Almost all first-time Magento users who are just setting up shop face the same dilemma: Should I go for a readymade theme or invest in a custom shop? It’s a difficult question because there aren’t any easy answers. The whole decision depends on a lot of factors, so today we’re going to cover some of them and, hopefully, help you decide if you are going through this type of dilemma.
What Are Magento Themes?
Magento is a platform that comes with a terrific set of features and basically has everything you need to run a fully functional, profitable online store.
But in addition to these powerful eCommerce features, every shop also needs a storefront, and that basically equates to what your website looks like and how it works on the user end.
A theme is a combination of design and functionality that creates that storefront. It’s like skin for your website. Naturally, you want it to be shiny and pretty so you can attract more visitors. But you also want it to be functional and smooth-running.
If you’re not a designer yourself, and if you don’t know how to code, you’re probably going to need some help. For a lot of newbie Magento users, the first instinct is to go with one of the readymade themes. Why?
Well, these themes do look almost too good to be true. They’re not so expensive, easy to install and set up, and – supposedly – they’re equally easy to customize and maintain. The theme market is huge since themes are relatively easy to make. Browsing through these themes can be a bit overwhelming because many of them look amazing.
Because of this, a lot of people opt for readymade solutions, not realizing that perhaps a custom solution might have been better in the long run. Not to mention that, oftentimes, a theme only looks great but its performance turns out to be far from satisfying.
Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of both the readymade Magento themes and custom-built ones.
Readymade Magento Themes
- They are affordable
As we mentioned earlier, a lot of readymade Magento themes are cheap. You can get a terrific-looking theme for your shop for less than $20, and it’s a one-time cost, not a monthly or yearly fee.
- They are user-friendly
As a platform, Magento is already quite intuitive and doesn’t come with a steep learning curve. The same goes for readymade themes that you install on the platform. In most cases, all you actually need to do is download and install a theme without having to touch anything else on the backend. They’re designed to be user-friendly and to fit your business needs and help your shop grow with almost no effort, design-wise.
- There are extensions available
The great thing about Magento is that if you feel as if your shop is lacking something, you can easily make up for that by installing an extension to perform a specific function. There are extensions for pretty much everything, from SEO and marketing and email automation, to support, finance, payments, security, and shipping – all the important things. Readymade Magento themes are designed to work with these extensions.
- Customization issues.
One of the biggest concerns with ready-made themes is that they’re actually not that easy to customize. Sure, with proper support and documentation, a user can easily tweak a thing or two on the website, but a lot of the customization actually relies on the code, and that’s something an average eCommerce merchant would not be able to change.
Also, the available customization options are usually associated with the pages that come with out-of-the-box Magento, like your home and category pages, cart, and checkout. Problems often arise when it comes to customizing any additional or custom-added pages. Similarly, additional functionalities such as sliders, JS effects, various pricing and grouping options may be difficult or impossible to implement.
The same goes for extensions. Yes, they are available, but compatibility issues are quite common. Third-party modules can clash with your theme, wreaking havoc and causing your shop to run with defects.
For a while, only a small number of premium (and very expensive) Magento themes were actually responsive. For those unfamiliar with the term, responsiveness refers to the ability of a website to look and work equally well on all screen sizes – from desktop and laptop computers to tablets and smartphones.
With so much traffic and so many eCommerce transactions taking place through mobile, and considering the fact that Google prioritizes mobile-ready websites, it’s clear that a responsive webshop is an absolute must.
However, there are still a lot of Magento themes, especially the cheap ones, that are not responsive at all. Opting for one of those themes can have a direct negative impact on your sales since customers really don’t have the patience to deal with websites that are not mobile-friendly.
- Brand fit
In eCommerce, it is extremely important to build a strong, solid brand that people will get to know and grow attached to. Brand loyalty is a major force for driving sales. The way your shop looks, feels and works is a big part of the brand identity.
The problem with readymade themes is that they’re predesigned. You’d have to be extremely lucky to find a theme that fits your brand perfectly, or even remotely, for that matter. And that can cost you a large chunk of potential customers.
Custom Magento Themes
The biggest advantage of custom-made Magento themes is the fact the client can tell the designer/developer exactly what it is that he or she needs in terms of functionality. The majority of readymade Magento themes do not take into consideration some of the more specific functionalities a modern eCommerce shop should have, from the unique CSS styles to advanced pricing, shipping, grouping, and fulfilment options.
If you get a theme that does not include those functionalities, you have to add them through extensions, which always puts a certain amount of strain on the site and also comes with the possibility of clashing with the third-party modules. Not to mention that making up for missing functionalities is both time- and money-consuming.
Popular Magento themes power hundreds, often thousands of eCommerce sites. That means that all those sites pretty much look the same, and that can’t be good for business. If, however, you decide to go for a custom-made theme, it will be tailored specifically for your business. Not only will it reflect your brand identity perfectly, but it will also be 100% unique.
Although readymade Magento themes usually come with some level of search engine optimization, real SEO work can only be done with a custom-made theme. On-page SEO and technical SEO, from alt tags to headers, meta descriptions, title tags, is best when implemented specifically for the website in question. Custom themes increase your chance of ranking high in search engine result pages, resulting in increased traffic and higher revenue.
- More control
For Magento merchants, having a custom theme made just for them means they get full control over what the shop will look like. From the number and the kind of pages to the way checkout works, not to mention the layout design and UX aspects, you have full control over everything. With readymade themes, you have to settle with what you have.
Although the first thing many think about when they hear about custom-made things is “But that’s so expensive!” these themes are actually more cost-effective, especially in the long run.
Let’s put it this way, readymade themes are cheap, you can’t argue that. But just because you paid $50 for a theme doesn’t mean your costs end there.
If the theme is not fully customized to your particular needs, it will require a lot of tweaking, both in terms of design and in terms of functionality. Unless you are a designer and a developer yourself, you will have to hire people to do this for you. And you will probably have to do it often. In the long run, your costs will exceed the initial $50 investment by far.
Sure, having a custom theme created especially for you is by no means cheap. But it’s an investment that pays off in the long run, since you get a website that not only looks great but works great too, and (in theory) should attract way more customers than a run-of-the-mill cheap readymade theme.
Should anything go wrong with your custom-made theme, you can count on top-notch, professional, dedicated support to solve all your issues. With readymade themes, the situation is different. A lot of companies dish out cheap themes on almost a weekly basis and cannot possibly offer adequate support for all of them.
- None, really.
We know that every business is unique. That is why we offer our clients the best custom made Magento themes, designed specifically to accentuate company image and increase the strength of the Brand. Contact us to grow sales, better engage and convert shoppers.
Considering all the pros and cons, it’s clear that going custom is the best option for serious eCommerce merchants. Custom themes are superior to readymade ones in almost all aspects. Their only downside is that they do require a certain initial investment, which may not be an option for small businesses on a super-tight budget. But, as we said, it’s an investment that pays off, gives you much-needed peace of mind, and serves as the fuel to propel your business towards success.