The big question when starting a project: Should we install a pre-designed theme or develop a custom one? It's important to understand that when creating a website with WordPress, we have the option to install a theme (free or paid) that can be customized later on. This theme has originally been developed by another company and may have been used on other websites. This solution allows us to quickly have a visual design and save on initial costs. The designer usually spends less time on the project, as does the programmer. The alternative to this is a custom theme. In this case, a designer will develop a mock-up based on your visual identity and create different variations: online store, blog, homepage, etc. The programmer can then develop a theme based on these mock-ups. This solution is generally more expensive, so why not always choose a pre-designed theme? There are several reasons for that.
This point may seem obvious, but not for everyone. It's important to understand that a purchased theme may have been used thousands of times (475,000 times for the most popular one to date). As a result, similarities can quickly emerge between sites that use it. Even among themselves, themes sometimes tend to resemble each other when they rely on visual trends. A custom theme allows for a detailed review of the presentation. It's often in these details that the finesse of a site takes shape. Ultimately, you don't have to work in the field to sense whether a site was developed using a pre-designed theme or not. Your site should be a reflection of your image.
The advantage of some themes is that they offer additional functionalities. For example, a theme could specialize in displaying hotel rooms for reservation. It could include all the tools to visualize the room, make reservations, and process payments. In some cases, this can save us a lot of time. However, when we try to modify or add to this kind of tool, everything becomes more complicated. We often encounter poorly written code, compatibility issues with other tools, or even undiscovered bugs. For instance, adding a single piece of information to the theme can become a complex task that may take 2 to 10 times longer than if we were working with a custom solution. The same applies to themes that don't offer specific functionalities. That's why it's crucial to carefully choose if we have to work with a pre-designed visual. In the case of a custom development, we don't face this problem because the programming is always done with the rest of the platform in mind. This means that your custom theme will always be the best-suited solution for your site.
Stability and Reliability
The most important aspect is reliability. One of the advantages of WordPress is the ability to benefit from platform and tool updates. However, caution is required as it can be a disadvantage if no thought is given to it. Whether it's WordPress itself, an extension, or a theme, updates are occasionally available. These updates generally improve the programming and security of a site. However, there are instances where an update creates incompatibilities between tools or with customizations that have been made. That's why it's advisable to avoid dependencies and prioritize a custom theme. In this case, no theme updates are necessary unless planned changes are needed. Let's consider an example with a pre-designed theme: the theme is at version 3.0 and our task is to adjust the header style. Our programming depends on the theme's programming. During an update to version 4.0, the theme's programming is changed by the author, and our code is no longer considered. As a result, we have to partially or completely revise our adjustments. Another scenario is a theme that relies on an extension. Our theme is at version 3.0, and our extension is at version 6.0. A year later, we want to update our extension for security reasons. The theme's author has abandoned its development, and our updated extension is now incompatible. At this point, we need to adjust the theme's programming or completely redesign the site's appearance. This is when opting for a pre-designed theme becomes more expensive than a custom solution. It can be challenging for some people to grasp this, especially considering the difference in initial investment.
We obviously recommend always using a custom theme and, if possible, custom extensions. However, some extensions have proven their stability in the past, such as our SEO, online store, and translation tools. Otherwise, it's essential to carefully evaluate our long-term expectations and dependencies within the system. For more information or any questions, please don't hesitate to contact us.