Custom vs Theme-Based Website Design: Pros and Cons for Both

Edgars Kebbe

Updated September 24, 2022

If you plan to create your own eCommerce website from scratch, you must first know what kind of design you want; the most common ones are custom or with templates. Therefore, you must choose between paying for a customized website design for your business or making your website using a pre-made framework with free or paid themes.

Custom website design and templates have advantages and disadvantages, and it is essential to be aware of them before deciding. Understanding the benefits and drawbacks of both options is critical to making the right choice for your business. The choice of a template or custom web design will determine the development and maintenance costs of web projects in the short and long term.

Are you ready to understand the difference between custom design and template design? Read on!

What Is Custom Web Design?

A custom website is a form of website creation where the website is created from scratch. It is coded to suit any business, and there is no template to limit your needs. Custom websites are flexible to updates and will grow as your business grows. Unlike template sites, custom sites are easier to modify, and although CMS websites are often sold as custom websites, in reality, these are template websites; let’s be clear: this is not a custom design! It is hardly web development.

Although you can get what you want with a custom web design, you should consider that the cost is also higher, and the setup time is longer due to the hard work required.

However, there are many reasons why it is recommended to opt for a custom design, especially if you sell products online. For example, WIX or WordPress template solutions are suitable only for a limited number of customers and usually only serve as a stepping stone to better things. While the price may be more affordable, you won’t have a website that stands out from the competition, which is essential to attract your target audience.

Did you know about this?

What Is Theme-Based Web Design?

One of the easiest methods to create a website is by purchasing a pre-made theme online. Website themes are finished “look and feel,” apart from giving the design. It also provides the “skin” of the website. It is easily installed on content management systems (CMS) like WordPress and even e-commerce systems like Magento. Many templates can be found online and downloaded from ThemeForest, Template Monster, Elegant Themes, or Shopify, which has its own free theme marketplace.

A pre-built theme is purchased from a third-party vendor and is used as the basis for the website design and code, and contains capabilities that determine functionality. A premade theme can be a good choice for businesses that need a fast website or those with less budget for development. However, they can cause drawbacks in the long run.

WordPress developers usually install the website theme with WordPress themes and then customize it to fit the company’s brand: upload the logo, modify the colors and change the layouts, images, etc.

Pro Tip:

You should consider that not all themes can be used out of the box without making some updates or configurations. Sometimes, the web developer or marketing expert should make the necessary changes.

Custom Website Design vs. Theme: Differences

It is pretty simple to differentiate a custom website from a template website if you know what you are looking for. When looking for a custom design, it should meet the following criteria:

  • The design was developed from scratch.
  • No templates or previous versions were used in the design creation.
  • The site is incomparable to any other existing site.

This is not to say that there is no variability in the definition of a custom website. However, the qualities mentioned above will usually form the basis of what the design world typically considers a design scheme. Undoubtedly, customizing a site is best done by a team of professionals before investing money.

Now, do you know how to tell them apart?

Working With a Custom Web Design

Large companies seek out web design agencies for custom website design over a template because custom sites are more effective for different businesses. This is because these types of websites are built with a company or brand in mind, so you don’t have to worry about your website having extra features that it won’t use.

Advantages Of Custom Web Design

Here are the main advantages of custom web design and why it is essential.

1. Unlimited customization

The custom websites tactfully incorporate a business’s essence, interests, and goals into a visually captivating state that can be displayed in various mediums. When this design merges with your company’s website, it will directly reflect its essence as a whole.

2. Greater freedom of modification

There are subtle details that only the trained eye picks up on that contribute to a better overall user experience for the average visitor. The placement of buttons, images, icons, videos, etc., is not random. Designers meticulously analyze industry trends, target audiences, and the individual company before beginning their work.

3. Updating and market research

Quality design is constantly changing according to market trends. Take the logo industry, for example: what may have been a fantastic logo 20 years ago will look blatantly outdated today. A great logo design is responsible for the first impression.

4. Uniqueness and originality

Unlike web design templates, custom site design services offer unique and captivating websites. Custom-built websites stand out from the competition by not having elements that other websites already have!

5. SEO-friendly

You may not set up a template website to help you maximize your SEO. However, when you have a custom website, those little details can be worked into the design on the back end. This means that SEO will be built into the framework, and your rise in rankings will be easier to manage and achieve over time.

6. Increased customizability.

You can add more features to your custom website depending on the style of your business. You can inform your web designer what features you need from now on and what needs to be implemented later. This way, your design will be created to offer greater adaptability.

7. Scalability

Custom-built websites can be updated and customized on the fly. Your designer will add and remove various elements to complement current trends, and your new site will be able to adapt to greater demands in the future by adapting to scalable methods and technologies.

8. Growth in conversions

The custom-built website can strategically help grow your business. A well-structured digital web development strategy can help you generate more revenue through experienced web developers who can meet your unique needs. The site’s compatibility, functionality, and page load time can help you convert your potential prospects into loyal customers.

9. Differentiate yourself from the competition

Anyone can create beautiful and aesthetically pleasing websites, but some can offer unparalleled functionality. Many companies spend months and years mimicking the unique functionality of their competitor’s applications or websites. It is difficult to duplicate the unique and usable functionality of your custom website if you have skilled web developers.

10. Increased accessibility

Custom web development helps provide you with comprehensive solutions to offer greater accessibility. Custom-built websites incorporate features that are unique and vital. It involves extensive testing, browser compatibility, responsiveness, and adaptability.

11. Makes brilliant ideas work in reality

A pioneering idea is useless if it cannot be implemented in web development. Design services help introduce newer technologies into your web and application solutions. A qualified developer can collaborate to offer innovative solutions for your business and customers. A custom website is versatile. That is, it adapts to the devices your audience uses.

Disadvantages Of Custom Web Design

Although this type of web design has several great advantages, we want to be fair and balanced by mentioning some disadvantages of this design.

1. It is more time-consuming

Creating a custom website needs requires more time than creating a template site. This is because it is a back-and-forth process between the client and the custom website design provider.

2. Investment in hiring

The website expands with your company or brand, so a more significant investment is necessary for the final result. Web development requires hiring a professional design and development support team capable of adding the pages and new features needed by the business.

3. More expensive

A custom website has a higher acquisition cost because it requires more involvement in terms of preparation, digital strategy, design, and development phases specific to the company. However, hiring a web development company means you do not have to pay for additional web development services such as themes, CMS services, or subscriptions.

4. Complicated construction process

Custom website design requires a lot of time and effort for the whole building process; that’s why you need to look for a design and development team suited to the website’s requirements. The designers and developers must be SEO experts, so they know how to incorporate SEO into the custom design code correctly.

Web Design

Suppose you don’t want to build a custom website for your company. In that case, you can opt for several options, such as building on a WordPress site, using a template, or using a free website builder. You can opt for some of the best eCommerce platforms: Shopify, Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, etc.

Working With a Website Design Template

There is a plethora of themes and online vendors that provide website themes. You’ve probably seen Wix, Squarespace, and GoDaddy advertisements for themed websites. However, WordPress is the most popular platform for creating websites with templates, currently powering over 30% of ALL websites.

A theme approach works well for some users, as they only need the website to meet few or even no custom requirements. Therefore, they spend some of their design money and development time investing in a new SEO structure that builds links to generate targeted traffic.

Advantages Of Website Design With Templates

You have probably heard that the people who get better websites are the ones who invest in this design. However, for some businesses, this is not a viable option. This is because perhaps the company does not have a stable financial base, or the developer hired does not have updated knowledge, so that the template may be the best bet in these cases.

Here are the main advantages of web design with templates:

1. Faster

You can get your website ready in a better time and thus quickly offer your products or services on the market. You just need your content ready, install the theme and configure it. This design process usually takes only a week.

2. Moderate budget

The template design is the best option for businesses with a moderate budget for this purpose, as it is cost-effective. Therefore, if you have basic knowledge and enough patience to understand some essential criteria, you can get and implement a theme for free.

3. Access to third-party applications

In some instances, you will need functions not incorporated in the templates, but this can be solved. In this design, you can integrate third-party applications to enable functions such as e-commerce, creating pop-up forms, or getting SEO recommendations.

4. Options for different sectors

You can find themes with specific features to meet the needs of various industries, such as construction, law firm, restaurants, and clinics. Just search for the ones related to your company, and you will see the wide variety of themes available.

5. Hosting

Many website templates or theme platforms provide hosting packages in conjunction with this service, so you don’t have to worry about what you will do with your new business domain.

6. Speed

By choosing a template, you can have your website up and running on the same day by selecting a predefined template. You will have to fill in the fields with your data, services, and so on to adjust it to your brand. But in terms of speed, it wins hands down.

7. Ease of DIY

If you have to create your website by yourself, using templates or themes is beneficial because it will make the process easier, and you will achieve your satisfaction as long as you expect a simple design.

Disadvantages Of Web Design Templates

1. Limited customization

Design templates usually lock you into a specific design and configuration, so there is much room for customization.

2. Difficult to find additional support

There are limited options for web page design, so you can only have a website with a limited design that is difficult to support.

3. It slows down the website

Website design themes are built to incorporate many plugins and additional features and code that can slow down the loading speed. This is because the template can be overloaded with code and heavy plugins, and this causes a loss of potential customers. Because according to statistics, 70% of customers say that site speed influences their purchasing decisions, and 37% of site visitors bounce if a site takes more than five seconds to load.

4. Not all themes consider SEO

Although many popular custom themes have already implemented the practice of SEO, some have certain features that can compromise the loading speed of your page, which will result in less traffic. Therefore search engines will not take your website into account. In addition, you should also consider the use that the template makes of the headings (H1, H2, H3…) because inappropriate use of these can cause Google or other search engines to get confused. Therefore, it is essential that when choosing a template, you check that its features do not interfere with any SEO element.

5. No updates

Many website design themes and templates are not updated frequently, which can cause security issues as the business grows, and in cases where they are updated, it can present inconveniences. This is because the underlying software, the WordPress CMS, gets updated, and the template goes down the drain.

6. Lack of security

Hackers prefer to attack websites with template designs because they allow them to hack multiple sites simultaneously. Also, sometimes theme-based designs are not updated as frequently, and if any security issues arise, sometimes theme developers do not implement these fixes as quickly.

What Do Companies Usually Choose?

Usually, startups buy a pre-designed website theme and make the necessary adjustments to adapt it to their needs, as mentioned above. This way, they save time and money, and in the end, they get a good result that is hard to distinguish from a custom website.

But, well-established companies usually only choose templates when they want to test a new line of business to see if the industry works and then build a custom design. This is because, being in a highly competitive market, they are looking to differentiate themselves from similar companies to appear unique (i.e., better) to potential customers.

Pro Tip:

Consider that customizing a theme too much can be more expensive than designing from scratch. Therefore, you should establish your requirements beforehand to determine if a theme with minimal edits can cover them. Also, it is more cost-effective for your business to hire a web developer who will work hand in hand with making a custom website fairly quickly.


Choosing between a template or a custom wordpress theme for your business is yours. I recommend you evaluate your needs and choose the most suitable option for your business.

If you are on a tight budget and need a new website in a short time, the best option for you is a template website design. Some businesses only need a website that functions as a virtual brochure and does not have specific strategic objectives or demanding requirements. So, if you don’t have a design as a priority, you can easily opt for a template.

But, if you have specific business needs and are looking for a website that fits perfectly with your marketing plan. The most sensible option is to invest in a custom website that can meet all your requirements. Also, a custom website design is the best option if you have a complex content system that requires careful organization.

Do you already know which option is perfect for you? Then start creating your new website now!

Related articles

36 Questions to Ask When Building an eCommerce Website

September 12, 2022

If you are planning to build your new eCommerce website from scratch and have hundreds of questions about setting up your online dream store is very common as the design … Read more

10 Best Subscription Management Software in 2023

July 22, 2022

The management of subscriptions simultaneously is a task that can cause headaches, especially if you have an expanding business with new customers joining every day. How to do it? How … Read more

How To Use Keywords For SEO in Your eCommerce Website

August 26, 2022

Many entrepreneurs are aware of the importance of keyword research to improve the search engine rankings of their eCommerce; search engine optimization is one of the essential elements of any … Read more

Leave a Comment