Custom theme development or visual page builder? An important question that any brand must consider before creating a new website. Page builders like Elementor and Divi would appear more convenient on the surface, but may ultimately limit the potential of your digital presence, hampering your return on investment.
If, like 455 million+ other website owners, you’re looking at WordPress content management system (CMS), the question above will come up. WordPress is a truly excellent platform for taking your content and getting it online. However, it begins as a blank canvas that needs to be built out with a theme, for design and functionality before you add all that juicy content. Themes can be created manually, using web coding or you can opt for visual page builder tools that perform this job for you. Below, we discuss both in greater detail.
You may have heard before of tools like Elementor and Divi. These are the most popular WordPress page builders, powering millions of websites worldwide. Page builders are visual, drag-and-drop style page builders that allow users to create workable websites without needing to know any backend code.
Page Builders for WordPress websites are very useful for those who want to customise a theme but have limited or no knowledge of coding.
However, there are serious downsides to page builders in that they are known to add unnecessary weight or bloat, slow down a website’s speed, negatively impact search engine optimisation (SEO), and may even leave behind a mess of code in your content that needs cleaning up, should you choose to change your theme/page builder. The learning curve for adding content can be very steep with these too, so while it may save you time and money up front, as the old adage goes “Buy cheap and buy twice“
…while it may save you time and money up front, as the old adage goes “Buy cheap and buy twice“
While there are some key advantages with using page builders, such as an initial lower purchasing cost, ease of use for beginners, and quickness of the drag and drop process, there are some massive disadvantages associated with page builders:
Drawbacks of Page Builders
While some sites designed by these page builders can be visually appealing, it can be baffling to work with different types of content, blocks/sections/widgets/add-ons/plugins/templates…ugh! As well as the frustration of fighting with hugely complex dashboards, it be very difficult to maintain brand consistency and cleanliness of code. As well as the risk of your lovely new website falling apart very quickly, this can have a bearing on your websites accessibility, a critical factor in both SEO and user experience for your customers.
WordPress Plugin Compatibility
Post and page templates are built using models. Content is locked within those models, which can make it hard for popular plugins such as RankMath or Yoast to correctly analyse and optimise unless correctly set up. The sheer bulk of code with visual builders means you’ll need to be very careful when working with other plugins to ensure there are no inter-compatibility issues. We strongly recommend knowing how to recover from a critical plugin error before installing new plugins and having a robust backup plan in place.
If you decide to construct your website using a visual builder plugin or theme, make sure to understand which plugins work and where more configuration is needed.
Custom Theme Development
Custom Theme Development is a great option if you are looking for a unique new design for your new website.
Nowadays, it’s simply not enough to just have a website. Your digital assets must meet the design and functionality demands of the modern-day consumer and add value, delivering a positive user experience (UX) in order to keep them engaged. According to HubSpot, 39% of website users will leave your website if the design is considered unattractive.
With this in mind, here are the reasons why Custom Theme Development is the best option:
Benefits of Custom Theme Development
By coding a lightweight, bespoke theme, a WordPress developer will be able to unlock the full potential of WordPress or any other Content Management System. You’ll get the benefit of working with an experienced UX (user experience) and UI (user interface) designer to make sure your new website is truly unique and on-brand. When the design process is complete, your developers can then integrate with existing business systems and resources such as inventory management systems, CRMs, online payments, social media and many more, all while preserving accessibility and SEO standards.
Greater Speed & Loading Times
A custom WordPress design will more than likely have better speed and performance because only the exact functionality that’s needed is included. This streamlined process reduces the number of plugins needed to operate a website. A theme builder usually seeks to appeal to a broad range of potential users with myriad different requirements, which can, as a result, bloat your website with unnecessary features.
Unique Design for Branding
If you are looking for more premium design elements that will closely match your brand’s standards, a custom WordPress theme is much better suited to you. This is particularly relevant when developing the look of a website around current graphics and existing content. Subtle micro-interactions and creative showcasing of key content are just some of the modern elements that are more easily and consistently applied with custom theme development.
Design for Business Needs
Conversion rate optimisation is one of the primary requirement of web design. However, this can be very difficult to achieve through page builders. Conversions are unique to each business, and through custom theme development, your web developer can focus on improving these rates, along with user experience targeted at a specific audience.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
The greater flexibility of Custom Theme Development brings with it a wealth of SEO benefits. Custom themes do not have any excess source code (that negatively affects page speed) and will be leaner as a whole. The ability to easily and consistently use valid content markup (like H1, H2, etc. tags) and lower dependence on plugins makes it so that your website will perform better on search engines.
One of the biggest drawbacks to code-heavy plugins like page builders is that they regularly need to be updated and patched to address breaking security issues. Lightweight, custom theme development is much less exposed to this and there’s simply much less to break. They are designed with high security and improved performance in mind. If you don’t have the internal resources to make sure your website is regularly maintained, page builders are probably for you. As well as potentially blacklisting your site from Google, malware could potentially expose your customers personal data.
Unnecessary code and features are the enemies of scalability. Custom theme development of a WordPress site will scale better because it comes with the exact resources you need and no more, leaving plenty of headroom to grow while minimising the risk of code conflicts that may need debugging.