PROS AND CONS
The question of custom vs pre-built themes is a big one. Simply custom design costs more than a pre-built theme until there’s a request to change the functionality or modify something further down the line.
From my experience, prebuilt themes are like the IKEA of the web design; or if you’re using WIX, the Walmart. They can look elegant and sophisticated but as time goes, the shortcomings start to appear. As a site grows, gets bigger and more complex, the savings for using a pre-built theme start to become less.
We’ve worked on a number of projects as designers and developers where we traveled the pre-built route in order to work within a budget. Many times with customizations, it takes just a much time to build or hack a theme into submission because the necessary building blocks aren’t there. Or the plugin developer didn’t account for that specific use case.
Prebuilt themes are meant to be a one-stop-shop and are targeted toward users who are tech savy but don’t know how to code. Consequently, the websites are heavily bloated with scripts, plugins, and can negatively impact things like load time and user experience. One size fits doesn’t necessarily work with fashion and it’s the same with good design.
Web design is about understanding the business and then crafting the user experience, design, and development around that identity. It’s process oriented and heavily collaborative.