Custom vs. Premium WordPress Themes: Finding the Right Fit

To build a website with WordPress, you should first decide whether to use a pre-made WordPress theme that covers most of the website-building processes or develop a custom one.

Both options have their pros and cons. Exploring them requires time; in return, it will save valuable resources by guiding you to make the right decision at the beginning of website development. This way, you won’t have to redo any steps if you later discover that your initial choice wasn’t optimal.

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What Is WordPress Theme Purpose?

Since its inception in 2003, WordPress has evolved from a simple and easy-to-use blogging platform into one of the most standardized and commonly used open-source website builders and content management systems. WordPress powers 43% of all websites and controls 63% of the content management system (CMS) industry. Each WordPress site is powered by a theme.

A theme covers specific aspects of website creation, such as making layouts, populating webpages with templates, and adjusting page margins. Every WordPress website is built using a theme. However, depending on the development methods for a particular website, the resulting theme falls into one of two categories: a custom WordPress theme or a pre-made WordPress theme.

kava wordpress theme

When opting for a custom WordPress theme, you’ll start with a website built from scratch. Well, almost from scratch—WordPress provides a set of default themes covering basic website settings, such as choosing default fonts and providing simple navigation bars. As of the time of writing this article, WordPress has rolled out its latest default theme, Twenty Twenty-Four.

On the other hand, using a pre-made theme often implies that you’re getting a complete site solution with complex functionalities and layouts. Pre-made themes are often niche-oriented and can be either free or paid, also known as premium. In this article, we’ll discuss the differences between WordPress custom theme development and using premium themes, as these represent two polarities with vivid peculiarities. 

For some organizations, default WordPress themes are preferable starting points, while WordPress Premium themes are the most convenient alternative for others. Let’s explore which one is better for WordPress theme development and how they differ from each other.

What Are WordPress Premium Themes?

As you may be aware, WordPress themes are available for download from various sources, including the official theme directory and WordPress design agencies. These professionally crafted themes, often available for a fee, bring advanced functionalities, unique designs, and dedicated support. Choosing a premium theme can transform your website into a powerful, visually stunning, high-performing online presence.

Choosing the right pre-made WordPress theme

WordPress themes come in various shapes and sizes. Choosing the correct theme is a crucial aspect of website development, as it adds allure to your content while ensuring responsiveness across different platforms and compatibility with various devices. However, finding the ideal theme can be a bit challenging.

Consider these factors when selecting a WordPress theme:

  • Flexibility and specialization. Some themes are versatile and can cater to many purposes without specific functionalities. However, most themes are optimal for building websites in particular niches. They employ professionally designed layouts and tools for specific tasks. For instance, a blogging theme should offer layouts that make it easy for visitors to browse through blog posts, while a theme for job platforms must provide various filtering tools for finding resumes and vacancies.
  • SEO compatibility and user engagement. Your theme is crucial in SEO compatibility and encouraging user engagement, ultimately turning visitors into consumers. Carefully review the theme’s specifications and user reviews to select the one that enhances your site’s online presence.
  • Compatibility with plugins. When evaluating a premium WordPress theme, assess its compatibility with plugins. Plugins are essential for adding functionality to your website, such as contact forms, social media integration, or eCommerce features. A good premium theme should seamlessly integrate with popular plugins, ensuring you can enhance your website with additional features without encountering compatibility issues.
  • Impact on site performance. Another critical factor is how the premium theme affects your site’s performance. A well-coded theme is optimized for speed and efficiency, contributing to a positive user experience. Check if the theme has been designed with performance in mind, as slow-loading websites can lead to higher bounce rates. Look for themes that prioritize performance without sacrificing design aesthetics to ensure a balance between a visually appealing website and optimal functionality.
besoul blogging template

Free VS premium WordPress themes

Free WordPress themes, while potentially lacking certain paid functionalities and widgets, exhibit advantages such as being lightweight, improving website performance and often featuring professional designs. Despite limitations in customization options and support, these themes serve general purposes effectively. 

When deciding between free and paid themes, remember that free themes are generally designed for broad applications, implying that for specific goals, you might need to install additional plugins to tailor them to your needs. 

For businesses, website security is essential. When adopting a free WordPress theme, consider installing additional anti-malware tools to fortify your site against potential cyber threats, ensuring the protection of your business and the seamless functionality of your online presence. It’s a balance of weighing limitations against advantages and choosing to align with your website’s unique requirements.

Premium WordPress themes: pros and cons

In general, investing in a premium theme provides enhanced control and functionality. Developers of these pricier themes strive to infuse them with elegance and sophistication, ensuring exceptional performance. However, it’s essential to note that even the most advanced premium themes may require customization to unlock their full potential in competence and website layout design.

The price range for premium themes varies, with some expensive wordpress themes reaching $1,000 or more, depending on their high-end functionalities. Purchasing your ideal theme not only grants you complete control but also includes access to support, regular updates, and extensive customization options and minimizes the risk of viruses and security issues from third parties.

Choosing a premium theme involves investing in aesthetics, features, and your website’s long-term stability and security. It’s a comprehensive package that ensures a seamless and top-notch user experience for your audience.

Benefits of using a premium theme:

  • Easy installation. Even if you don’t know much about WordPress, you can easily set up your website using a pre-built theme by following step-by-step guidelines.
  • Fast setup. If your content, branding, and images are ready, you can purchase and install a theme in no time, having your website ready to launch within a few days.
  • Classy design. Many themes feature clean and classic layouts. Ensure to read reviews before making a purchase.
  • Budget-friendly. Installing a premium theme can be relatively reasonably priced compared to the cost of engaging a web designer for a custom website.
findero real estate dynamic template

Downsides of using a premium theme:

  • Challenges in switching themes. Changing themes may result in losing a significant portion of your website. Premium themes are not easily compatible with migration without programming expertise.
  • Unsupported themes. Some development companies discontinue support for their themes, causing them to become obsolete. This can lead to various errors and security issues.
  • Inadequate security. Poorly coded themes are prone to malware, especially when combined with several plugins. Some developers include unsafe coding for ongoing maintenance and monthly income.
  • Extensive coding process. Adding functionality through numerous plugins can increase backend code, slowing website performance. Expanded code raises the likelihood of HTML incompatibilities and potential site operation issues.

What Are WordPress Custom Website Themes?

Custom WordPress themes are crafted for specific purposes and either developed from the ground up (from the default WordPress theme) or by refining an existing ready-made theme. This approach ensures a unique online presence, distinguishing your site from others. A custom WordPress theme provides an initial advantage in a saturated digital landscape with millions of WordPress-based blogs. Your developer can tailor each element to fit your niche, enhancing brand identity and user experience.

Typically designed for a single client, a WordPress web developer may adopt the same template for broader use after successful completion. Modifications may include as little as aligning the design with the company’s logo and changing texts or integrating functionalities, optimizing code, and enhancing the user experience. 

Additionally, custom WordPress themes offer more opportunities for proficient coders. However, it’s not uncommon to build intricate WordPress custom designed themes without delving into the code. 

Custom WordPress themes: pros and cons

Benefits of using a customized theme:

  • Personalization according to your needs. Custom designed themes allow you to choose precisely what you need for flawless business functions. Premium plugins with a theme-building functionality will enable the creation of essential web page elements and achieve results similar to professional pre-made themes. 
  • Fast website. A custom-built theme tends to be more sophisticated and faster than a pre-built one. While premium themes are likely to appeal to a broad audience, their many features often require numerous plugins. WordPress custom theme development minimizes the need for additional plugins, streamlining your site and improving visitor experience.
  • Strategic planning. Skilled designers can quickly construct your website to guide visitors consciously through the buyer’s journey, boosting lead conversion and profitability. They can also develop an intuitive website architecture and navigation.
  • Focused SEO. Customized themes enhance your website for search engines, increasing its visibility through relevant web searches. This tailored approach attracts a targeted audience and converts them into leads and loyal consumers.
jetthemecore plugin

Downsides of using a customized theme:

  • Higher costs. Custom-built websites often involve higher costs due to the expenses associated with skilled developers and designers. However, it’s a one-time payment compared to the ongoing costs associated with some WordPress Premium themes’ fees.
  • Extended development time. Customized websites may take longer to develop, often requiring months to ensure everything is done correctly from scratch.
  • Complexity. Creating the website’s architecture with custom themes can be intricate compared to pre-designed modules with a page builder. Integrating offshore business data may be time-consuming, and the code development process involves quality assurance, leading to multiple feedback and testing meetings between the client and developer.
  • Continuous maintenance. While basic, the need for constant maintenance is a disadvantage, as you’ll be responsible for arranging professional web maintenance. Selecting a trustworthy professional for ongoing maintenance ensures the smooth operation of your website, with tasks completed monthly, quarterly, and yearly.


What is the main difference between custom and premium WordPress themes?

Custom WordPress themes are individually crafted for a specific website, offering unique designs and functionalities. Premium themes, on the other hand, are pre-made templates available for purchase, often with a variety of features suitable for different websites.

Which is more expensive, custom or premium themes?

WordPress custom designed themes typically involve higher upfront costs as they are tailored to specific needs. Premium themes are cost-effective initially but may incur additional expenses for advanced features.

How customizable are premium themes compared to custom website themes?

Custom themes provide extensive customization tailored to achieve your specific goals. Premium themes offer some flexibility but may be limited by the pre-designed structure.

Are custom website themes more time-consuming to develop than premium ones?

Custom themes generally take longer to develop as they are built from scratch. Premium themes offer a quicker setup but might require additional time for customization.

What factors should I consider when comparing custom WordPress themes vs. premium ones?

Consider your budget, timeline, specific design needs, and long-term goals. Custom themes are the way to go if uniqueness and tailored solutions are crucial. Premium themes may be suitable if you need a quick and cost-effective solution with some flexibility.

Deciding Factors: Premium WordPress Theme VS Custom Website Design?

Choosing between a WordPress theme vs. custom website design boils down to key factors. Consider your timeline: pre-made themes are quicker, while custom designs take time but offer unique tailored solutions. Assess growth potential: WordPress custom designs scale seamlessly, adapting to evolving needs. If you’re a freelancer, pre-made themes may suit swift projects, but custom designs set you apart as an agency. For professionals, a custom approach with the right tools means faster project execution and versatile task accomplishment. Tailor your choice based on your project’s urgency, growth plans, and professional context.