One of the important things when starting or updating a WordPress blog is the choice of a theme. You usually have several different options to choose from. Depending very much on your requirements, you can choose a specific theme framework and then choose a theme that has been developed on top of that framework.
Most people browse several hundreds of themes, be it free or paid and then choose one that catches their fancy and closely resembles to what they want. Out of the box, most of these provide customization options to tweak them to an extent, but the generic look and feel remain the same.
There are several well-known theme frameworks that you can choose from such as Genesis, Elegant Themes and Thesis among several hundreds. While choosing a theme that closely resembles your needs (and wants) will mostly work in many cases but it may also have some limitations and missing features.
Another option is to develop a Child theme that is much more specific to your needs. You can choose a theme that closely resembles in features and the look and feel and then develop a child theme on top of it. This has several advantages such as a much more unique theme while still being able to use the desirable features of the parent theme.
However the best option is to create a custom theme from scratch. Obviously this requires some technical skills as well as the vision and ability to design the website. Once you have a design that works for you, it can best be implemented using a custom theme.
Developing a custom theme has several different advantages, as opposed to using a third-party theme or a child theme…
The theme you have developed in unique to your site. It means that your website is the only one that uses it, and does not resemble any of the other tens of them that are out there that use the same theme with a different color scheme.
The theme can be an exact implementation of your design, right down to the pixel. Rather than having to settle for somebody’s design decisions and be limited by the customization and features built into the theme, you can create something that is exactly what you designed.
The custom theme is less likely to have major security holes, just because of the fact that you are using fewer features and less code if not anything else. Even though, it is probably next to impossible to know of sure about bugs, you are not waiting for a security or bug patch from a third-party vendor. You can fix them as you find them.
No Feature Overload
Most third party themes have a large amount of features and customization code. These are required to so that it can cater to several different clients with different requirements. Custom themes does not need a plethora of features that you would never use and don’t need. All of these unwanted features adds a lot of executable code and can potentially slow down your website.
Limit Plugin Usage
You can built the functionality of most of the plugins that you use straight into the theme. This is especially true for the plugins that you are used for content layout and customization. This can reduce the dependency on third party plugin and make the theme faster, as now the plugin code does not have to be injected at run time.
Not all plugins can be built in though, depending on the functionality that it provides.
Small Static Files
You do not need to have tons of code, which makes every piece of content customizable because it is already customized for your design in a custom theme. All of these customizing code can add to the weight of your page, and make it slower especially when it is not coded correctly.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
A custom theme is the best suited for SEO. A custom theme is usually very lean with almost no extra source code. There are no extra features that are not required and the required features can be built into the theme itself rather than having to use extra plugins (of course depending on the feature). Furthermore, you can use the appropriate HTML tags (like h1, h2, h3 etc) for your content without having to over customize layouts.
The biggest advantage in SEO here is the lean coding which makes the websites very light. There are several frameworks and themes that specializes in speed which are always an option but a custom theme is the best option regardless.
Certainly there are some disadvantages or cons as well when creating a custom theme. But these usually outweigh the advantages.
Creating a custom theme can be pricey and expensive, especially if you have to hire professionals to create one. Depending on your technical skills, you might have to pay for ongoing maintenance as well.
You could decide to build or create one yourself, at least to save on the cost. Creating a theme is quite easy, but you will still require some basic programming skills. As with many DIY projects, it has the potential to derail and end up with something that you have to settle for which might be far from what you originally planned for.
Creating a custom theme is one thing, maintaining it over time is an another. You will need to keep track of the security issues and patch them as needed over time. Your theme will need regular updates and your needs and requirements will change which will need to be incorporated.
Despite these minor disadvantages, it is often worthwhile to create a custom theme for your blog.