When it comes to creating a new website, two approaches are possible: themes on one side, and tailor-made design on the other.
Of course, each solution has its own set of pros and cons.
Costs, upgrades, maintenance … with this article, we invite you to see more clearly so that you can make the best choice for your project!
Choosing a Theme-Based Website
One of the first point taken into account by people wishing to create a website is that of the price of a theme. On average, we can estimate that on WordPress, these run around 50 euros for paid themes.
There is naturally a plethora of free themes of all kinds, but these are typically very poor and simply lack identity. We therefore recommend to opt for a paid theme.
Then, depending on the complexity of your project, the price of WordPress themes will vary between 20 and 100 U.S Dollars approximately. This range will also be valid for other platforms such as Wix.
Shopify, which also offers free themes, has put the entry price for their paid themes at around US$180 and up. However these paid themes include features that would otherwise have to be paid via third-party plugins.
The price difference for a theme is therefore justified in terms of design, but also and above all in terms of functionalities. If your project is, for example, that of an online store, a travel agency or a real estate agency, you will often pay more than a “basic” theme.
Indeed, the themes for these businesses then include structures and a backend (administration interface) which will allow you to easily find your way around your products, real estate properties, etc. and will have features already thought out: adapted product sheets, galleries, newsletter subscriptions …
Anyway, we must admit that these prices are very attractive, especially when the theme directly includes all the tools you will need! This is a real time saver compared to a project where you would have to find everything and install these tools.
Theme research is a great way to help you figure out what you want for your website.
Often, our customers take as a reference the sites they know, or those of their competitors. This is too limiting. The sample is small, and most importantly, the references may be outdated.
The upside of picking a theme, and in particular, through a platform selling themes, is that you will be able to compare the work of dozens of different creators to have a better idea of what you want!
This preliminary research work makes you better informed, and can therefore facilitate and improve the development phase.
This is a major point: you can see everything about the theme in advance, what you like as much as what you don’t, and so you know what result to expect. This is a very reassuring element for the customer.
With a theme that you have chosen by yourself or with the advice of a Web Design Agency, there is no diving into the unknown, and if you are stressed about the result that a designer will offer you (but why choose him in the first place if you don’t trust him?), choosing a theme can be a good solution. Although of course, as professionals ourselves, we advise our clients to trust an experienced point of view without being too influenced too much by their own tastes.
This goes back to the previous point. By choosing your theme on a platform dedicated to this, you will have access to the rating of this theme by the user community.
You will have dozens or even hundreds of reviews to read to learn all about the strengths and weaknesses of a theme.
Theme updates can quickly turn into a nightmare!
The issues you may encounter are as follows:
- A theme never updated: in this case, over time, you may have problems with WordPress (or other CMS), with plugins, or even with your host, leading to incompatibilities for aging themes that risk to make your site unusable.
- A theme that is updated too frequently: this may require you not only to spend time updating your site, but also and often, after a year or less, you will be asked to pay extra to continue benefiting from theme updates! If you intended to limit your spending to just a few dollars to get a theme for life, forget that: most often, you will have to redownload an updated version, which is in fact equivalent to an annual subscription (admittedly reasonable, but which definitely increases the initial price).
- The pure and simple disappearance of the theme and its creator: overnight, a developer of paid themes can decide to abandon their product and no longer update it. At this point, you risk finding yourself trapped, and having to redesign your site.
This is one of the big uncertainties when choosing a theme.
Going for a theme can often be misleading: you see a beautiful showcase website and you believe your life will be simpler, but you end up with a rigid system with very will control, unclear or even nonexistent documentation, and customer service struggles to get answers!
Faced with a bug or a misunderstanding of a feature of your paid theme, you will then have to post a question on the seller / developer forum, and pray that:
- He answers you (or another sufficiently friendly and informed customer)
- He answers to you within an acceptable timeframe
- The answer actually solves your problem
So beware, there are no phone and no commitment in response times or interventions if you buy a theme!
Lack of optimization
Since theme sellers know they are talking to a non-expert general audience, some may rush their job on the hidden part of the iceberg: the code.
There are two main reasons why a theme is poorly optimized and therefore can be slow to use or navigate.
The first is the quality of the code. As sellers know that buyers will rely primarily on functionality and design, the quality of the code sometimes becomes very secondary.
The second reason is linked to the concept of “One size fits all”. Indeed, if your project is decidedly simple, you will sometimes be inundated by certain themes of useless and cumbersome features. The website will therefore have a lot of unused material, making it heavier and slower than necessary.
This is one of the main drawbacks of a theme: when used within the boundaries of what it was designed to do, it usually doesn’t pose too many problems.
However, and a fortiori after a few months or years, if you decide to add functionalities, you will soon realize that there are “deadlocks”, or that there are integrations to do much more complicated than on a tailor-made platform.
In addition, customization is also often limited concerning the design. Ironically, if you choose a theme it means that the main graphic lines appeal to you! But beware: the devil is in the details. Customization such as logo sizes in a menu or adding or removing an element can be more problematic than a custom site.
Related to this issue is the layout tool used by the theme. Indeed, a theme, in order to be usable by the greater number, is often delivered as a “bundle” with a layout tool, also called “Theme Builder” or “Page Builder”.
This layout tool is the interface that will allow you to make changes.
And the problem with themes is that a lot of times they’re bundled with “cheap” Theme Builder. Very rigid and very slow, they can become hell for you, especially when working on responsive versions.
If you buy a WordPress theme, we advise you to avoid “WP Bakery” (formerly “Visual Composer”) and “Divi”. Conversely, we recommend “Elementor”.
Choice can indeed be both an advantage and a disadvantage!
Why that ? Because having to choose a theme is no easy task, especially for the untrained eye. If the price may seem advantageous (20 to 100 euros as we have seen), that does not take into account the research time necessary to find the rare pearl!
You can quickly get overwhelmed by the choice of your website theme, and spend days there! Because beyond the design that can be judged almost from the first glance, you will also have to study what components accompany the theme, make sure that everything is compatible with your objectives and your work environment, and read customer reviews to make sure you buy a satisfactory product.
Research is nevertheless necessary, to is be considered as an investment necessary to build your project on the best possible foundations. This is why when we work with a theme, we take care of this research ourselves and submit to our clients a list of options (between 2 and 4 most of the time).
Choosing a Custom-Made Website
A unique Branding
By choosing a 100% tailor-made website, you will have plenty of time to develop something really special and unique for your project. You will be able to engage closely with designers and developers to bring your vision to life.
Or if you want to let their experience speak, an agency will be happy to do all that design and consulting work for you, and give you a unique identity and experience.
Choosing a tailor-made site is the best bet to set yourself apart from your competition.
So many elements come into play in the success or failure of a project: the quality and relevance of your offer, the targeting of your audience, your marketing positioning, your pricing, your internal resources, etc. but your brand image (or “Branding”) is absolutely central to your success.
This is why starting with a unique, thoughtful and tailor-made identity, guarantees to put all the chances on your side to make an impression on your audience.
Get only what is necessary
As seen before, one of the problems with a theme is optimization.
Conversely, with a custom-made website, you will be sure to have a result that corresponds 100% to your needs.
As a result, your site will perform better, making it easier and faster for users to browse.
By using the services of a team of web professionals, you surround yourself with the best advice in technical terms, design, and marketing.
Thinking about a website project alone or in a limited way via a theme, or working on the construction of a tailor-made site are two different things. Brainstorming will necessarily be more intense, and the discussions you will have with the development team will allow you to create a most successful solution.
But that’s not all, beyond the consulting part, an agency such as ours offers alterations, a review period after delivery of the site if there are bugs, or even a webmastering offer for occupy the site over the long term.
This is often a false problem, because as a rule, custom-made sites can move from hand to hand without much hassle.
But it is however obvious that with a tailor-made site, you will somehow partly depend on its creator (as much as with a theme in reality).
It is therefore favorable to stay in contact with the original teams for any change, whether graphic (to ensure continuity with the designer’s “vision”), or technical (to avoid breaking everything if you want to make important changes).
In the same way that it is more expensive to use a tailor than ready-to-wear clothes, choosing a custom-made site is in theory more expensive. But the difference is not necessarily that big.
First of all, there are teams of very competent designers who practice affordable prices, as is the case with our French web agency in Vietnam.
Then, as seen previously, themes can have “hidden” costs: license renewal, waste of time on research, on customer service, on difficulties in updating. Even if a theme may seem cheap, remember that your expense will not be limited to only 50 and a few euros of the purchase! A site at this price does not exist!
In either case, if you use an agency or a freelancer, you will always have to pay for the installation of the site, the adaptation and integration of your content, the user tests, the updates, etc.
If you plan to have your site regularly updated by an outsourced team, they will necessarily spend less time on their own work than on the poorly optimized one of another, and thus, in the long run, you will spend less money on interventions.
For more information on Theme-Based and Custom-Made Websites and their pricing, check our Website Packages
Do you want to create a website? Contact us!
Where to buy a WordPress, Shopify, or other theme?
How much does a WordPress or Shopify theme cost?
On average, a WordPress theme costs around fifty dollars, with a range ranging from 20 to 100 dollars as a rule. Rather, count around 180 dollars for Shopify. Note that this price often includes other useful tools for your website.
How to layout my WordPress theme?
We recommend that you use Elementor. Avoid WP Bakery.
Do I need a professional if I buy a theme? Can I build my site on my own?
Of course you can build your site. But if you are not too well versed in design or technique, and you do not have months of training at your disposal, we do not recommend it. Without even talking about coding, creating a website requires certain skills, and if you want your site to live up to your expectations, call a specialized agency.