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What’s the Difference Between Custom and Theme-Based Website Development?

What’s the Difference Between Custom and Theme-Based Website Development?

When looking at the prospect of redesigning an existing website, companies often consider either a custom website design or a theme-based website. If you are in a similar position and don’t know which one is right for you, this article will help you make the right choice.

What is the Difference Between a Custom Website Design and a Theme-Based Website?

It’s possible to build a website from the ground up using Shopify’s content management system. A web developer can create a completely unique site that will accommodate the specific needs of a business in terms of appearance, content, and functionalities.

Theme-based websites take advantage of pre-built templates. Any Shopify merchant can download and install them within minutes, and most themes can be further customized. However, most themes allow rather limited changes. Typically, they also have few functionalities and content blocks to choose from, and that is especially true for free Shopify themes.

There’s also an option that lands somewhere in between the two. You can utilize some custom code or pre-built content layouts for specific pages or content types. This way, you still rely on an existing theme but modify it enough to make it look unique and serve your needs.

So let’s look at these three options up close and discuss their pros and cons.

Custom-Built Websites

These websites usually get developed from scratch. A merchant has to work with the designer and the developer in order to come up with the design and functionalities based on the needs of the business. Since they are built from the ground up, organizations can implement any features that they would like to have.

If the merchant happens to have sufficient coding and web design knowledge, this project can be completed alone. However, the amount of time that it will take to build this custom website may be too much. That’s why many people opt to work with web developing studios such as Studio Umbrella.

The pros of creating a fully customized website include getting a completely unique design and plenty of functionalities. Since your website has been built specifically for you, you can guarantee that there is no other site out there like yours. That’s a great way to set yourself apart from the competition. Additionally, custom Shopify stores allow businesses to serve their customers better. Many companies have a very particular vision in mind since they already know how their customers like to shop. That knowledge allows them to enhance user interface and experience (UI and UX) from the very beginning.

Additionally, custom-built websites are easier to adapt to the growing needs and requirements of a business. And if a feature needs to be added in the future, the hired developer is already familiar with the website, so the work may get done a bit faster.

On the downside, creating custom-built websites tends to be more expensive and time-consuming. Building something from the ground up is always a complex endeavor, and merchants should be prepared to spend more time and money to get things right.

Theme-Based Website

Millions of Shopify websites opt for a much easier solution, which is picking out a theme from the theme shop. In addition, some of the basic themes are completely free to use, which is an amazing incentive for many merchants. It is especially great for people who are trying out themselves in e-commerce for the first time or are not sure if Shopify is the right platform for them.

Free or not, all pre-built Shopify themes have customization options. However, they tend to be pretty limited, so the websites look somewhat similar even after customization.

But if you need a website as soon as possible, choosing a theme-based design may be the right choice for you. Most of the code already exists, meaning that you can launch your website within mere hours. And then you can supplement some content blocks with our pre-built content blocks (more on this later).

It also tends to be a cost-effective solution. Free themes don’t need any additional investment, and even the paid themes require only a one-time payment that is absolutely worth its price if you consider the long term.

And when it comes to missing functionalities, many merchants turn to the app store to fill in the blanks. Many apps tend to cost money or require a monthly subscription, so it’s essential to do a cost analysis to see which option will make more sense. 

Modified Theme-Based Website

Modified theme-based websites utilize some custom code. Therefore, if a vital functionality is missing, merchants often seek out a developer who would be able to supplement their existing website with custom additions.

This solution tends to be somewhere in the middle. The cost is not as high and the timeline is usually much shorter than that of building a brand new site. However, it is still more time-consuming and labor-intensive than simply installing a pre-built theme and calling it a day.

As a web developer who has worked with e-commerce businesses for over a decade, we are well aware of the benefits and limitations that each of the solutions presents. That’s why we came up with a new product on the market: pre-built customizable content sections for your Shopify website.

These sections allow you to add the information you need to your website and customize the way you present it. They are customizable, which allows you to match the colors and fonts to the rest of the theme. Additionally, these blocks can be placed on any page within the website and reused if needed.

And of course, since this is a pre-built product, adding a custom Shopify section is a less expensive solution than getting one designed and coded from scratch. Additionally, they are ready to be downloaded as soon as you go through the checkout process so that you can use them immediately upon purchase. You can see the list of available Shopify sections here.

What design solution is right for you? 

Custom, theme-based, or a mix of both? Looking for something customized, reach out - we're ranked as one of the top Web Design Companies In California. And if you are curious about the pre-built content sections, don’t hesitate to read more. We’ll be happy to help you find the best option.