Obviously as a designer I’d love it if all my clients wanted me design and develop them a bespoke website

…because it would mean I was delivering something that works specifically for each individual client or company. With a bespoke design you get

  1. choice and flexibility
  2. a design that will work perfectly with your logo and brand
  3. a layout designed to work specifically with your message and/or products and your customer preferences
  4. a website design that is yours and yours alone!
  5. a website just the way you want it.

So When Should You Use a Commercial WordPress Theme?

1) If you’re short on time

Commercial themes are great if you need something up and running ASAP. A bespoke website design and custom theme build takes time, weeks usually. A commercial theme can be purchased and installed in minutes. And while the setup of a commercial theme can be complicated it’s something that most designer/developers can handle easily (we’ll just be standing by waiting for you to get us your logo, text and images!)

If we’re applying the theme to an existing WordPress website than the process can be even quicker even though in most cases pages will always have to be readjusted as well as the application of your branding and colour scheme.

2) If you have a low budget

Commercial WordPress themes are priced between $40 and $150 and there are many websites out there selling some great WordPress themes (some recommendations at the bottom of the post). However you will need to factor in setup time. In theory you can purchase a commercial theme and install it on your WordPress website in minutes. In reality the theme setup can be complicated and if you’re not a website designer/developer you can find it confusing, time consuming and end up with a clunky looking site that doesn’t look anything like the theme demo.

I recommend spending a minimum of 6 hours to get a commercial theme up and running with your company branding, colour scheme and some text and images and some theme tweaks. The number of hours required will vary greatly depending on the amount of text and images you have, whether you’re setting up an ecommerce website or whether you want customisations and specialised plugins.

3) If you’re setting up your first online shop

If you’re setting up an online shop for your fledging business or it’s your first foray into online commerce then I usually recommend going with a standard commercial shop theme such as Storefront by Woocommerce – it’s nothing fancy but it works – it puts your products front and centre and the shopping process is familiar and easy (so important). Concentrate on getting your content right – get some GREAT images of your products and work your copy. When you’re selling bucket loads of stuff or you’ve got enough data to understand how your shoppers are using your shop then we can do something a bit more bespoke.

An example of ShopFront in action with some modifications in fonts, colours and logo

4) If you’re a freelance website designer and you need to refurbish your website on a Sunday afternoon

Now we come to the impulse for writing this post in the first place – to explain why I have used a commercial theme for my own Website Design businessquelle horreur! Shouldn’t I be spending hour upon hour creating the best website design portfolio website the world has ever seen. Ah – no. Did I mention it’s the weekend? After working for nearly 20 years in this industry I’d like to think I’ve learned a thing or two – like using my work hours to do my very best work for my clients – and spending my free time doing things like taking my dog for a walk or playing guitar or drinking some beer in the sun.

So instead of a week bespoke designing my own website I’ve used a very nice commercial theme from dinevthemes.com – and I’m quite pleased with it actually – it only cost $39! And I was up and running nicely in a short few hours (I still have to build out the portfolio section – next Sunday?)

A caveat…

Do you actually like the commercial theme or do you want to change most of it?

If you going to customise the bejaysus out of commercial theme you might ask yourself if it’s better just to get it right first time with a bespoke design. I have worked on projects where my client has insisted on going down the commercial theme route to “save money” but have ended up spending an equivalent amount of money of endless customisations to the theme.