Creating a Website: Theme vs. Custom Design (Pt. I)

Web Design

Over the past decade, our web design firm has had hundreds of consultations with clients. Whether it’s a brand new startup company or well-established business, we’ve discovered that all clients generally want the same thing for their website: an appealing design that best represents who they are and looks different from the rest. So, how is that deciphered by a web designer? I’m glad you asked. First, let’s break down the fundamental terminology used when describing website design options: theme customization and custom design & development.

Theme Customization Defined

Remember back in the day when Myspace was popular? Upon creating an account, everyone started off with the same, simplistic page layout, but we were able to customize colors, font, and designs, and tweak it to our own personal style. Well, think of that same concept, but for a website. There are thousands of templates available online, created by web developers, that anyone can download and use when creating and designing their website. The template, or “theme,” is customizable, where the user can manipulate the design and configurations at discretion. Customizing templates, however, takes a great deal of CSS or PHP knowledge, which the average person isn’t familiar with. This is why many turn to the help of professional website designers, who excel in these skills.

Here is an example of a theme customization we’ve done:

A custom designed website, on the other hand, is custom developed by web designers from scratch according to the requests of the client (we’ll go more in-depth on custom designs in next week’s post).

Pros & Cons of Themes

Theme websites are generally cheaper, since they eliminate the time and cost of development, and more convenient for those who want a website up and running in quick turnaround time. For some, the pre-design may also be a downside, where any type of major coding or formatting is limited. The client may not be able to get the design to look or function exactly how they’d like it to, depending on their preferences.

When a Theme Option is Best for You

During consultations, we advise our clients to choose what works best for their business and budget. If you’re having a tough time deciding, these are some indicators that a theme is a right way to go:

  • Your startup company is in need of a website within a 4-6 weeks turnaround time
  • You’re on a budget and want a cost-efficient, professional website
  • You’re not concerned with changing any special functionality of the pre-design


If any of the above describes your business in a nutshell, then theme customization is the perfect option. And no need to worry about “mimicking” other sites. Emerge specializes in bringing out the style and brand of your company.

Emerge is a digital marketing boutique firm that helps you grow your business through affordable website designs in Richmond VA. Our website designs are built to be Google-Friendly to give you the best possible chance of success.

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