Thinking about a website redo for your business? If so, you have three choices and only three:

  1. Hire an agency to build a custom website.
  2. Hire an agency to buy a $50 theme or template and have them modify it slightly. 
  3. Buy the $50 theme yourself and load the content yourself.

We think the only viable choice is #1, a custom design. We think it’s the only choice even if you’re a startup or small local business on a budget. That's because whatever you spend on digital marketing—and your website is the foundation for that—is the most important investment you can make. 

Not everyone agrees. In fact, Forbes published an article entitled, “Why You Should Never Build A $10,000 Website.” I agree: Not everyone needs a $10,000 website but that doesn't mean you should compromise. 

Forbes’ primary reason to promote cheap websites is the availability of cheap, WordPress stock themes. Thus, instead of paying $10,000, just go out and pay $50 for a stock theme. Would you guess this rationale is faulted?

No Agency Who has Technical Expertise Would Ever Recommend a Stock or "Cookie Cutter" Theme.

That's because a WordPress stock theme will kill your business. Find out why.

1) Most WordPress stock themes are broken. Sorry to disappoint. This is one reason we don't use them anymore. In the past, when we used stock themes, we’d often burn down $1,000 to $2,000 of time just modifying the stock theme, cleaning up code, making things work.

Most often we’d have to mod the header.php file to accommodate the company’s logo, modify footer.php or footer-functions.php to fix widget areas or add CSS classes because the theme builder didn’t bother to. 

Be warned, the theme simply may not work. I recently installed the highly rated “Divi” theme from a 2014 download. The theme’s editor would not allow me to remove content rows. Add them yes, remove them no. Clicking on the "X" resulted in nothing. 

Screen shot showing 2014 Divi theme not working

I suspect if I were to purchase and download the updated Divi theme, my issue would disappear. But I was not about to spend money to test my theory.

If you have no budget, and you downloaded a theme that doesn't work, you can try the theme builder's support channel (good luck with that), or just ditch the theme and get another one.

2) Your website will look like 1,000 other websites that use the same stock theme. Sure, you can change photos, text, logo, etc. But it’s still going to be a vanilla theme.

A WordPress stock theme will kill your branding by turning it into something generic—in an era where differentiation is king. Kill your branding and you’ve killed your business.

3) If you don't like some of the features on a WordPress stock theme, you’ll be stuck with them, unless you hire an agency to modify the theme. Hold that thought.

4) All WordPress stock themes are bloatware. All of them. Why is that? Because stock themes come with “click to choose” options. The idea is that you won’t need to code to have a few design choices. 

The theme bloats your site because, when the website loads, all those “click to choose options” (that you’re not using) load also.

Aside from that issue, many themes simply load way too much coding in the background. We’ve seen some sites so bloated, that with plugins, there were 20 or more CSS stylesheets that would load in the background, instead of the lean and mean, two or three.

5) Your new WordPress stock theme will never look like the beautiful demo site. That's because the demo sites are designed to sell the theme, not make sure you can actually use it.

Your site could look like the demo, but you’re going to really have to work at it. The demo probably won’t show you some important shortcomings, like the theme probably isn’t 4K-ready.

Images on themes that are designed for 1080P monitors look crummy on the newer 2560px or 4K monitors.

Lastly, once you add your own content and stop looking at the demo, you could break some responsive elements in the theme, requiring a coding expert to redo the responsive coding.

Have a Custom Theme Built, but Don’t Over Build

Rather than hiring an agency to modify a stock theme, have an affordable custom one built.

We often help construction companies. They know all about over building and going beyond project scope.

The key to keeping any website affordable is not to get carried away with things you don’t need.

If you’re concerned a WordPress stock theme will kill your business, you’ll want to go custom. Going with a custom website doesn’t mean you’ll need to buy the typical, project-based small business site that can cost from $15K to $60K.

1) Consider the new Growth Driven Design models. They always start small but are amazingly extensible. Just have the agency add features and pages as you need them.

2) Don’t get carried away by design. An easy way to rack up unnecessary costs is to have too many mockups created. Most businesses only need a few themes. You’ll want a minimum of the following:

  • Home page.
  • Site pages in one, two, three columns.
  • Blog listings page.
  • Blog posts page.
  • Inner site pages.
  • Contact page with a form.
  • System pages (404 page, etc.)

3) Load your own content. If you have the agency load all your content, you’re going to incur costs for that service. Best plan: Work with the agency on keywords and SEO items, but create and load your own write ups and site photos yourself.

4) Use the agency to format your home page slide show--only. The rationale is, any agency worth hiring will be able to load the best image resolutions and meta tags, giving you an SEO advantage where you’ll need it most, on your home page.

5) Make sure the agency hosts on a fast server. If you go the DIY route, you may end up with a slow loading website, as many DIY hosting providers use slow and overcrowded web servers.


Before you take the leap, have some fun with Google. Do your research. Here are some enlightening keywords to Google:

  • WordPress nightmare website
  • is wordpress bloatware
  • WordPress theme issues

Don’t Google: “WordPress alternatives.” There aren’t any. If you’re on an affordable path, you don’t want Joomla or Drupal. Concrete5, etc? You’ll need a programmer.

There is one massive upgrade, not in cost, but in performance: That would be Hubspot.

Please give us a call or download our planner to get started!

Download The Ultimate WorkSheet for Redesigning Your Website

Originally published: