There are lots of reasons why businesses choose WordPress to create their websites. But perhaps the biggest reason of all is simplicity. WordPress has an extensive collection of off-the-shelf themes – ready-made templates that contain all the necessary code files and stylesheets to produce a well-designed front end – making building a website very easy, fast and remarkably affordable.
These ready-to-go themes are a great option for some small, straightforward websites where the most important goal is to simply have an online presence. But for most businesses – businesses that need their online presence to drive results – they can have limitations.
That’s why more and more are opting for bespoke WordPress theme development, working closely with a WordPress theme developer to generate their own unique, fully-customised digital solutions.
Unlike a standard WordPress theme that you can select from the online library, install and modify, a bespoke theme is built from scratch, tailored to your needs. It’s not based on any existing template and is instead developed from the ground up to meet the requirements that you’ve laid out. It means that you can create a website that’s truly aligned with your brand and reflects your personality.
While bespoke WordPress theme development typically involves a little more time and effort than simply picking a theme from the library, it can bring with it a whole host of benefits for businesses…
Off-the-shelf themes can look amazing. But using one often means you’ll be prioritising the theme’s design over your brand message. What typically happens is that businesses mould their message into this pre-built framework, when really it should be the other way around. Of course, it’s possible to tweak existing themes to get them closer to what you need them to be, but there’s always going to be some sort of compromise when using a pre-determined template. It’s never going to be exactly what you need, but a bespoke theme will be. If you’ve driven a lot of resources into building the perfect brand, your site really should be coded from scratch to retain that branding.
‘Code bloat’ is a real concern with off-the-shelf themes. The trouble with ready-made templates is that they have to be everything, to everyone. If one business needs the introductory paragraphs to be aligned to the left, and another needs them aligned to the right, then that theme has to include all the necessary code to offer both forms of presentation. This means that ready-made themes typically carry lots of extra code even though each business only requires a small amount of it. The more code, the slower the site, the more there is to manage and the greater the security risk. On the other hand, bespoke themes are streamlined, only including what’s needed. Nothing more.
Plugins can be a complete dream. With just a few clicks of the mouse or taps on the keyboard, you’ve suddenly solved a problem, or enhanced your WordPress site with a new feature. The problem is that off-the-shelf themes sometimes rely a little too heavily on plugins for things that should really be part of the underlying code. Relying on plugins for basic functionality creates a whole host of potential risks. For example, what happens if the plugin developers abandon a project, or fail to update it following a security breach? How much can you trust plugin developers? Building functionality into the theme eradicates these problems. And it’s usually not a big task.
Search engine optimisation, or SEO, is not just about keywords. There are literally hundreds of different ranking factors. A significant portion of them are related to speed and site performance. The faster and better your site, the more SEO ‘juice’ and the higher the ranking in the search engine results pages (SERPs). As off-the-shelf themes include more code, they’ll be larger, heavier and slower than those built for speed and performance from the ground up. At a time when Google is putting more and more focus on speed through its Core Web Vitals initiative, a bespoke theme that’s leaner and faster could have a major impact on SEO and online visibility.
WordPress isn’t immune to attack. Far from it. Due to the platform’s popularity, it’s a major target for cybercriminals. This shouldn’t put you off, but it should encourage you to take security seriously. While there are lots of ways criminals can attack via WordPress, one of the most common methods is to seek out vulnerabilities in off-the-shelf themes. As these themes usually include lots of different plugins – and therefore lots of different code written by different developers – weaknesses are common. Hackers can use these weak spots to gain access. A bespoke theme will use fewer plugins and a single codebase, so while not impervious to attack, it’s less vulnerable.
Regardless of whether you choose an off-the-shelf theme or go down the bespoke WordPress theme development route, your site will need regular maintenance. But with ready-made themes being made up of lots of different plugins – all of which require individual updates – it can be a lot more effort to maintain themes based on pre-existing templates. With bespoke themes, as long as you’ve used an expert development team utilising best practices, maintenance should be simple and straightforward. And when it takes less effort to keep a site performing well, you’re likely to keep that site around for much longer. We’ve developed client sites that are still going strong, 10 years later!
Although certain modifications can be made to off-the-shelf WordPress themes, there’s only so much you can change. This means there are thousands of websites that all look pretty similar – sometimes it can be difficult to tell them apart! In terms of boosting awareness, building familiarity and improving brand recall, this isn’t great. Brands using the same themes can often all seem to blur together into one, with no single brand standing out. Bespoke WordPress theme development is your chance to shine. It’s a chance to build something totally unique, something different and something that sticks in the mind of your visitors, today and tomorrow.
If you’ve had a design produced, and want to find out more about building a custom website around that design, get in touch to find out more about bespoke WordPress theme development.