Premium Theme or Custom Theme - Which One Do I Want?

Wordpress is by far my favourite free CMS currently out there. The main reason being is that it's just so versatile. I've created websites of all shapes and sizes using it, from simple blog sites to portfolio sites - even high-selling e-commerce sites.

However the world of Wordpress can sometimes be a bit daunting for newbies, because there is just so much choice. One of the major choices that all of my clients face is whether to go with a premium theme, from somewhere like, or to get a completely custom theme designed.

So what are the pros and cons of both options?  Which one is best for your situation?  Keep reading to find out...

Premium Theme from

ThemeForest has over 8,000 Wordpress themes, ranging from ecommerce to simple landing pages. They cover every single type of industry you can imagine. Here are a few things to consider when deciding to go with a premium theme over a custom theme:


One of the main reasons I would push a client to a premium theme over a custom one is budget.  Premium themes cost around $59. Some of the best ones, such as Jupiter, provide a heck of a lot of variation in templates all for that one price. If you're strapped for cash, but still want a site that is going to look good, then a premium theme is a great start.


This is both a pro and a con really. Some of the better themes will offer a lot of customisation, and can seem to offer endless options. I've used the Jupiter theme multiple times, for completely different sectors. However, with pre-built templates comes limitations. Ultimately, you are bottle-necked into what the theme can offer. If you can find a theme that fits your needs perfectly, great!  If not, you may find yourself hacking around trying to force it to work the way you want it to. In some cases, the cost to modify a theme to your requirements is more expensive than just getting a custom one done in the first place!


Another huge factor to consider is your timeframe. Premium themes are already designed and coded, ready to be used. If you're limited on time, or just desperate to get something out there quickly, then a premium theme will definitely be the way to go. On average, I can normally get a website done and dusted in a week, when using a premium theme.

Custom Theme from a Freelance Website Designer

With billions of websites out there, it's important to stand out from the crowd. If you really want to look unique among your competitors, then a custom theme from a freelance website designer is a much more elegant way to do it. Here's some things to consider if you want to go for a custom route:

Tailored Design + Development

One huge advantage of going custom over a pre-built theme is that you get something designed and tailored specifically for your business needs. Before I even think about designing something, I like to know exactly what your business is, who your target market is and why they would be visiting the site. User-Experience plays a huge role in designing something that looks great, but also that fits the purpose. A website pushing to get people to download an e-book about weight loss will look quite different to a website for a lawyer firm.

With a custom theme, the design is tailored to reach your goals, whether that be informative, conversions, lead building or selling products. You won't ever get the same degree of bespoke design with a pre-built theme.

Streamlined Code

Pre-built themes are designed and developed to target a broad audience. Some themes have 100's of variations, and all of those variations need to be hard-coded into the theme from the start. It's hugely unlikely you will ever use every single feature in a pre-built template, meaning that the code for those specific features become redundant. Too much redundant code can bulk your website loading times, and confuse users.

A custom theme would be coded with only the features you need. If you're not going to be selling products, you don't need the thousands of lines of code that come with an e-commerce solution. If you want to add image content quickly, you won't get inundated with loads of extra features you don't need. A custom theme will be streamlined to your exact needs, and will only offer you features you will want to use - saving on confusion and speeding up load times.


The web industry is moving rapidly. Some premium themes were designed many years ago and in some cases use old code, old methods or out-dated design principles. If you get a custom theme designed, it will be designed to match both the current design trends, but also to be future-proof - especially if you pick the right designer!  Some of the more experienced designers, like me, have seen the industry change and can anticipate the next trends to hit the web world. I like to keep my finger on the pulse to make sure that all of my clients websites work now, and in the future.

So which one is for you?

Choosing to go for a pre-built premium theme, or a custom theme, is really down to your own circumstances. If you have a limited budget, a short timeframe, or you're wanting to trial run an idea first, then a pre-built theme is a great way to get started. However, if you're really looking to stand out from the crowd, if you've got a complicated website requirement or if you want to make sure that what you have is tailored to your specific business, then a custom design is by far the best route to take.

If you're still not sure, why not drop me an email using the contact form on this site, and I'll help you out!

Russ Clow

Freelance Website Designer & Developer


I've been designing and developing websites for a very long time. In that time, I've learnt many things - and this article is written to help share that knowledge with others. Everything within this article is written based on my experience, but is my own professional view.

If you would like to tap into my knowledge further, please contact me for a free, no obligation quote.

Need a quote?  Contact me