Should you buy or build a custom WordPress theme? There are more options than you think...

By Chris Erickson | June 2018

As a digital agency that does WordPress web design, you’d think we would recommend building a custom WordPress website for every project. Well, you are probably right...At the end of the day, building a custom WordPress website will provide the most flexibility and capabilities needed to have a great looking and functioning website. Although, there are some situations in which we may recommend a different approach.

Shoud you buy a WordPress theme or build a custom WordPress theme? There are more options than you think...


What options do I have?

When first considering a website redesign, it is good to understand which content management system (CMS) is right for your website. We have a long history with WordPress, and throughout the years it has become our CMS of choice. Check out our blog post on why WordPress gets our vote for best CMS.


Now that you have decided on WordPress, what are your options? Many people would assume you could either buy a theme or build a custom WordPress theme, but there are more than two routes to consider. In addition to custom and purchased themes, we have incorporated WordPress Divi Builder into many of our lower budget projects and have been very happy with the results. Divi does not provide the flexibility and capabilities that a custom theme does, but it is a good alternative when budget is a concern and is much more flexible than a pre-built template. Here is a good post on determining if Divi is the right fit for your organization.

Let's recap the options:

  1. Custom WordPress
  2. Free or paid WordPress theme
  3. WordPress Divi Builder

Below, I am going to take a brief look at every option and help determine the pros and cons with each.


1. Custom WordPress

The ideal solution every time, right? Well mostly right...A custom WordPress site will give you the flexibility to bring your website dream to life. The White Label Agency does a good job of describing custom WordPress as a “one-off theme”. Essentially, the functionality and page templates of the website are built specifically for one website. A custom theme will adapt and style in whatever way the developer chooses, which allows for much more flexibility when building it out. All parts of the website are built to work together in a seamless fashion, without any extra coding, because it was built with the specifications of one website in mind. We have found that the extra coding that comes with a pre-built theme can negatively impact your websites SEO, where a custom website is built with SEO in mind.

Keep in mind that you will be hard-pressed to find any custom WordPress website built for less than $10,000. Most custom WordPress sites fall between $10 – $100k. While it may be more expensive, it is almost always the ideal option. Take a look at our blog post with with tips to help develop a redesign budget.


2. Free or Paid WordPress theme

Piggy-backing on what was said about custom WordPress websites, free and paid themes aren’t the ideal option, but they may be the right option if you have little to no budget. Free and paid themes are the ready-made solutions for WordPress web design. Think of this option as more of the plug-and-play approach. The website’s framework is already built out and ready for you to enter your content into. Because the framework is already set, this option isn’t as flexible as a custom design, but it allows for a fast turnaround at a cheap budget.

The cost savings do come at a price though. Because the template was pre-developed by someone else, you are at the mercy of the developer and can run into trouble finding support for these themes. Keep this in mind when choosing a theme to build your website with, as you may run into problems and need to find the answers. These themes are created for thousands of other users to use, not just for your organization and your content. Before you decide on purchasing a theme, I would recommend consulting with us or another trusted developer who will help suss out the right option for your website redesign and send you down the right path.


3. WordPress Divi Builder

The WordPress Divi Builder originated from one of Elegant Themes’ most popular themes, Divi. It is both a theme and site builder plugin that allows us to rapidly build out websites, ultimately saving time and money. As I mentioned above, this option falls in between the custom approach and a free or paid theme. We most often use Divi because of a number of factors, but two main reasons include price and page count. Divi is our best tool to build out websites in the range of $5,000 – $12,000, with lower page counts (typically 50 pages or less). It has a very user friendly interface, and provides us a good alternative to the custom approach. For a website, Divi should be seen as the foundation that the web designer can build on to add that uniqueness and flair to each project.

The downfall of Divi is that it isn’t a great tool for very large websites with many unique page layouts. If not built with best practices in mind, there can be speed issues due to extra shortcode, so it is always important to have a experienced designer or developer working on the website. 


These are some options to consider when looking into a WordPress redesign project. With each option, there are pros and cons, so it is always best to talk with an experienced web designer or digital marketing agency to help determine the best fit for your project. Consider reading our blog post How to successfully manage a WordPress site design project to gain more insight into the web design process! 

Have a WordPress website already or thinking about building one? Join us at our upcoming WordPress Crash Course! The half day workshop will cover best practices for WordPress hosting, content management, plug-ins and more. If the event has already passed, check out our other events here


Topics: Digital, Design and Technology

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