Custom Designed WordPress Theme vs. Purchased Theme

Wordpress templates

I do a lot of custom WordPress themes, in recent years most of the websites I design are WordPress, I recommend it because it allows my clients to easily update their own websites. Nowadays many companies are choosing to purchase premium themes that are sold online, this is a good idea if you are trying to launch a website on the cheap, but there are some serious shortcomings to a purchased theme.

Why a Custom Designed WordPress Theme from iLab New Media is Superior to a Premium Purchased WordPress Theme

  1. Customizations: When you need help customizing your template, implementing a plugin or any other common theme customization will the theme developer help you out? Are they available for a phone call to help you understand how it is supposed to work?
  2. Bugs: When you find a bug in the template or a plugin incompatibility, will the theme developer be there to fix it at a minutes notice? Can you call or email the developer of your theme to ask about any issues that arise? Will the theme developer stand behind and support his work for perpetuity?
  3. Maintenance: Will maintaining your WordPress theme website be easy or will you have to go to great lengths to figure out how to do what you want to do. If you get stuck can you call the theme developer and have him take a look or make the updates himself?
  4. Updating: To keep WordPress secure it is recommended that you install all updates and keep your software up to date. However WordPress updates can break things in plugins and themes. Will your theme developer be there for you down the road if something breaks or will he require you to buy the latest theme to get any updates? Can you give the developer a call and ask questions about this?
  5. Peace of mind: Knowing that the person who developed your WordPress theme and knows its workings inside and out, is just a phone call or email away. Knowing that no matter what might go wrong with your site (being hacked, data corruption, server fail, plugin incompatibility or anything else), that your theme developer is available to help, cares about your situation and will fix many items without cost to you.

When buying a WordPress theme, remember that these companies are doing it to make money. Not that I am not also in business to make money, but I have a relationship with my customers, I know and care deeply about their online success, we are a team and I am invested in their website. A theme developer cannot care about each, individual customer, they sell hundreds of themes and don’t even talk to most of them. This is the difference between craftsmanship and assembly line manufacturing.

Marketing on a Shoestring

Marketing on the cheap

A great blog post this morning over at A VC blog about marketing on a small budget. In a nutshell it is

  1. Ask existing customers for leads
  2. Establish yourself as an expert
  3. Leverage social media
  4. Establish an email newsletter
  5. Cold call

We can help you with items 2, 3 and 4 above. Give iLab New Media a call if you want to explore some of these options. Read the full story here.

What would you recommend for inexpensive and effecting marketing on the cheap? Leave a comment below.

Google: “Make Sure Your Website Doesn’t Suck”

Google's Matt Cutts

Every day small businesses struggle to compete online and every day that struggle gets harder and more complicated. Partially because companies like Google are tying to make it harder on web spammers and partially because small, local businesses are running up against competition from big business. Small businesses often just don’t have the time or resources that big business has to promote themselves online, posting to their blog weekly, checking the competition’s website, checking their search rankings and analytics, posting to social media sites every day, sending out email newsletters, refreshing the content of their websites every month, redesigning every couple of years, etc, etc.

This issue was address by Google’s own Matt Cutts recently in a video post where he answers the following question

“Ranking being so valuable, how does a true biz owner that offers a legitimate business and has a vast number of customers supposed to gain the traffic “deserved” over those that specialize in creating traffic? Is it supposed to be this hard for us?”

Matt’s primary advice to website owners trying to compete online was

  • Make sure your website doesn’t suck
  • Make your website easy for mobile users to use
  • Have good navigation

At iLab New Media we are living this advice, we guarantee that any website we create will not suck, our mobile sites are fantastic examples of mobile ease of use and we always ensure that all sites we create have good, clear, easy to use navigation. So take Google’s advice now and about working on your website so we can make sure it doesn’t suck.

Below is the full video if you are interested in watching it.

What advice would you give a small business to compete with the big boys online? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.


Cheesy Web Marketing Example

Sierra Vista web design SERPS

While checking the SERPs for some keywords I am trying to compete on I saw an interesting result, someone advertising for “$295 Sierra Vista Website” and I though I would investigate since I was not aware of a business in Sierra Vista, Arizona called “SimpleNerds” offering web design services. Below is a screenshot of what I found.

Sierra Vista web design

Now to be fair it’s not unusual for companies in any part of the country to represent themselves as local businesses online, and some go to ridiculous lengths to appear local. Yet this one is laughable for the lack of effort made, take a look at the query string. kw=sierra%20vista%20web%20design basically just passing in the text they want to show at the top of this page, so they can use the same page for any city they want to market for, or any service for that matter. So I thought we might have some fun with them and pass in a more interesting text to display.

we suck at web design

You can have a lot of fun with a page like this. Use the form below to add your own message to their page.

Why not use a template based website instead of hiring an expensive designer?

Why use a template based website?

Good question, actually there are good reasons for each of the above options. I encourage people to use low cost template solutions all the time even though I am an “expensive designer”.

It really all comes down to business priorities related to the following two items

Business Image

A well designed, custom website really goes a long way towards establishing you as a successful, professional business, while a template website always looks like a template website.


Sometimes the custom designed website is out of your budget, and in that case a template based website is better than no website at all.

We can approach this question from the other side as well and ask “when would a template based website be the best solution for me and my business?”

Top 5 Indicators That a Template Based Website Is For Me.

  1. I print my business cards on my desktop printer using perforated sheets.
  2. I have been known to show up to business meetings in flip-flops.
  3. My business is just starting out and we barely have enough money to turn on the lights.
  4. Our competitors strive to be the best, our goal is to be the cheapest.
  5. My 12 year old designed our logo in MS Paint.

Okay, that was a bit tongue-in-cheek, but the point I am making is that sometimes business image takes a backseat to other, more important priorities like budget. Many very successful businesses never think twice about business image and who am I to argue with their success? But if you are interested in standing out from your competition and making the best impression possible, then a custom designed website is the way to go.

Real Cost

When you put it in perspective the price of a custom designed website is not so much for an item that you buy once and own forever. The cost of the average custom designed website amortized over 5 years comes out to around $60 a month, many businesses spend much more than that every month for print advertising.

Feel free to use our “Get a quote” tab above to see how our prices compare to a template based website. There is no obligation or high pressure sales tactics involved.

What is web hosting?

What is web hosting?

In order to have your website available online 24-7 it needs to be on a computer that is connected to the internet at all times, this computer is called a web server. You could have your own web server in your office, and larger companies often do this, but there are security and maintenance concerns to think about so it is usually cheaper and more worry-free to pay someone else to use their web server.

Web hosting refers to paying a web hosting company to rent space on their web server or “host” your web site.

All web sites need to be hosted somewhere and there are a lot of web hosting companies to choose from. Here are the top things to look for in a web hosting company.

  1. Bigger companies are better. There is something to be said about shopping locally but you want a web hosting company that is big enough to have the infrastructure to support your website (data redundancy, backup generators, big internet pipes, etc)
  2. Good support. Ask around and read reviews online to make sure the company you pick for web hosting will offer timely support when something goes wrong.
  3. Price. This goes without saying, but like anything, remember that the cheapest is not always the best.

Why should I pay for custom design when there are cheaper alternatives?

Why pay for custom design?

A custom designed website is not for everyone. A person would want a custom designed website for the same reasons you might buy an expensive suit for business meetings or for the same reasons you might work hard to make your office clean and presentable, because you want to present a professional, successful business image.

Template based websites always tend to look like templates and are often rough around the edges. For a small business just starting out, or when marketing budgets are extremely tight or nonexistent, one of these free or low cost websites is probably the best solution.

For the growing business looking to make a good impression on potential customers, a custom designed website is among the best, and certainly among the cheapest, marketing investments you can make.

What is a CMS and why would I want one?

What is a CMS?

CMS stands for Content Management System, basically it’s software that allows you to manage your website without any technical knowledge. If you had a CMS on your website you would have a special part of the site where you could login and change text or add images as easily as if you were writing emails.

A couple of good reasons why you might want a CMS include:

  • Save money over time not paying a web designer to handle changes to your site.
  • Keep your content fresh by making frequent changes easily thereby encouraging repeat visits.

To learn more about content management systems see our article 5 Advantages of a Content Management System

How can I make money from my website?

How can I make money from my website?

Aside from having an e-commerce website there are several things you can do to make your website more profitable or at least pay the hosting fees.

Ads – Google and others allow you to place ads on your website and pay you for clicks from your site, a good starting place is

Affiliates – Many sites have affiliate networks where you are payed every time a paying customer originates from your website. Some good starting places are or

Sales – You can create and sell unique items through Cafe Press, all you need is artwork, once you upload it you can apply it to a wide number of products from mouse pads to t-shirts and coffee mugs.

Donations – If you have a good cause you can add a PayPal donate button and get visitors to donate online.

What free/low cost website options are there?

What low cost website options are there?

For the small business with an even smaller budget there are a few free and very low cost options that will at least get you a web presence. Remember that you get what you pay for.

In the free category I would recommend Tumblr which offers a very nice free blog. They have some nice looking design templates to choose from and you can attach your account to your Facebook and Twitter account which is nice.

In the low cost paid category I would recommend which for $14.98 per month offers a quick 2 minute setup, your choice of some nice looking templates and a free domain name. Also because is powered by WordPress you have the ability to install any WordPress plugin so you have an almost unlimited ability to customize and add functionality.