A WordPress theme dictates the overall design and layout of your website. It decides which fonts you’ll use as well as their size and color, background color, etc.
Anything on your screen that has a size, color, and particular position is all covered in the theme.
There are two main kinds of themes: commercial themes and custom themes. Yes, there is a third category called “free themes.” While there are some quality free themes out there, as a general rule, you get what you pay for.
A commercial theme is one that you can purchase from a theme store, of which there are many. A custom theme is one that is completely custom built for you.
When a commercial theme is best for your project
If your budget isn’t very high and your design and layout needs are not very complex, then a commercial theme is your best option.
Some commercial themes comes with drag-and-drop design and page-builder options. Therefore, you can design your own website without having to know any code.
If you have time to do this and don’t have the budget to hire someone, then this is an option for you.
However, if you don’t have the time and do have the budget, you can hire a developer to customize the commercial theme for you. By customize, I mean make it match your nonprofit’s colors and fonts, include your logo, etc.
A developer can make the theme look like it’s uniquely yours so it doesn’t look like all the other websites that are using that theme.
Which brings us to our next topic: child themes. A child theme is a theme that is built on top of another theme. It is smart practice for a developer to build a child theme on top of a commercial theme.
If the commercial theme gets updated, then all of the customizations will get overwritten if there isn’t a child theme being used on top of it. This isn’t true of absolutely all commercial themes, but more often than not, this happens.
When a custom theme is best for your project
A custom theme is best if you have more complex design and layout needs. Also, if your website needs special features and functionality, custom theme development is the way to go.
You will certainly need the budget for custom development. If a developer is using a commercial theme, then the majority of the code is already there and he/she simply needs to make tweaks here and there.
For custom development, the developer is starting from scratch. Since that takes more time and knowledge, it will cost more.
So, if your needs are advanced and you have the budget for it, then go the custom theme route.
Go high-quality with either a commercial or custom theme
Whichever direction you choose, make sure your theme and developer are both high-quality. Your work is too important to have an ugly or broken site that prevents you from serving your constituents to the best of your ability.