Custom Branded vs Off-the-Shelf – Which WordPress Website Development is Right For You?

If you’re setting up a website for your business, you have many options. So many, in fact, it can be hard to know where to start. But the chances are you’ve considered WordPress. You’ll almost have certainly heard of it.

Custom Branded vs Off-the-Shelf – Which WordPress Website Development is Right For You?
Giles Taylor writes for W/Brand Design Blog
Giles Taylor, May 17, 2023

After all, a startling 8.10 million websites use WordPress – that’s 43% of all websites on the internet. And among websites using WordPress for their content management system (CMS), that’s a huge 65%.

In this guide, we’ll explain why WordPress website development is so popular compared to other website builders. Then, we’ll explain the two different ways you can use WordPress themes for business, the pros and cons, and why W/Brand have taken to creating custom WordPress themes for businesses.

Why WordPress?

As we’ve seen, the figures speak for themselves – WordPress is popular for many reasons. But why?


WordPress began as a blogging platform in 2003. Since then, it’s evolved into an open source CMS, known as (not to be confused with, the blog hosting service). uses ‘themes’ as the central building blocks of the websites you can create. These themes are a collection of files that govern how your website will function and how it will look. The files include:

  • Style sheets
  • Code
  • Templates
  • Core branding
  • Styling rules.

Thanks in part to being free if you choose and a long-standing reputation for being user-friendly, WordPress is firmly established as a CMS. But there are rivals. Let’s see a couple and how they compare.


Wix was founded in 2006. This website builder platform has a range of pricing options, from a free plan with basic features and advertising, to paid plans with more features and ads removed.

Wix offers themes and templates that can be customised by using its drag-and-drop editor. This platform has built up a reputation through the years and is considered by many to be simpler to use than WordPress. If you want to build a website that looks professional without having lots of tech knowledge and design skills, Wix is a good idea.

However, WordPress is better suited if you’re looking for a CMS that gives you greater control over design and functionality. And that’s why developers and creative teams use WordPress to build custom solutions for their clients.


Joomla began in 2005 and is a popular choice for developers. The system is generally more advanced than WordPress, so beginners should be wary. Joomla offers great security and flexibility, and you can use different templates for different content.

But WordPress is more user-friendly than Joomla, and is backed up by free and professional support. It also has greater extensibility, meaning the huge amount of plugins and themes make it really easy to extend the structure and functionality of a website.

Now we know why WordPress and business go together so well. But whether you’ve decided to build with WordPress yourself, or want an agency to do the hard work for you, this is just the start. You also need to decide what type of themes to use – off-the-shelf, or a custom branded theme.

What are off the shelf WordPress themes?

Off-the-shelf WordPress themes, also known as pre-built, adopt the plug-and-play approach. You can choose from thousands of designs, and the one you pick will define how your site will look and what type of images to use, etc. Then it’s a case of plugging in text and images on different page types, which are included in each theme.


  • Cost - many off-the-shelf WordPress themes are free, unless you choose a premium. Even then, the cost is often below £100.
  • Simple - pre-built themes don’t require knowledge of HTML, PHP or other potentially scary looking acronyms. If you have small business, this can be appealing because you might not have resources to advertise for a developer.
  • Aesthetics - just because they’re cheaper and simpler, off-the-shelf themes can still look very professional.


  • Performance - some of the most attractive and popular pre-built themes have to pack more in, to cover the different types of businesses they can cater for. This potentially results in bloated software with too many plugins, which can make your site slow.
  • Vulnerability - plugins may be vulnerable to security holes because theme developers don’t always update their creations. The majority of business WordPress sites vulnerable to attack are made from off-the-shelf themes.

What are custom branded WordPress themes?

Creating custom WordPress themes is a popular choice if you want a branded WordPress theme for your business. These themes can be built specifically for you, with your branding requirements and functionality built in. You receive a bespoke website for your target audience, whether you’re B2B or B2C.


  • Speed and security - WordPress developers can optimise your website and tailor it to your needs. You can avoid bloat and unnecessary plugins that can slow your site down or leave it vulnerable to attacks.
  • Branding - creating a custom WordPress theme makes it unique to your company. Your online presence will reflect your brand and your USPs without any concessions.
  • Flexibility - working with a developer or agency means you can get ongoing maintenance to minimise bugs and downtime from other issues. And your site will be able to continually evolve as your business does.


  • Requires expertise - although WordPress is user-friendly, custom themes can be tricky to build. Specialised input from an expert in WordPress is advised.
  • Cost - creating custom WordPress themes is more expensive than grabbing an off-the-shelf set of templates.
  • Time - due to the added complexity, and the number of choices that need to be made during building, a custom branded theme will take longer than a pre-built version, even when using a WordPress builder such as Elementor to make the job easier.

Our work with custom branded WordPress themes

B2B branding agency W/Brand built a website for global software company More4Apps. Using a custom business WordPress theme, we were able to avoid bloat and the need to shoehorn a pre-built theme into More4Apps’ branding. As great as Elementor’s WordPress B2B themes are, we didn’t like the idea of squeezing them into a website for More4Apps. So we made our own.

Our branded WordPress theme, Base, allows us to lawyer blocks on top of each other, rather than dragging and dropping. This old-school approach means coding is clean and streamlined, resulting in super-quick loading times to keep you ahead of the competition. And we can plug in components from CRMs such as HubSpot and Salesforce, too.

And just because the site is live, our work on it doesn’t stop. We’re constantly updating it.

Whether you’re looking for conversions with landing pages vs homepages for your B2B site, unique to your business branding, W/Brand recommends creating custom WordPress themes.

Giles Taylor writes for W/Brand Design Blog

Giles Taylor

Giles is the founder and creative director for W/Brand. A graphic designer from Reading in Berkshire, UK, he's a dad with two wonderful children who enjoys walking and playing the guitar.  

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