Prebuilt Themes vs. Custom Websites: Which Is Right for You?

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Stephanie Clark

Jun 6, 2023 - 4 min read.

When looking for a new website for your business, you might find yourself drowning in a multitude of options for pre-built themes. If you’re not particularly tech minded, it will seem like the quickest, easiest option to get your website up and running. But does this mean a pre-built theme is right for your business? Or would it benefit you more to have a bespoke website built from scratch? Let’s explore each of these options to help you figure out which one you really need.

What’s the difference between pre-built themes and custom websites?

You might be wondering whether there’s much of a difference between the two. Well, pre-built templates and custom websites differ in a number of ways.

Pre-built themes

These can be accessed in two ways. The first is by using a Content Management System (CMS), like WordPress or Shopify, and using one of the free templates available, or buying a template from one of the many providers out there. ThemeForest, Template Monster or Elegant Theme are some well-known ones. The second route is by visiting dedicated sites such as Wix or Squarespace, where you can choose a theme and edit it within the framework of their site. Overall, pre-built themes provide a base for the design and code of your website, and functionality depends on the capabilities of the theme you choose.

Custom websites

These kinds of websites are built completely from the ground up. The first step is getting a professional UX/UI designer to plan out the experience of your website and design every page with both desktop and mobile considerations in mind. This would often include creating a bespoke logo for your brand and incorporating any special features unique to your business. Then, an engineer develops the back-end of your website based on the custom design layout and functionality you want.

So which one do I need for my business?

Knowing whether to go for a pre-built or bespoke website comes down to a few key factors, but ultimately it depends on how much time and effort you want to invest in having a quality website for your business. Here are some points to consider.

Pros of pre-build themes

  • No expert skills needed – pre-built themes allow you to create your own website by simply dragging and dropping with tools like Elementor, without requiring any specialist design or coding skills.
  • Fast setup – once you’ve purchased your pre-built theme, you can have your website designed in just a few hours. However, it’s important to note that if you’re using WordPress, you’ll still need to seek the services of a professional developer to set up hosting and infrastructure for you.
  • Cheaper outlay – since the framework of these kinds of websites is pre-built, you can ultimately save some money on much of the design and development process.

Cons of pre-built themes

  • Less personalised branding – although there are many pre-built themes to choose from, there is a chance that your branding won’t fit the theme perfectly. For example, if you already have a brand and logo established, it may be difficult to integrate colours, fonts and a visual language into the website.
  • Not very secure – the popularity of some off-the-shelf themes, such as WordPress, means they are more highly targeted by hackers, bots and malware, so this poses a higher security risk for your website. This is something crucial to consider, especially if you’re looking for an e-commerce website.
  • Too generic – using a pre-built theme means it’s likely that your site will look like other companies, and since themes typically use similar blocks of content or layouts, it will be very obvious that your website is using a theme. This will make your business appear far less unique and lower the chance of you making an impact on visitors to your site.
  • Easy to be misled – unfortunately there are certain developers out there who try to take advantage by promising you a bespoke website, but they actually simply buy a £20 theme and charge you £2000 for setting up hosting and infrastructure.

Pros of custom websites

  • Better control – bespoke websites offer you the opportunity to have much greater control over design and functionality, which is particularly important if you have a certain idea in mind of how you’d like your brand to be presented to the world.
  • Highly scalable – once your website has gone live, there is always a way of customising it further and adding different features should you need to in the future. Custom sites are able to handle more content and traffic than off-the-shelf themes, as the majority of prebuilt themes use shared servers. In contrast, custom websites are usually tailored to your specific bandwidth requirements, making them able to take on more data overall.
  • Optimised for SEO – a bespoke design allows developers to build in everything to satisfy your SEO needs right from the start, including the content populated for launch. Therefore, the chances of needing to install additional plugins that would cost money per month dramatically decrease, since functionality is determined when you start the project. This saves a potentially large amount of time and effort correcting things later down the line.
  • Increased page speed – if the developer you hire is experienced, they will be able to implement techniques such as lazy loading and image optimisation to ensure your website loads extremely quickly.
  • More secure – a professional developer would be able to host your custom website on an independent, highly scalable hosting platform. This ultimately makes your website far less vulnerable to hackers and bots.

Cons of custom websites

  • Larger outlay – bespoke solutions are typically more costly than pre-built themes, as you need to pay for the developer’s time and expertise.
  • Longer timeframe – building a website from scratch takes comparatively longer than using a pre-built option. That being said, pre-built themes do require the installation of plugins, and issues can arise over time when your site or the plugins themselves are updated and things start to break. This then requires more ongoing maintenance time to keep the site up and running and secure. On the other hand, the reviewing and feedback process during the design and implementation of a custom website does tend to lead to longer timeframes overall.
  • Relying on a developer – having a custom website built depends on the developer’s availability and how quickly they can deliver the final product. As well as this, specialised custom solutions, such as content management systems ( CMS), booking engines or e-commerce platforms are specifically built for your requirements, which often means that only the original developer can provide support should any issues arise.

Wrapping up

So which is right for you? The answer to this depends on the type of business you run and what you’re aiming to achieve. However, we do recommend that if you offer a unique product or service, if your site requires booking forms and e-commerce functions, or even if you’re simply looking for a way of making your business stand out from the competition, a custom website is the way forward.

With a bespoke website you’ll have greater control over the site design and branding and it will give you the flexibility to expand your website as your business flourishes. So, if you are looking to really get your business off the ground, contact us to see how we can help you reach your business goals with our bespoke services.

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About the author

Stephanie Clark Photo
Stephanie Clark

Director of Content

Stephanie Clark is a highly-experienced copywriter and English language teaching professional. She is responsible for writing and editing our in-house content, as well as assisting on our client projects. Apart from working as a freelance content writer, Stephanie is also a fully-qualified online English teacher for non-native speakers and creates video content for English language learning purposes.

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