The Advantage of Custom WordPress Themes

WordPress Logo
by Anthony Wilson

There are many options for designing and building a WordPress website. Digital Artisans specializes in building custom WordPress themes for our clients. We sometimes get asked why. Let’s face it, a company can go out and buy a theme for a few hundred dollars and be done. Right? Not always.

What is the goal of your website? If it is a place to find an address and hours, a stock theme may work. There are many out of the box themes available for WordPress. It’s one of the advantages of using the most popular content management platform on the internet. But box themes don’t work for every customer. Let’s explore why Digital Artisans focuses on custom themes.

Rocketship iconWebsite Performance

Not only do customers expect fast websites, it impacts your SEO. Google now ranks a site based on your performance. Conversion rates drop dramatically for every extra second a page takes to load. In one example, 2 seconds can mean a 50% reduction in conversions. Out of the box themes are general purpose made for drag and drop interfaces (that don’t always work) and not tuned for performance. Further, over time, the out of the box themes bloat the database with page structure and markup slowing the site even further. Using a custom theme greatly reduces the size and complexity of the code base allowing far better website performance.

Lock iconWordPress Security

Out of date plugin and themes are one of the highest risk aspects of using an out of the box theme and a known cause of WordPress exploits. The themes are general purpose so they have many features you will never use or monitor. The themes often come with dozens of plugins pre-installed. While it’s possible to review a theme and disable these security holes, it’s a step that is seldom done in the real world. A custom theme minimizes attack vectors by only containing the features and functions needed for your site.

Bade icon with a starYour Brand

Selecting an out of the box theme means sharing a website with many other companies. The low cost is only possible because the theme is sold to hundreds or even thousands of other companies. A custom theme is designed from the ground up to support a company’s identity, brand and messaging. The designers are not limited to changing theme colors or fonts. Digital Artisans uses Advanced Custom Fields in predefined layouts that are easy to edit, easy to arrange on a page and give the author flexibility while maintaining the website brand. The author has a better experience as does the website user.

Pencil/Edit iconEase of Editing

Simply put, page builders in most download themes break, they are hard to use and require someone to edit HTML to fix things. Digital Artisans uses Advanced Custom Fields in predefined layouts that are easy to edit, easy to arrange on a page and give the author flexibility while maintaining the website brand.  The author has a better experience as does the website user. 

Accessibility iconAccessibility

Few out of the box themes we have tested are truly accessible. The complex page builders and numerous plugins usually do not play well together and create accessibility issues. One common fix is an accessibility plugin which often breaks layout when enabled. Further, the accessibility plugin terms and conditions state you are still responsible for validating and fixing the site. Digital Artisans’ custom themes are built from an accessible foundation and can be catered to various levels of ADA compliance.

In Conclusion

There is a strong argument for using out of the box themes for simple and lower traffic websites. It’s quick to set up if you’re not doing something complicated and the price is right. But companies who are planning for growth, concerned about security, want to express their brand or need to make frequent content updates are better off with a custom theme.