August 19, 2014

Custom WordPress Themes

I was recently talking to a friend who wants to create a site for his small business. He’s a landscaper, and needs a simple site — perhaps a few pages to describe his services, a contact form, and a blog. As someone who is fairly knowledgeable about WordPress web hosting, it’s difficult for me to put myself in the position of someone who doesn’t know anything about it, and so it came as something of a surprise that he believed he would need to pay a designer to create a custom WordPress theme for his site. His business is new, and it would be significant burden on his expenses to hire a designer. He didn’t know that buying a pre-made theme was an option and was somewhat incredulous about the idea of using one, worrying that his site would end up looking like millions of others.

First, I’d like to clear up exactly what a theme is. In a nutshell a theme is a set of files that can be installed on a WordPress site to change the way it looks, and in some cases, the way it functions. WordPress is a very flexible system and can be styled in many different ways — you probably have no idea that many of the sites you visit are based on WordPress at all.

The sets of files that constitute a theme are created by developers or designers; some are given away free, some you have to pay for (premium themes), and some are created for a particular site — a custom WordPress theme. The vast majority of WordPress sites use either free or premium themes.

Free Themes

Free themes are created by developers for many different reasons: to publicize their business, to contribute to the community, or to practice their design and coding skills, among other reasons. There are thousands of free themes available of radically varying quality.

I would advise most businesses against using a free theme. They are usually not as feature-rich, unique, or professional looking as premium themes. For a personal blog a free theme is fine, but for a business, you’re better off considering premium themes.

Premium Themes

Premium themes are developed by professional developers. You have to pay the developer to use them. They range from the simple to the complex, but most of them are flexible to some degree as to color and layout choices. Many worry that if they choose a premium theme, their site will look like thousands of others because they can be bought by lots of people. To a degree that’s a risk, but a business will be able to change logos, color schemes, typography, and layout to create a unique site if they choose their theme carefully.

Premium themes vary in price, but most will cost between $40 and $100 dollars.


remium themes are also of variable quality, so prospective buyers should pay attention to developer ratings and the experience of other theme users on theme marketplaces.

Custom WordPress Theme Designs

Custom WordPress themes are the most expensive and the most individual option. A site owner will pay a developer to create a bespoke design. They can cost from hundreds of dollars to many thousands of dollars, depending on the work involved and the designer/developer.

For high-profile sites, a bespoke design is a good idea, but for small business sites, they’re an unnecessary expense. If your business can afford a bespoke theme, then by all means go for it. But a more economical option is to use a premium theme.

Hopefully this brief discussion of theming options for WordPress sites will help put prospective WordPress hosting clients’ minds’ at rest. Bespoke theme designs are a great way to brand your business, but they’re absolutely not required.

Image Credit: Kristian Bjornard


Nexcess, the premium hosting provider for WordPress, WooCommerce, and Magento, is optimized for your hosting needs. Nexcess provides a managed hosting infrastructure, curated tools, and a team of experts that make it easy to build, manage, and grow your business online. Serving SMBs and the designers, developers, and agencies who create for them, Nexcess has provided fully managed, high-performance cloud solutions for more than 22 years.

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