Should I Use a Custom or Off-the-shelf Theme for My B2B Website?

Written by Kathy Kassera Mrozek

Would you prefer your content to direct your site’s design or to have the design direct your content? The question is simple at first glance. But, how you answer is critical. Why?

It all comes down to your digital marketing strategy. This is a roadmap for reaching your marketing goals through the use of digital methods that includes your goals, marketing channels, content strategy, and means for measuring success. How will the theme you choose affect your marketing strategy?

In this article, we’ll compare the advantages and disadvantages of custom and off-the-shelf themes. As well as consider how they impact your business’s goals.

Your Business Goals Are What Matters

“Success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal or ideal.”
– Earl Nightingale

If your team doesn’t have clear direction on the purpose of your website creation or redesign then it will be difficult to make sound decisions on any aspect of the design.

To help you decide what type of site is right for you use the following exercise. Take out a notebook, open a Google doc, or use a whiteboard and answer the following questions.

  • What is our goal for this website? To increase brand awareness, customers, leads, thought leadership, etc.
  • Get specific. Which specific metrics do you need to see for this to be successful? Website visitors, profit, number of leads, CTR, etc.
  • What functionality do you need from your website in order to see these gains? You may not know the answer to this question, but after you know the first two it’s easier to partner with someone who can help you answer this.

Once you clearly understand the goals for the website it’s safe to move on and think about what kind of development you’ll need for your website. Which brings us to our analysis of which type of theme is best. Custom or off-the-shelf?

The Power of the Custom Theme

The main factor that will affect whether or not you should use a custom theme is your digital strategy. Do you have a fully fleshed out digital strategy?

If so, creating a custom theme will allow you to build your website around that strategy ultimately making it stronger and more effective.

In addition to that, a custom theme provides several important benefits.

Flexibility

A custom website allows us to distinguish yourself in the marketplace It can be tailored to very specific needs, desired user experience, and market demographics. It frees the developer to accommodate brand styles, including palette and visual vernacular. The flexibility of custom sites extends to more robust functionality and requirements as well.

Growth

With an off-the-shelf “page builder, ” you need to be or hire a designer to put all the puzzle pieces together as you edit it. You’re also limited to the styles provided in the theme. This makes growth hard since every time you add something to the design, you need to ensure it won’t break any systems and that it works with any updates to the code.

Custom development is more focused since it doesn’t need to serve such a wide audience which makes it easier to update and grow.

Shelf-life

With an off-the-shelf theme, you’re at the mercy of a developer whose goals are independent of yours. This means that as your theme gets updated they may go a direction that no longer serves your needs. Forcing you to find an alternative and wasting the hours your team used to get your site where it is today.

When You Need Your Site Done Yesterday

Still, there are some occasions when you might want to go with an off-the-shelf theme. For example, do you need to get your website up extremely quickly? You may want to use an existing theme to start quickly and then build something custom in the future.

What if you need something extremely simple, like a one page presence, or lack the budget to build a custom site? In these cases, an off-the-shelf theme will probably work just fine.

Again it all comes down to the goals for your website. For a solopreneur with a very niche group of website visitors, then a quick theme to get up and running may be all that’s needed. But, if you’re an established B2B brand with a diverse audience and complex digital strategy you need something that will enhance and build your brand for years to come. For that, we recommend building custom.

A Quick Look at the Differences Between a Custom and Off-the-shelf Theme

Custom Themes
+ Versatility
+ Functionality
+ Better branding
+ Easier editing experience
– More expensive and time consuming

Off-the-shelf Themes
+ Lower cost
+ Less skill required
– Less flexibility in style
– Looks like other sites
– More difficult to make a big change

What Windmill Strategy Thinks

Creating a B2B site is all about brand and reputation building. The goals for these types of organizations are probably complex and multifaceted. If you want to reach them you need something that represents your company, its goals, and speaks to its audience.

If you need help building a website that will help you reach your business goals in 2019 let’s talk.

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