WordPress Theme Routes

WordPress is the world’s most popular Content Management System (CMS) and is widely used to power all sorts of websites, from small brochure sites to major e-commerce operations.

The one thing that every WordPress website has in common is that they all use a  theme’. A theme determines how the website looks, functions and how users interact with it. When choosing a theme, there are three main routes to consider: free to use themes, paid-for themes or bespoke themes. So which route would be best for your business?

The factors you should take into consideration are your budget, the type of business you are running, and your end goals once the website is live. Are you a start-up business with a low budget, looking for a quick and simple brochure website, or are you a larger business with a more substantial budget looking for a website with advanced functionality? Below we set out the options available and the pros and cons of each route.

Route 1: Free to use themes

WordPress.org offers thousands of free-to-use themes that you can set up and configure on your website. This may seem like the obvious choice – who doesn’t love free! But unfortunately, with free-to-use themes, there are often usability limitations as well as security implications.

Security and support: Many of the free themes available are created by web development hobbyists, and are often unsupported, which means if something goes wrong, there is very little you can do to get assistance. The WordPress platform is also constantly evolving and updating to ensure users are protected from new security threats. Many free themes don’t receive regular updates, which can leave your website vulnerable to security threats if action is not taken by the theme autor.

Functionality: Free themes are usually very limited in how far you can customise them. It is not always possible to change aesthetic options like layout, fonts and colours to match your preferences.

Pros: Low Cost. Large number of free themes available. Good way to create an online presence if just starting out, and on a limited budget.

Cons: Security. Customisation is limited. On-going support is usually limited or non-existent. The quality of themes is often poor.

Conclusion: Free themes are great for bloggers and small businesses who just need to get something online quickly and don’t have the budget for a bespoke design. If you’re a new business whose priority isn’t its online business then this could be an option to explore.

Route 2: Paid-for themes

Premium themes are available to purchase from sources other than WordPress.org (for instance Envato Themeforest). These themes are usually created by professional developers and web development companies. Because of this, it should mean that the quality of these themes is generally of a higher standard, with greater functionality, more customisation options and better ongoing support than you’d normally see with a free theme. However, they still come with limitations.

Security and support: The cost of purchasing a premium theme varies greatly; sometimes the cost is higher and your fee includes support on a monthly or annual basis. Sometimes the cost is lower, but you will be required to pay for any support and security updates as and when you need them. It varies from theme to theme.

Functionality: Premium themes are usually (though not always) coded to a better standard than free themes. Many premium themes have options that allow you to change colours, logos, fonts and page layouts, however, they are still not fully customisable and often, design compromises still need to be made.

Pros: The cost is lower than having a bespoke theme created from scratch. Security and support is usually available. Purchased themes tend to be aesthetically pleasing (if set up by someone with a good eye for design) and usually are coded to a higher standard.

Cons: Premium themes are still not 100% customisable. Support queries are often not quickly answered – the developer could be based on the other side of the planet, dealing with hundreds of queries relating to their theme. There are no guarantees that the developer will keep supporting your theme in the long terem. .

Conclusion: Depending on your budget, a paid-for theme may be a great way to get a better-than-average looking website up and running. Unfortunately, with any ‘off-the-shelf’ WordPress theme, there will be some limitations that can only be fully rectified with a fully bespoke theme.

Route 3: Bespoke themes

A bespoke WordPress theme is created from the ground up by a professional, web design and development agency specifically for your needs. This ensures you can create a website that looks and performs exactly how you want it (within the boundaries of good practice and technical possibilities), with no need for compromise on functionality or aesthetic appearance.

Security and support: Most agencies or developers will offer support packages for your bespoke website, be it annually or monthly. This ensures you have peace of mind, knowing your developer is contactable directly and they are ensuring your theme is updated regularly by professionals.

Functionality: A bespoke theme allows you to develop the site you want, with the functionality you require. Bespoke themes are the only way to ensure the site works exactly how you want it to.

Pros: You get exactly the website you want. The site is designed specifically for your target audience.

Cons: There is a higher setup cost. It usually takes a little longer to develop your site that it would if you used a free or paid-for theme.

Conclusion: If you have the budget, and your goal is to create a website that makes an impact, performs well and functions exactly how you want it to for your business, then a bespoke theme is the only option. For most businesses, the return on investment, peace of mind and performance of the site is well worth the initial outlay.


At Ascendancy, we offer our clients two theming options. We have developed a series of our own themes which you can use if your budget is limited. Alternatively, we offer professionally designed bespoke themes, where we work closely with you to understand your needs and create a theme that works for you.

If you’d like to discuss how Ascendancy can help you with your next WordPress website, get in touch today!

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