Cost Of A Custom WordPress Theme vs Commercial Themes

Cost Of A Custom WordPress Theme vs Commercial Themes

There are two types of a custom WordPress theme or websites. A WordPress Commercial Theme. And then there is the WordPress theme that is a Custom Theme, or as I like to call it, a Premium Theme.

A commercial WordPress theme is cheaper than a custom theme because a lot of the technical development work has already been done. It’s ready for eCommerce, Newsletter integration, Forums, or other functions a site owner might want.

If you aren’t a do-it-yourself you can get a web designer to help you choose an appropriate theme, install and configure the WordPress software. Then install the theme and configure the colors and content to match your brand and purpose. In the end, it’s their time and experience with using WordPress as no development is required, or it’s your time. Either way, someone has to read the directions as no two theme authors are alike in developing a theme. Eventually, the cost between the 2 options to you could average out, or as you’ll see below, could cost you more in the long run.

 1) Advantages of WordPress with a Commercial Theme: 

Obviously as I stated it’s cheaper than a custom theme, and typically responsive for mobile devices. With most commercial themes the code is good quality and stable, but only if you stick with the recommended use.

2) Disadvantages of a Commercial WordPress Theme: 

This is where the train can fly off the rails. Layout and design is limited by the theme because the author (or authors) cannot predict the millions of scenarios that users may want to apply to the theme.

Then there is the possibility the theme can become incompatible as WordPress is upgraded for imperative security upgrades or general improvements. Adding additional plugins can cause problems if they were not planned for. For example, most themes are developed with WooCommerce. But if you want to use Cart66, well that could conflict with the theme you purchased.

As I’ve written about before there is also the “support” – which is not free after a qualified time or at all.

A Modified Commercial WordPress Theme

So the numbers are basically this.

A Commercial WordPress Theme can cost: $35 – $100.

But then you need an experienced web guy to install and activate it on your hosting server. So now their time is on average: $800 – $1,500 or if by the hour: $35-$100/per hr. Agency rates are different and can be higher or they might work with you based on your budget.

But then you notice it’s not what you expected and you don’t have the same content as the demo, and the demo content doesn’t fit your brand. So now you need to modify the WordPress Commercial Theme. Your cost for this can be $7,000 – $10,000. There’s no avoiding the time it takes to learn someone else’s code, read the theme authors instructions, and creating custom content (photos, art and etc.) to fit your brand on the theme. In the end you’re better off hiring the original author ($500 – $1,000) or going full custom.

A Custom WordPress Theme

A custom WordPress website with a custom theme can get a little more expensive, but allows for complete control over the design and layout of content. Also, in the end years later, no worries about the commercial theme being discontinued and outdated by modern technology.

That having been said, you could start at a solid $4600 for a custom theme that is developed, not designed (there’s a difference), minimally for a small business that has less that 20 employees or so.

Typical pricing I’ve seen that most want to fully compete and look sharp can cost around $10,000 – $40,000. There are even instances depending on the sophistication of the design, up to 6 figures for a website. If that shocks you, you might wanna re-think getting “just a website.” was not just a few thousand dollars neither was Apple, and we’ve had folks ask us to build both for less that $5,000.

Believe it or not, lots of people choose to have a custom theme designed specifically for their brand. This way they don’t look like they just bought it on an open market, but the theme design is kept in concert with their entire brand strategy. This is possible on a budget, just ask us at Element 502.

Things To Consider

Unless you are a front-end web developer for WordPress, custom means you will need a WordPress developer involved, which will increase the costs of the project. This is tricky since there are a lot of folks that misrepresent, or misunderstand, using WordPress for developing with WordPress.

Better functionality can be achieved as WordPress can be extended with plugins to create forums, profiles, email notifications, etc. While some may build these into themes, a developer will build a plugin that can be used instead. Thus, if the theme fails the data is now portable, and can be used on any WordPress theme. Plus if it’s in the theme, it’s improper theme-ing and can cost more money if you want to scale up your sites functionality.

The Run Down On Custom

1) Advantages of a Custom WordPress theme: 

  • Complete control over design and layout
  • Flexible functionality (think features like ecommerce, custom content, polls etc.)
  • Better brand perception
  • Unique product/design

2) Disadvantages of WordPress with a Custom Theme:

  • Considerably more expensive: $4600 – $10k+
  • Experienced WordPress developer: $based on author/retainer or agreement
  • Support: $based on author/retainer or agreement

Other Things To Consider

Website projects are more than just development or design. They often require sales copy, custom photography, and strategy. And they often need very specific things which will add to the project’s costs.

Copywriting – Copywriting is usually around $30 – $70 p/h. No words – no content, if its not quality, Google will not likely rank you where you would like to be.

Photography – Photography is usually around $50 – $150 p/h depending on the type of photography. Photos are content too. Without a proper photo in the right place, you could send the wrong message, look unprofessional and appear sloppy. That’s what designers can fix.

eCommerce Development – Adding ecommerce, like shopping carts, to a WordPress website will likely add an additional time effecting the project’s cost. There is more than one way to checkout when shopping online and all angles need to be considered and planned in development.

SSL Certificates – SSL certificates cost between $50 and $200 (per domain name) depending on the type of encryption. More so for really advanced encryption at the server level or with a service.

Plugin Development – You can expect to pay anywhere from $400 – $2000+ for a custom plugin. This is a cost saver in the long run if you do it right instead of piecing together several plugins.

WordPress Hosting – For the most part, small business hosting for WordPress websites is going to be around $50 per/mth. Add security from malicious attacks, and you should spend $80+ per/mth. If your website has lots of functionality, delivers system notifications and has a lot of rich media such as podcasting and HD video, then you might need a dedicated server which costs around $450+ per/mth.

Analytics and Tracking – Google Analytics is free and it’s easy to install with WordPress since there are really good plugins for this. However, deeper integration with “Events” will require planning and custom development work. However, this cost can be pretty minimal depending upon your needs.

If you’ve read this far, you must be serious about your businesses website and online presence. Take the next step by contacting us in the comments below. If you’d like to see a demo of our theme Molecule created by me (Jason Davis), click here.

I have been in marketing and technology for more than 20 years and have worked in many industries and worn many hats. From independent consultant, to cooking school, to establishing technology centers, it was a Spirit led adventure that landed me in the president & owner’s seat at Element 502.

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