let’s examine a few of the deciding factors you need to consider when deciding whether you should build a custom cms theme, if you should buy a premium WordPress theme, use a contributed Drupal theme, or employ any prefabricated theme for your CMS platform.

Features

Probably the first thing you’re looking at when deciding if you should buy a WordPress theme is the features it provides. You vaguely know what you want the site to look like, and what you want to be able to do with it. The theme marketplace offers themes with features ranging from simple region definitions and limited customization options to full-blown page builders with built in SEO. Making sure the theme does what you need it to is a major deciding factor.

What happens when you find a theme that has the features you want, but you don’t like the layout options? Maybe you’ve found a theme you really like, but has far more features than you would ever use. Finding a pre-built theme that exactly meets your criteria for your WordPress website can be a frustrating and time consuming task.

By using a stock base theme (we like bootstrap), and building only the features you want with the design you have, your presentation will come out pixel perfect on the first try! Plus, we ensure every theme is built from a solid mobile/responsive foundation to make sure it looks great on every device.

Consistency

Themes are created by developers, and developers have their own preferences and levels of skill. This means that they create their code in a way that makes sense to them, but may not make sense to anyone else. They may or may not follow the coding standards set down for the platform, naming conventions, or semantic markup standards that make the code easier to understand by developers and by search engines.

Incorrect markup can send misleading information to search engines, causing your site to lose important SEO rankings. And when you have to pay to download the theme, you don’t get to find out until you’ve already spent the money!

By building our own themes from one standard (and well supported) base theme, we don’t have to learn the idiosyncrasies of each theme developer’s style. We build all of our themes using semantic markup, and build custom features using the conventions of the base theme. In this way, we’re able to make modifications quickly and efficiently without having to dig through lots of arbitrarily created code.

Compatibility

The Open Source CMS ecosystem is filled with a dizzying array of free and paid themes, modules and plugins. The core platform for these systems is often updated with security patches, new features, and bug fixes. With so many moving parts, it’s important to make sure your theme is compatible with the module, plugin, and core updates that keep your site secure and functional.

Because we’ve standardized on a widely-used base theme and write our code in a very standardized way, we reduce the number of compatibility issues that arise. When issues do come up from new plugins or platform updates, having consistent code simplifies the process of running down the source of the issue and getting a fix in.

Performance

Performance may be the most overlooked of the deciding factors for purchasing a theme, but it has a big impact on how your site functions. Many themes (especially those with page builders or a large amount of extended features) include complicated, bloated markup to support features you may not even be using. Extra HTML code, CSS markup, and JavaScript in the page means slower download times for your users, and slower download times mean poor user experience.

More importantly, studies conclusively prove that page load speed can have a major effect on website conversions. Walmart reported that for every 1 second in page load time saved, conversions went up by 2%1. Similarly, search engines rank pages higher which are served more quickly.

Our themes are built using only the markup and assets needed to make your website look great, maintain mobile responsiveness, and support the features you require.

Support

Once your site is up and running, you’re likely to need periodic updates to keep your theme current with the latest revision of your platform. You may have questions or want to request features from the theme developer. Theme developers may be small one-person organizations, or large development agencies. Getting support from your theme provider comes with its own varied set of challenges.

We keep our themes up to date with the latest security releases, and we don’t update themes with features and enhancements you don’t need. Because you have an established relationship with the developer, your requests will always be heard and acted upon in a timely fashion.

Quality

What all these variables add up to is one thing: Quality. A quality theme looks beautiful, has the functionality you need, performs well, and is maintainable into the future. The money you feel like you’re saving buying an off-the-shelf theme today can cost you search rankings, conversions, and long-term maintenance over the lifetime of your website.

The best way to ensure high quality for the lifetime of your website is to work with experienced web designers and theme developers whose standards are a cut above the rest. Every custom wordpress theme we build is created to the highest standards of consistency, compatibility, and performance with only the features you need. We’ll be there for you to support our work and help your site change with the changing needs of your business.

Before using any premade theme, be sure to weigh the pros and cons for your particular circumstance, and make an informed decision.

1 How Website Performance Affects Conversion Rates