5 disadvantages of using a WordPress theme

What’s the problem with pre-designed templates and what are better alternatives?

One of the reasons why WordPress is so popular in the huge choice of free and premium themes, or templates. Templates are a really quick and cheap solution to launch a website. However, there’re many cons of using a pre-designed theme and I rarely use them to build websites for my clients.

1. Theme design is not unique

The first and the most obvious reason: your website will probably look very similar to hundreds of other sites out there. A theme allows to customize colours, fonts, location of content blocks, but it’s just not the same thing as creating a custom theme. Unless you’re just starting and your budget is really tiny, using a pre-built theme is not so good for your reputation.

2. Themes don’t look good out of the box

When you browse for WordPress themes, they all look pixel-perfect and ready to use. In reality, there will be a long list of settings like colours, fonts, layout etc to go through before your website starts to look similar to that beautiful demo site. There will be blocks and widgets that you don’t need, while some of the necessary features will be missing.

Another thing to keep in mind is that theme developers use carefully selected demo images and videos that complement their theme design and thus create a polished look. So when you replace the images with your own pictures, they will not necessarily match the fonts, styles, and colours of your theme.

Many clients think that web designers are familiar with all WordPress themes out there and can set up any theme in a breeze. But let’s have a look at the biggest repository of commercial WordPress themes – Themeforest. There’re currently more than 11.000 themes on Themeforest, and there’re even more sites that sell WordPress themes. So don’t expect your web designer to know what’s inside the theme you bought.

3. Themes install unwanted plugins

Some themes rely on certain plugins or are compatible only with certain plugins. For example, a theme may force you to use a specific contact form plugin because it’s optimized for this plugin. If you use another solution for your contact form, it’ll be probably more time-consuming to configure it. Sometimes you’ll have to install some plugins in order for all theme features to work. More plugins = longer load times. Longer load times = higher bounce rate and lower conversion rate.

4. Not all themes are updated regularly

This is usually not the case with premium themes, but quite a frequent issue with free themes. If theme developer abandons it, the theme won’t get updated regularly and your site will probably look screwed up after a few WordPress udpates. It’s also bad for security and performance.

5. Most themes slow down your website

Pre-built themes are often slow due to the variety of features. Theme developers try to include as many features as possible so that their themes are more flexible and generic. Of course you can disable the components you don’t need. But not all themes handle disabled features well – the files can still load in your browser and slow down your website. You can measure theme load speed with a tool like Pingdom or PageSpeed Insights, but be aware that many theme demo sites use a CDN (Content Distribution network), so the results may not be accurate.


So what’s the alternative to pre-built WordPress themes? Of course the best solution is a custom theme built right for your website. There are starter themes with no layout or styling – they can be used to design WordPress websites from scratch.

Another option is using a WordPress theme framework – it’s a generic theme that can serve as a starting point for custom design. A framework usually includes components like navigation elements, basic layout blocks and is fully customizable. Genesis, Divi and Avada are some of the most popular WordPress theme frameworks.

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