…And bespoke or custom built?

Recently I have taken on a few clients where their website has either been over-engineered, or it’s been designed without the client fully understanding “what this means to them”. For example, will they be able to edit it themselves? Will they be able to change something….without it costing a fortune for each small change?

I’ve also heard people say they don’t like templated websites but a custom built website can very much look like a templated website; the main difference being in the back end in that it has more capability – but that comes at a price (and also… do you really need all that?)

There is a lot you can do with WordPress themes these days, but I appreciate it’s very confusing. Hopefully the below will help explain what all the terminology means and at the same time will explain exactly where HBS fits into this matrix of web designers.


What is a WordPress Theme?

A WordPress theme is responsible for the complete design on your website. It includes fonts, colours, backgrounds for the footer, header, main and any other section. The theme is also responsible for certain elements, such as what sidebars you have, where they are located, site width, look and feel of buttons, etc.

The chosen theme will be downloaded and installed into your WordPress dashboard.  Within this installation are files and folders, and some of these files will be the templates.


What is a WordPress Template?

A template in WordPress is a layout or style sheet for certain pages such as About, Services, Blog, landing pages, etc.  They are separate files that can be applied to your pages within WordPress and can be used where you want a different layout, but within the same overall theme. Pages such as Services would have a completely different style and layout to it than say an About us page.  The templates easily allow this to be done.


So, What is the difference between a Templated and Custom Built website?

Whilst both will rebuild the website core, bringing it up to date with the latest best practice and allowing it to work in the best possible way for you, there are a few key points to be aware of:

  • You can’t just install a template like a theme into your dashboard. A template is a part of a theme and if you need to add a new template, this is where you would need someone with coding knowledge.
  • Templates are generally bloated with extra code which can make your site run a bit slower than a custom-built site, which contains only the code that is needed.
  • A custom-built website is a lot more costly than a templated one. For the majority of small businesses I have worked with, a templated site is all that is needed.  There are a lot of plug-ins (add-ons) you can install which give you additional functionality such as a members portal, a shop to sell your products online, integrations with various CRM systems, forms, etc.  This means that if you need these extra features, it doesn’t mean a custom-built site is your only option.
  • Be careful of a “custom built templated website” – whilst these are generally in the cheaper category, they are not by any means cheaply done – so a win right?  Only if you want to stay with them – forever!  These sites tie you into their platforms and they control the updates to the theme and templates used.  Therefore if you ever have a falling out, or wish to move due to really high development costs to change your site, then you would be looking at a rebuild as the website can’t simply be lifted from them to another provider.
  • A custom-built site will give you all the bells and whistles you’ve ever wanted – just make sure you need these, and you’re not attracted to the idea of having them available “should” you ever need them.
  • Generally, with the custom-built sites, you will be given a lean admin dashboard, with just the options available to customise certain areas of the site. This is great if you only want to add a blog, or tweak some text, however if you decide to change the layout of a page, wish to add a sidebar, or update your logo, headers, etc – that could very well incur further development charges.
  • As with the custom-built templated websites, a custom-built site could also lock you in to their platforms.  If you choose a website designed in WordPress, using a standard WordPress or Premium Theme, then it IS something that can be moved to another provider, should this need arise.  You own the site, therefore you have control over where it’s hosted and who is maintaining it.  You aren’t relying on the individual developer for these changes.

The diagram below highlights the difference in capabilities between the various themes.  HBS use a premium theme therefore I’m able to offer greater capability than an “out of the box” solution.  As I say, there is a lot of functionality you can get from a premium theme.

Themes & Templates

What about the terminology Bespoke?

Now, this is terminology which can be very misleading.  Just because it is bespoke, doesn’t mean it’s custom built.  For example, whilst I use the premium templates, I tend to not use a template in its entirety and simply fill in the blanks.  Instead I use elements of a template to create something individual based on my clients requirements.  Each client has a different look and feel, their style and likes (and dislikes) are very different, and therefore each website needs to be bespoke.


So, What’s Best?

A Template WordPress theme might work for you if:

  • You only need a website with fairly standard features – and this includes members portals and shops.
  • You have a limited budget.
  • You are unsure about what you want or what would look best.
  • You don’t plan to make major functionality changes to it in the future. 

A Custom WordPress theme might work better for you if:

  • You feel you need a unique design to fit your unique and functional requests.
  • There’s no theme that fits your needs.
  • You’re likely to want or make major functionality changes in future.

Really, the choice is yours. It comes down to your requirements and your budget.  But I hope the above will explain some of the key areas to be aware of, and if nothing else, allow you to ask the right questions, and understand what you’re being sold. 

I go through a process of making sure I understand my clients needs before we start creating their website.  I say we, as it’s very much a two way street as I ensure my clients have input all the way through it to ensure the finished product is something they are proud to call their own.

If you have any questions regarding the above, then please don’t hesitate to give me a call or drop me an email.

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