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So you want a new website, but you don’t want (or need!) to pay for a custom WordPress design.

If that’s the case then you’re like 95% of our clients. For years Bright Tribe only did custom WordPress development. We prided ourselves on this fact. We’d talk about how every page was custom coded to your exact specifications, blah, blah, blah.

But I’ll let you in on a little secret: very rarely does anybody really do “custom” WordPress development. You see, every WordPress website in the world is built using a theme. And even most agencies that claim to do custom work simply use their own internal theme framework as the starting point. They customize it to fit their clients’ needs, but the guts – the backend and much of the functionality – is baked into the theme framework that they’ve developed. What they mean by “custom” is that they will often start in Photoshop with the design and hand that over to developers who will have to splice and dice in order to build the site to match the design.

There are some benefits to custom WordPress development

When doing custom development, clients aren’t limited to the default functionality or layout options of a particular theme. It can give them more options from a design standpoint. Whatever you can imagine (or copy from another site) can be incorporated into your website. But this comes at a cost. And it’s not just the cost of initial development. Custom sites have to be maintained. And over the years we’ve seen how custom WordPress sites can break with later WordPress versions, for example, and now a client is stuck because they have outdated code that never gets updated.

So why choose theme customization over custom WordPress development?

At the end of the day, there are very few clients who really need a custom WordPress website. For the last 4 years or more, we’ve worked with technical companies, global manufacturers, non-profits, medical practices, private schools, consultants, churches, lawn care companies and everything in between. And not one of them needed a custom website. So what are the benefits of professional theme customization?

  1. Time to Launch. When you start with a solid, professional WordPress theme much of the heavy lifting is already done for you. There are many layout options and design elements that are available at the click of a button that don’t have to be coded by hand. This is a tremendous benefit and speeds up the development time significantly. It means that more time and energy can go where you’ll get the most bang for your buck – strategy, usability, online marketing, SEO, etc.
  2. Mobile Responsiveness. Everyone knows that having a site be mobile responsive isn’t even a question today. Google penalizes websites that aren’t mobile responsive. And having a fixed width site today is kind-of like driving an old stick shift: Yeah, you can do it, but it’s a pain in the butt. When using a premium WordPress theme, all of the layouts, features and design elements are natively mobile responsive. And if you’ve selected a quality theme, they scale and look great on any device.
  3. Development Cost. Typically a site that is built from a premium theme will cost less that a custom-coded website. But this doesn’t mean that it’s cheap. When you’re working with a professional web design company like Bright Tribe, we get paid to think as well as to do. But using a paid theme certainly helps manage the budget. For example, we’re able to do much smaller projects – and still do great work for our clients – than a traditional agency. And it’s easier to scale a project down or do it in phases.
  4. Features. This can be a double-edged sword, because many paid themes try to throw everything – and the kitchen sink – into their theme. This can lead to bloated themes that run slow or cause security risks. It’s important to balance the features of a theme with what a client actually needs and uses. For example, some popular themes might provide 3-4 different slider options. Well, nobody is going to use all of those, but they come preinstalled just in case. We don’t use themes like that, but they are certainly poplar and lots of folks use them. But premium themes do come with lots of design elements and features that would cost a fortune to code by hand. And when these are used correctly, they can significantly enhance the overall visual quality and user experience of a website.

Here is an example of the kind of elements that are available in a premium theme’s visual editor. These elements can be used to create unique, highly customized designs that are fully mobile responsive and provide a high degree of visual appeal to a website.

  1. Updates and Support. A quality premium theme provides excellent theme support and continual updates. I remember when WordPress version 4.5 was released. It was a mess! There were millions of sites around the world that were affected because of some changes that WordPress made in their core framework. If you had a custom site that was messed up, you had to go back to your old developer and hope they could get in and fix the problem. And this would take time and money. In our case, we simply downloaded an update the very next day and everything was fixed. That’s the power of our expert WordPress support services.

If you’d like to see what can be done by customizing a premium / paid theme, be sure to check out our portfolio. Every single site has been customized using a premium theme. And they work incredibly well for our clients. Not one of them needed a custom WordPress website.

If you’d like more information about our WordPress theme customization and web design services, feel free to give us a call today at 678-267-3267. We’d love to hear from you.