Most websites are built on a CMS like WordPress, Shopify, Drupal, Magento, or another open source, licensed or SaaS platform. Choosing the right CMS for your website, business, or specific project is not an easy choice, and even once you have done that you still have to figure out how to build your website.

The problems most businesses make is that they rely entirely on third parties to make these decisions without thinking about what is best for the long term progression of their business. A third party is most likely going to push the business in the direction that is most profitable to them, which is either modifying a prebuilt theme or building a custom theme.

Most CMS websites use a prebuilt theme on something like Themeforest or the theme marketplace for their respective CMS such as Shopify. This can be a good solution for some businesses but can also be a very costly and disastrous mistake for other types of businesses.


Advantages of Prebuilt Theme:

  • Cheap
  • Expensive features at a low cost
  • Fast to implement
  • Theme updates can add new features

Advantages of a Custom Theme:

  • More scalable
  • Faster to make custom changes
  • Designed around your specific needs
  • No unnecessary code
  • Faster page load time

Disadvantages of Prebuilt Theme:

  • Difficult to customize
  • Unnecessary code if you don’t use all the features
  • Lack of scalability
  • Theme developer could stop maintaining theme
  • Have to update theme in addition to WordPress software

Disadvantages of Custom Theme:

  • More Expensive
  • Need to pay a developer to maintain or add new features
  • More design is required since there is no base design template

In conclusion it really depends on what your needs are, your budget and where you are at as a business. If you are an established business with a reasonable budget I would explore building a custom theme on a CMS you can grow and build your business with for the indefinite future. However, a new or small business with a low budget may have to go with a prebuilt theme to save money.

What to look for in a prebuilt theme:

If you do go the theme route you want to look for several things that might help ensure your site is more successful in the long run. I would suggest using a theme that was built with a front end framework like Foundation or Bootstrap because if you change agencies or developers that are working on your site they can easily find the documentation online. A theme that uses a custom front end framework will take longer for a new developer to pick up than one that is well documented online like Bootstrap or Foundation.

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