When you set out to create a website, it can be very tempting to use a pre-built, off-the-shelf, website theme. However, the disadvantages of pre-built website themes often don’t become clear until later on.
From the offset, pre-built themes are tempting as a much easier and cheaper option, and they can look very appealing in the previews! But, as the saying goes, you do often get what you pay for.
Here are a few of the major issues…
Most pre-built themes will come with a range of different features and plugin integrations, in order to cover a wide range of functionality or design elements the site may need. This isn’t always beneficial as not all these features will be used, leaving the site bloated with unnecessary code.
Custom themes in comparison are bespoke and contain only the required functionality, specifically coded for one website.
2. Resource Intensive
As pre-built themes contain multiple template versions and functionality, this extra code can have an effect on the site’s speed, making optimisation difficult. Some will also come with required plugins to install that if not used, are unnecessarily slowing the site down.
3. Restrictive Design
Customisation available on a pre-built theme can vary and is usually limited to the existing templates the theme provides. It can be difficult to stand out from the crowd as many pre-built themes share a similar look and layout.
With a custom theme, the designer has the benefit of starting from a blank slate, with the ability to design a completely bespoke design that will fit the intended user base. A custom theme can also be tailored to suit existing branding and ensure this is incorporated throughout the site.
4. Update Dependent
Pre-built themes will include future version updates in order to patch out any bugs, fix any found security vulnerabilities, and keep it up to date with newer CMS versions. These are reliant on the theme developer to provide in a timely manner if, for example, a new theme exploit is discovered or a CMS update releases. Any plugin integrations will also require keeping up to date, and can sometimes require additional licenses if not included in theme updates.
Sometimes major changes are included within a theme update, which may break existing functionality or design elements and require a manual fix.
It’s also possible for the theme developer to discontinue or stop updating a theme completely, leaving it vulnerable to hacks and permanently outdated when a new CMS update is released.
5. Code Quality
Most bought themes provide demos so you can view what certain pages and templates will look like beforehand. However, these mainly focus on showcasing the design and frontend elements, and it’s not always possible to view the quality of the code from these demos.
Any bugs with the theme will most often not be identified until after the theme has been purchased and installed.
6. SEO Limitations
Similar to not being able to evaluate the theme’s code before purchasing, it’s also not possible to check if the theme is optimised efficiently for SEO. This could stall an SEO campaign from reaching its full potential if the theme is not suited to follow SEO best practices.
7. Limited Support
Additional support can vary with bought themes, most will have a ticketing system or comment section to report bugs, which are heavily reliant on how responsive the developer is. The majority of themes will also have a time limit of support they offer for these requests after the original purchase. Once this expires there may be an additional cost required in order to receive a response to a support ticket.
Due to these key disadvantages of pre-built website themes, our Web team only develop custom-built themes – that way, we can guarantee the quality and the longevity of the sites we create.
Sadly, as you can see, that isn’t the case when using pre-built themes.
Sarah is our Web Project Manager – who better to write about web projects?