WordPress Themes – Third Party or Custom?

Published 20 Nov 2009 in Design, Themes, WordPress by ZigPress

wordpressthemesIf you’re at all familiar with the WordPress content management / blogging system, you’ll be aware that WordPress sites are built around the WordPress application core (this provides the functionality) and a theme (this provides the design and, to some extent, the site structure), with plugins filling the gaps between what the core and theme provide and what you actually need.

All in all, WordPress is a great tool for producing smart, functional websites using less effort than building from scratch, as long as the functionality you need isn’t too outlandish. It also has a thriving theme community, with thousands of themes available free of charge and many more at a price.

But should you use a free third-party theme? Well, it depends. Let’s assume that you find a third party theme that looks roughly how you want your site to look (aside from changing the header image or the odd colour or font). Should you use it?

Advantages of using a Third Party Theme

  1. Most are free of charge
  2. It can speed up the creation of your site
  3. The theme developer may offer some support.

Disadvantages of using a Third Party Theme

  1. It may be in use by other sites
  2. It may not include a feature that you need for your site structure or plugins to work
  3. It may be coded badly making tweaking difficult
  4. It may not work properly in a range of browsers
  5. Making it work correctly may require programming skills you don’t have.

Of course, these pros and cons may be more or less relevant to you, depending on the purpose of your site. But if some of the disadvantages are show-stoppers, what alternatives do you have?


Using a commercial (i.e. not free) off-the-shelf theme may solve your problem. Some of the best commercial themes (I’m thinking of frameworks like Thesis) offer a huge level of flexibility, and support is often better, allowing you to get help with adjusting the theme to your exact requirements.

But that flexibility usually comes with a price – namely, a bewildering array of settings and options, often with several ways to achieve the same thing. And you may still find that the particular combination of plugins you want to use is not supported by the design or structure.

Another alternative is of course to create your own from scratch, or to completely gut and rebuild an existing free theme. However, if you have the necessary PHP and CSS skills to do that, you’re probably not reading this post, so it’s included here purely for completeness.

So, what about asking a professional to make you a theme?

Clearly it depends on how much money you’ve got to spend, but going this route has a number of advantages:

  1. You get the exact design you want
  2. If you’re comfortable using the WordPress admin console, it can be cheaper than getting someone to build an entire site for you
  3. Conversely, if you’re not, asking the designer to set your site up for you afterwards probably won’t cost a lot extra
  4. If you’re clear about your requirements, the theme will come with the ability to work with your desired site structure and choice of plugins
  5. You get a site that is unique
  6. You’ll have a working relationship with the developer, making it easier to explain and arrange future alterations.

Still with me? Consider adding ZigPress to your shortlist of developers :)

Custom WordPress themes created by ZigPress start from around €250 for a simple but smart design. A complete WordPress-based site (theme, setup, structure and initial content) can be provided from around €450 upwards, depending on requirements. Contact ZigPress for further details.


  1. On 24 Nov 2009 at 10:23, printed mugs said:

    Third party themes seem to be the way to go if you want to save money which would you reccommend?

  2. On 28 Nov 2009 at 16:36, forex robot said:

    Amazing as always :)

  3. On 13 Dec 2009 at 17:29, Tungsten Rings said:

    I think if you have enough money going with a custom theme is a better option because Third party themes rarely do have the features that we want

  4. On 13 Jan 2010 at 08:14, News Crawler said:

    Buy a software to create the theme for you.. It’s kinda expensive but you can create as many themes as you want.

  5. On 14 Jan 2010 at 10:32, Andy Towler said:

    @News Crawler: Can you tell us what this software is? Or was this a spam comment and such a tool doesn’t exist? I suspect the latter.

  6. On 19 Jan 2010 at 04:33, Corona Homes said:

    Yeah I would avoid a third party theme if possible, I know cost is a factor. it’s always better to be original when it comes to getting index and ranking. With any type of template site, its better to have all original content and that includes lay out of your site.

  7. On 19 Jan 2010 at 04:50, humidifiers said:

    I only choose the free of charge ones. They work just as well as paid themes.


  8. On 08 Mar 2010 at 00:10, Daniel Szalok said:

    I think if you have a brand new blog, you can start with a free theme. As time passes, and the blog becomes more popular, the blog owner tries to make it different from the other similar blogs. I guess it’s worth paying a couple hundred bucks if you have a very successful blog.

  9. On 22 Apr 2010 at 11:56, Reasoned Rants said:

    We’re currently battling with a third party theme, but plan to go custom as soon as we have the time. It’s the only way to get exactly the features you need.

  10. On 06 Aug 2010 at 18:12, Wade The Tungsten Ring Guy said:

    I currently run the blog for our business out of blogger.com rather than wordpress…I’m about to switch over and this may tip the scale to make me do so. I love doing the design aspects, I just don’t know if I can afford the implementation. I noticed no specific numbers were really given. Anyone out there done it? If so, what did you have to pay?

  11. On 03 May 2011 at 07:10, Gina Cittone said:

    If you know exactly what you want for your site, and you can afford it, then why not have a professional design it for you, with your input?

  12. On 03 May 2011 at 22:29, Warren Kimmel said:

    If you don’t mind that others are using the same theme, then utilizing a third party gives you a great design immediately. However, if you want to be totally unique, it’s not the way to go…

  13. On 20 May 2011 at 02:34, Mark said:

    I have a number of websites.. so using free, nicely designed themes has been great for me.. they are not unique, but they are cheap and efficient

  14. On 24 May 2011 at 05:14, Ben W. said:

    I love free templates. I like to change my blog every now and then. I don’t mind if it looks like other blogs — it’s the content that makes mine unique.

  15. On 26 May 2011 at 17:04, Zane said:

    Can anyone suggest an approximate range that a professional might charge to create an original theme? I realize it really depends on what the client is looking for, but let’s say a unique but simple blog…?

  16. On 27 May 2011 at 14:17, Christine Arkin said:

    When I began blogging, I loved using a third party theme. But as time went on, I wanted to tweak it to add design features, but it was impossible, so I had to start from scratch. It’s hard to look ahead, but at least I can offer this advice: if you think you will eventually want to tweak it, don’t go with third party.

  17. On 18 Nov 2012 at 04:32, Phil maderas said:

    I´m looking for a good theme to build my next web, and It seems that the Thesis framework will do the job.

  18. On 24 Feb 2015 at 10:35, Dee said:

    I believe in custom design, I had my website made my developers for better functionality and improved SEO. Being in the business of bulk labeling, I may look at extending my website into something more along the lines of e-commerce and having a hand coded site would allow me that scope without starting all over again.