Custom Website Design Versus Template Websites in WordPress

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With the recent explosion of popular content management system platforms such as WordPress over the past few years, the line between WordPress template websites and custom website design has been blurred to the point where clients want to know which one is right for them. Is a WordPress template website or a custom professional WordPress web design better for you?

Custom website design with WordPress
The familiar WordPress theme management tagline

A leader in St. Louis WordPress website design, IQComputing builds out websites, both simple and advanced, using a number of technologies including WordPress. According to W3Techs (Web Technology Surveys), as of October 19, 2015, WordPress is employed by 24.7% of all websites while maintaining a 58.7% market share among content management systems. With its evolution came the renaissance of template design, especially as it relates to quality as well as design and packaging. For a very cursory overview of what makes WordPress such an amazing tool to build out websites, check out the article “Why Choose WordPress For Your Website Design?

The majority of professional St. Louis website design produced by IQComputing is focused on interfaces for businesses that are created from the ground-up (that’s right, think sitemaps to Adobe Creative Suite Photoshop concepts to development) but with such a huge wealth of templates available to install on bare-bones WordPress installs, is a template website right for you? There isn’t a wrong answer here but likely there is a better answer when it comes to slick visitor experience, management capabilities, template vulnerability (security) concerns, and other aspects which can determine if a custom template or a boxed template is right for you.

The best place to start with a quick analysis would be the pros/cons of each approach, starting with templates.

Using WordPress “Boxed” Templates

Distinguishing between a “template” WordPress website and a custom WordPress theme website can be difficult since the definitions can be rather broadly defined. For the purposes of this discussion it’s to be assumed that any “boxed” template or theme is something prefabricated and acquired, purchased, downloaded etc… for relatively immediate consumption. There are some great frameworks out there that make bootstrapping templates much quicker than before and now more than ever a huge variety of template options provide a range of simplistic/basic designs all the way to some very top-of-the-line designs that give any professional custom website a run for the money. Looking at cost, out of the box templates are generally priced somewhere between free to sometimes a few hundred bucks making them very attractive for businesses looking to trim website deployment costs. If you don’t need a design that is unique either by choice or by virtue of your audience, then it becomes quite easy to see why the boxed template approach makes more sense than custom website design.

Template packages can introduce their own set of complications that in some scenarios can outweigh the benefit of using them. Lamentably the build quality and visual aesthetics of templates can sometimes suffer even with decent looking interfaces. Bulky templates create bloat which makes for poor performance (both a turnoff for users and search engine ranking). Worse, security vulnerabilities are a result of bad template development practices or dependent components that aren’t updated automatically can mean potential honeypots for hackers and bots that constant troll poorly built websites in hopes of prying open the tiniest security hole with gaping malicious intent. Another issue that falls into a class of its own relates to licensing with respect to both components/third party plugins used by themes and even stock images which are not properly licensed to be used on a wide-scale basis even if they do come included with a theme. Both of these present potentially large undocumented risks since businesses could be liable for using unlicensed software and may even receive a demand letter from stock photography licensors as a result of using a template that simply included images pulled without the proper legal permission from royalty free photo websites.

In summary, “templated” WordPress website design can be very inexpensive, sloppy or slick on the eyes, and sometimes fraught with bloat as well as future update/security issues. As the market matures, hopefully more theme developers will push out templates that follow best practices and that update well without some of the common issues that have been seen over the past few years.

The WordPress Custom Website Design Approach

Usually the more costly proposition of the two, custom WordPress website design could be construed as everything from “customized” site-build templates (which feature drag and drop interfaces to move elements around) all the way up to the 0x0 “from scratch” Photoshop to development approach that many of our customers favor. This is undoubtedly the way to when it comes to pixel perfect online marketing but it does require a strong appreciation for everything that makes WordPress great from a development perspective. Custom web designs should fast loading, lightweight, and not rely too heavily on third party plugins that slow down the experience for visitors. While poorly written plugins can affect all WordPress websites alike, with a completely custom approach to websites in WordPress, there are sometimes greater opportunities to avoid reliance on third party plugins to accomplish the similar effects.

With a ground-up design process, custom WordPress design can certainly take more time. The process involves conceptual work, possible iterations, and then the actual development process before more revisions. When time is of the essence, a custom website can be built quickly but benefits from a competent diverse skill set that can create artwork and execute the functional aspects of the work within the context of a well-developed WordPress theme to deliver a great custom WordPress website. Knowledge of the WordPress core and better yet, fluency with the WordPress code reference all help to take the visual aspects of any custom design from static image to reality.

Over time as boxed template themes improve, the distinction between themselves and and custom WordPress design will likely blur as those themes provide more capabilities for designers and developers to customize experiences that more closely follow Photoshop layouts. For now professional custom WordPress development will maintain its overall lead with a higher level of control and more granular approach to WordPress development.

In The End It’s About The Right Application

Our St. Louis WordPress website design services offer you options when it comes to template-based websites as well as custom website design. Keep in mind that there isn’t necessarily a single correct answer for every application but rather the best approach depending on each organization’s objectives that balances outcome with budget and business needs for a WordPress custom website design company.