It can be very tempting to use a pre-built, off-the-shelf website theme when creating a website. However, the disadvantages of pre-built website themes are frequently overlooked until much later.
Pre-built themes are appealing from the start because they are a much easier and less expensive option, and they can look very appealing in the previews! However, as the adage goes, you often get what you pay for.
Here are a few of the significant concerns…
Most pre-built themes will include various features and plugin integrations to cover a wide range of functionality or design elements that the site may require. This isn’t always advantageous because not all these features are used, leaving the site bloated with unnecessary code.
On the other hand, Custom themes are unique and contain only the functionality required for a single website.
Expensive in Terms of Resources
Because pre-built themes include multiple template versions and functionality, this extra code can impact site speed, making optimization difficult. Some will also have required plugins to install that, if not used, will unnecessarily slow down the site.
Customization options on a pre-built theme vary and are typically limited to the templates provided by the theme. Because many pre-built themes have a similar look and layout, it cannot be easy to stand out.
With a custom theme, the designer has the advantage of starting from scratch, allowing them to create a unique design that will appeal to the intended user base. A custom theme can also be tailored to match existing branding and ensure consistency across the site.
Future version updates will be included in pre-built themes to patch any bugs, fix any discovered security vulnerabilities, and keep updated with newer CMS versions. These rely on the theme developer to promptly provide them if a new theme exploit is discovered or a CMS update is released. Any plugin integrations will also need to be kept up to date and may require additional licenses if they are not included in theme updates.
Major changes are sometimes included in theme updates, breaking existing functionality or design elements and necessitating a manual fix.
When a new CMS update is released, the theme developer may discontinue or stop updating the theme completely, leaving it vulnerable to hacks and permanently outdated.
Most purchased themes include demos, allowing you to see what specific pages and templates will look like ahead of time. However, these demos primarily focus on showcasing the design and frontend elements, and it is not always possible to see the code quality from these demos.
Bugs in the theme are frequently not discovered until after the theme has been purchased and installed.
Like not evaluating the theme’s code before purchasing, it is also impossible to determine whether the theme is effectively optimized for SEO. If the theme is unsuitable for SEO best practices, this could prevent an SEO campaign from reaching its full potential.
With purchased themes, additional support can vary; most will have a ticketing system or comment section to report bugs, which heavily depends on how responsive the developer is. Most themes will also have a time limit on the support they will provide for these requests after the initial purchase. When this expires, there may be an additional charge to receive a response to a support ticket.
Finally, because of these significant drawbacks of pre-built website themes, our Web team only creates custom-built themes – this way, we can guarantee the quality and longevity of the sites we build.