WordPress theme: standard or custom?

If you have decided to have your website developed in WordPress, you will probably have heard of 'standard themes'. These are themes that you can buy on theme marketplaces such as Themeforest. You can buy a standard theme for €40-€100 and have it in your WordPress installation with just a few clicks.

Sounds good right? Certainly, and there are absolutely situations in which this is a perfect choice. Yet at Van Ons we never work with standard themes and we never recommend it.

There are a number of reasons why we prefer custom themes:

  • With custom themes you decide which functionalities will be included in your website or webshop. Standard themes often offer many functionalities, but you don't use many of them. And yet all those extras do have an impact on the speed of your site.
  • With custom themes you have control over the quality of the codebase. Default themes can be sloppily programmed, causing compatibility issues in the future. It is also common for the theme to have bugs from the start due to sloppy code. With customization you set the bar yourself with regard to the quality of the code.
  • With custom websites you are more assured of support in the future. Themes are often developed by enthusiasts or small self-employed people who earn some extra money with them. There is a chance that they will no longer provide support or maintenance for a standard theme after a year after publication of the theme. The chance that your agency will stop working is much smaller, so support and maintenance for your custom site will always remain available.

WordPress plugins: standard or custom?

While we have a clear preference for customization with themes, we are a little more reserved with plugins. This is mainly because certain plugins are so good that it never pays to reinvent the wheel yourself.

Take the SEO plugin for example Yoast. If you had to create all the functionality that is in that plugin yourself, it would take a very long time. The Yoast plugin is well put together and solves a very specific problem. Moreover, they have a large team of developers that can continuously make improvements to that one plugin, which you usually cannot program yourself.

That is why we always recommend that you take a good look at exactly what functionality you are looking for and what functionality a plugin offers. If you install a plugin that only uses one piece of functionality, it may be wise to develop a custom plugin for it yourself. And that is actually for the same reason as described above under themes: many functionalities have a negative impact on things such as performance, speed and security. It's a double shame if you don't even use those functionalities.

Do you need a functionality and have you found a plugin that offers exactly that piece of functionality and not much more? Are you convinced that the plugin is neatly built and works well? Then it is much more efficient to choose the plugin over customization. That saves a lot of time and money!