Theme Based vs. Custom Websites

Theme Based vs. Custom Websites
 July 22, 2019

Have you been challenged with managing the redesign for your company’s website? Do you need to add features or improve upon your existing one? If you’re interested in putting together a website, chances are you may have stepped through a few of the initial steps.

You might have discussed things like design elements, content or even features. You may have even thought about how the site will come together. Terms like plugins, APIs, theme-based and custom coding can all sound confusing.

Before starting any web design project, it’s important to understand the difference between custom development and “templated” or theme-based websites. The difference can mean a huge change in cost, long-term flexibility, and experience for your customers.

Theme Based Website Development

In recent years, web development has become more accessible to users without technical backgrounds. To update or build websites you previously needed to know coding languages such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Now online platforms  let anyone publish or update sites within a few simple clicks.

Theme based website platforms allow users to “build” their own sites using a template. This is essentially a plain website structure with pages already built. Updates are made with a Content Management System (CMS) that allows you to upload text, images, videos, etc.

These templates have pre-existing layouts, color schemes and navigation. Similar to an online form, they allow you to fill in the blanks and upload your content. It’s quick, easy and cheap to do.

Custom Website Development

Developing a custom website is the alternative to using a theme. This gives you control over every element instead of updating existing layouts and pages. It allows you to build the site around your overall goals.

Based on your goals, you can determine what you need the site to do. For example, sell products directly online. You can also tailor your website based on  your user’s needs as well. Like displaying products on easy to understand product pages.

With these goals, you can put together specific elements of your site. This could be custom shopping carts that integrate with FedEx to calculate shipping. This level of flexibility allows you to meet the specific needs of both your business and your clients.

Features & Capabilities

Websites are essential tools for businesses. Setup correctly, sites can work in tandem with your sales team to drive leads. How your site is setup will ultimately be based on the unique needs of your team.

If you’re thinking about going the templated route, take a look at the list of integrations and features below:

  • Integrating with a CRM or ERP system
  • Including an employee or client portal
  • Allowing employees to log time
  • Connect to a project management system

Many themes don’t offer these options out of the box. These features require additional time and coding by experienced developers. This usually requires partnering with an agency or freelance developer.

They aren’t designed to integrate with many of the tools your sales team would need.

Themes do have their advantages though. A theme could be perfect if you just need the basics of a site. Such as displaying services or overviews of your products. If you need a website up for an event or for a small budget, a theme will get you there quickly/affordably.

The Difference for You

Like many marketers, you want a website that’s reliable and easy-to-use. You also want something that fits the needs of both your business and customers. In short, you want something that works for your needs today and in the future.

The main difference between theme-based sites and custom development relates to cost, timeline, and capability. If you have a limited budget, a theme might be the way to go. If you need a site tomorrow, a theme will get you there quicker. If you need an online tool that connects with a CRM or digital library, a custom solution would probably be best.

Building or redesigning a website isn’t easy.  It can be hard to sift through different options and determine what’s best for you. The key is to sit down and have a thorough an understanding the full scope of work and determining if it will meet your needs. The difference is truly in the details.

Are you interested in building a website? Think VIG!