Creating a new website is an exciting next step in building and growing your business.

Whether you DIY some (or most!) of your next website, or if you enlist the help of a web developer, there are vital elements you should understand before you head into your next website project.

I often find myself explaining to business owners the difference between a custom-developed website and a customized theme.

Let’s look at what each is, and how to know which one you’re getting.

So let’s start out with some definitions.

What is a WordPress Theme?

If you’re new to WordPress, you might be wondering what a theme is.

When you build your website on WordPress, the theme is a tool you use to change the layout and design of your website.

Themes customize the appearance of your site, including the layout, fonts, colours, and other design elements.

Let’s bring back the house analogy that I’ve used in previous posts.

  • WordPress provides the necessary foundation and structure for your house.
  • Your theme adds the design component, i.e., the decor of your house.
  • WordPress plugins add functionality to your website, so consider those your house appliances.

When you first create a WordPress site, it will come with a default theme installed and you can change the theme in WordPress to match your needs and desired look and feel.

Custom vs Customized Websites

The difference between a custom WordPress theme and a customized WordPress theme is a very important distinction.

I have seen more than a few disappointed business owners who haven’t ended up with what they thought they were getting because they didn’t understand the difference.

Website designers will often use the term “custom website” to describe the service they are providing, when what they actually mean is a custom designed website.

This is not the same as a custom developed website.

It’s important for you to understand the difference so that you know what you’re getting, and, more importantly, what you’re not getting when a web designer is creating your business website.

Custom Developed Websites

A custom developed WordPress theme is one that is created from scratch, or with the use of a WordPress starter theme or theme framework, both of which are usually a blank theme with minimal design, and either a basic layout or absolutely no layout at all.

The goal of a custom-built WordPress theme is to create a website based entirely on the unique content and functionality needs for your website, and your website alone.

Customized Websites

With a customized website, your website theme is not custom built for you.

It could be a free theme, or a theme you’ve paid for, but either way, what you’re getting is a theme that has already been built by a theme developer.

Then, your web designer customizes the theme by updating the colours, fonts, imagery, layout and content. They will typically use a visual page building tool  to accomplish this (e.g. Elementor, Divi, or something else).

There is nothing wrong with choosing a customized theme if that is what makes the most sense for your business.

However, it is important that you understand that what you’re getting is not a custom website and it will have limitations.

Going into the experience of building a new website with the knowledge of the difference will empower you to understand what you are getting from your website professional.

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