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Custom vs Ready-Made Theme Website Design - Which Is Best?

28 Sep 2017

When a business looks at building a new website they are typically faced with two options:

  1. Choosing an ‘off the shelf’ ready-made theme or
  2. Deciding on a customised design

Much like deciding between building a house straight off the plans or employing an architect to design your dream home, your choice of ready-made theme or custom website design will determine how much influence you have over your finished product, how well it fits your brand, and how flexible it will be in the future.

What is a ready-made theme?

As the name would suggest, a ready-made theme (sometimes called pre-made or template) is a simple, low-cost ‘off the shelf’ option for budget conscious businesses that offers a predefined one-size-fits-all visual design and interactive layout. You may have noticed that a lot of websites these days have a very similar look – chances are you’re looking at something off the shelf.

Ready-made themes are created by 3rd party theme developers and as the layout, site architecture, functionality and interactivity is predefined the amount of input available during the design phase can be severely limited.

The look and feel of a ready-made theme, such as changing colours and fonts and adding a company logo is generally the extent of customisation allowed for. When looking at ready- made themes the rule of thumb is that everything you see in terms of layout, transitions and animations will remain the same and its only your company colours, fonts and logo and content (copy and images) that will be added to personalise it.

That said, we do take a slightly different approach here at Limelight and make sure we’re selecting themes that do allow for a higher degree of customisation than what you’d generally get ‘off the shelf’, however the way the theme has been developed (and how much customisation is possible) is ultimately dictated by the theme developer.

Due to these limitations, future redesigns and alterations of ready-made theme websites are generally difficult or not possible at all.

What is custom website design?

At the other end of the spectrum is a custom website design. A custom design requires a larger investment both in time and finances, but allows for a very high level of design and functionality input and delivers a bespoke end result that gives a business credibility and sets it apart from its competition.

The approach we take with a custom website design project is very different to the ready-made theme approach. From the outset a team of web designers, developers, digital marketers and copywriters work with you to develop your ideas and your vision. We are the architects who design and then develop your dream website from scratch.

An example of a custom website design crafted by Limelight Online

The sky is the limit when it comes to design and functionality – you get a website that gives you exactly what you want, exactly how you like it but tailored precisely to the needs of your users. The website can be tailored to your audience becoming an extension of your business and a crucial tool for driving sales and enquiries.

The future is much rosier with a custom design too – because as your company grows, your website can grow right along with it. Your development team can make changes without having to rely on a third-party developer, altering the visual design or adding new functions such as e-commerce solutions to boost online sales. It also makes it easier to keep up with – and take advantage of – the frequent changes in the digital marketing world that influence how readily your product and target audience connect.

How to decide which option is best for your business?

The following statements may help you make your decision: 

Custom Design

Ready-made Theme
You value a strong online identity and want a unique design and imagery that accurately reflects your brand  
You want to invest in a site that sets your business apart from your competitors – rather than a ‘me too’ design  
You want a website that is tailored to your audience resulting in a higher ROI
You want more than a brochure type site and want to create a powerful asset for your business
You want to have input into the design and require full flexibility/customisation
You want your site to have functionality that’s future-proofed for easy revisions
The digital marketing of your business is critical and you want your site visitors to have the best possible experience
You don’t need your site created in a week and understand that good design takes time 


 Choosing which option is best for you

The differences between tailormade, custom websites and those built using a ready-made theme or template should be much clearer for you now. So, if you have a business and are looking at creating a new website, you must ask yourself – do you want your site to be a customised dream home for your brand; or do you want to restrict it to the limitations of someone else’s plans?

Contact the Limelight Online team for a deeper insight into the endless potential of a custom design for your next website.

Written by
As one of two founding directors, Karyn is primarily responsible for the marketing and strategic direction of Limelight Online. With full time experience in the industry since 1998, Karyn’s extensive knowledge sees her deeply involved in product and service development for both the digital marketing and web development sides of the company.

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