How to avoid getting “template” when you asked for “custom.”

So you want a custom website design. And you want WordPress installed so you can edit it.

To get this exact combo (custom +Wordpress), you have to ask for it in just the right way which isn’t as easy as it sounds . . . Ask for it one way, you might get “template,” ask for it a different way, you might get “custom” and that’s because there are two different meanings to the word “custom” in the world of WordPress development. One means a WordPress template that’s been customized. The other means a built-from-the-ground-up custom website with a custom-developed WordPress theme.

One reason it isn’t as easy as it sounds asking for and getting a custom WordPress website is because many WordPress “developers” don’t even understand the difference between the two meanings of “custom” WordPress websites. So how can they possibly guide you down the right path? Hard to imagine, right? The internet’s popularity has attracted many wanna-be developers who bypass getting a formal computer science education and teach themselves online how to modify WordPress templates, otherwise known as “themes.” So when you ask them if they do “custom” WordPress websites (when it’s not really in their skillset,) their answer often is “sure!” They don’t necessarily understand that their answer is incorrect and that a custom WordPress website requires a custom theme developed. They may know how to customize existingWordPress themes (templates,) but they don’t know how to build custom WordPress themes from scratch.

So when you interview web design companies or web designers, ask for this: “Built-from-scratch website in CSS3 / HTML5 with custom theme development.”

And if you’re told yes, view the source code in some of their portfolio websites for proof that they can deliver.

Here are two examples of website source codes. One confirms a WordPress template, the other a custom theme developed.

Theme is named after business: If you see the business name, for example, in the source code, “” that means it is developed with a custom theme – which is what you want if you want flexibility to enlarge pictures or move things around during the design process.

Theme is named after WordPress template:
 If you see this in the source code,“” then you know they do WordPress template customization. Hint: look for a unique, descriptive word in the CSS URL, then do a Google search on it. For example, search “Wordpress superhero theme” for this example to verify it is an existing template theme. If you do a search, here’s what you may find:

The better, easier solution may be for WordPress to just change their terminology so neither developer nor client gets confused between “customized WordPress theme” and “custom WordPress theme.” Just call websites with custom theme development something like: “GroundUp.” Or how about “this-ain’t-no-cookie-cutter-custom-theme”? And then WordPress websites could get a whole lot easier to request.


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Karen Skeens

Cyber Visionary and Website Guru with many years of marketing & advertising industry experience selling, marketing, writing and designing.

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