Custom Design or Off the Shelf Theme: The difference and which one?

When quoting a website there is always an initial decision between developing the site as a custom solution, or using an off the shelf theme. We offer both options and often it is a balance between the client’s budget, timescales and requirements.

The main difference is obviously that one of the options needs to be designed and developed from the ground up, whereas with the other you start with an almost pre-made site. However, there is a bit more to it than that and with the following article I will try to breakdown what exactly each option entails and the pros and cons for each.

Custom Design

Custom designed websites are built with your exact requirements in mind and therefore are able to tick every box on your wish list. The starting point for a custom built site is usually with a graphic designer who will review your requirements and using a tool such as Adobe Photoshop or Adobe XD will generate a design. Not only is the homepage designed but generally key pages and elements of the site will be designed for your approval. At each stage you will have the right to revise and hone the design to ensure that it matches your precise specification. Once you are happy you will have a series of flat images and from here a developer can build your site and bring it to life.

Pros

  • Each custom site will give a completely unique result. No other site in the world will have the same look as a graphic designer has handcrafted every detail. Uniqueness is very important to a lot of businesses, so this can be a big sway when it comes to deciding which option to choose.
  • Due to the nature of a custom build site they are highly adaptable. You can make them fit your business needs in terms of both design and functionality.
  • They are very SEO friendly. This is due to very little bloat with the code behind the site being coded from scratch.
  • Custom sites are much more scalable. As the business grows the site can be scaled and the process should be smooth without requiring large investments in the future.

Cons

  • Custom designed websites are more expensive due to the extra time taken to design and develop it from scratch.
  • The sites when build from scratch take longer to design and build due to the extra steps required.

Off the Shelf

Off the shelf websites start with a package of files that already have the form of a website and are ready for modification to suit your requirements. You skip the design stage and go straight to a fully formed website. Obviously at the initial stage the sites content and to some degree structure won’t match your requirements and will require modification to develop it into a website to represent your business. This means the initial theme selection is key, as the further off the mark the initial theme is the more work is required to bring it up to scratch.

Pros

  • An off the shelf theme tends to be more budget friendly. A designer and developer don’t have to sit down and develop the site, so this cuts the cost quite considerably.
  • As well as the savings in money the sites will also have a much shorter development time. As the code is already there if you are working to a very tight timeline then an off the shelf theme might be worth considering.

Cons

  • As you are starting with someone else design and code off the shelf sites can be less flexible. If you are looking to add new features and expand the site in the future, an off the shelf theme could end up costing you additional time and money.
  • Off the shelf sites tend to be less SEO friendly they tend to be built with a great deal of options meaning they can end up being more bloated which results in a less lean site increasing loading times and causing the site structure to be compromised.

Conclusion

As you can see, each option has their advantages and disadvantages. Users with highly specific requirements who are very particular about the end result are best placed to go with a custom built site. This is providing the are willing to invest the time and resources into developing it. An off the shelf site can be great for a smaller company who simply want a web presence and have fairly straightforward requirements.

If you need help understanding the above or want help with your first steps into developing your own website then just get in touch and we will be more than happy to help.

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