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WordPress Websites Demystified: Templates VS Builders

January 8, 2020

John Hawley


Web Design

The WordPress Website Process Explained

Whether you’re a designer, developer, business owner, or just someone who’s interested in owning a website — you’ve definitely heard about WordPress websites. With good reason, because every one out of three websites in the entire world uses it. However, for some, there’s a perception that sites built on WordPress are synonymous with being built with WordPress templates. First, let’s define what a WordPress template is.

WordPress Templates vs. WordPress Themes

For the unfamiliar, WordPress templates are pre-built, pre-styled web pages. The colors, sizing, font choice and overall architecture have been pre-defined. This enables WordPress users to create sites cheaply or for free. However, this comes at the expense of a lack of customization and not being uniquely tailored to your brand. WordPress Themes are the combined collection of these pre-designed templates. So what’s the point of making this distinction? Because WordPress websites don’t necessarily run on templates — but they always run on themes.

This is where the notion of WordPress websites being run on templates comes from. Unfortunately, the misconception leads people to believe that there are no other alternatives. Fortunately — that isn’t the case! There are two main types of themes for WordPress websites, Templated Themes, and Website Builders. Let’s discuss the key differences.

WordPress Websites are usually composed of template themes or builders

WordPress Website Builders Allow Designers To Be Designers

The key difference between the two types of themes is that Builders allow designers to do exactly what they do best — design. Instead of pre-designed assets and layouts, Builder Themes give designers the toolbox to create beautiful websites from the ground up. This toolbox allows designers to use a workflow that’s similar to using programs such as Photoshop or Illustrator. When it comes to Templated Themes, the design is either relatively or completely rigid. Builder Themes are the exact opposite.

They empower designers by giving them full control over every aspect of the website’s design — from the color palette, layouts, typography, and so on. This means that the designer can always specifically tailor every aspect of your website to your brand, so your website can stand out and stay true to what your customers and clients expect. We have all seen WordPress websites that look familiar and don’t deliver an emotional connection, this is probably a pre-defined template.

At Mighty Fine Design Co. our builder of choice is Divi by Elegant Themes. While there are other powerful builders with similar capabilities, Divi leads the pack with continuous updates and new technology that allows designers to work more efficiently and provides new features to can take designs to the next level. The most powerful capability of Divi is its incredible front-end interface and sophisticated toolset that allows designers to work on a site while seeing the final product in real-time.

Of course, like any other design program, there’s a learning curve to execute your vision. When you want something custom-built from the ground up, you need an experienced designer and not a button pusher. Using a builder requires ongoing education as there is an infinite number of design choices and tools to make a branded website.

This is another misconception about WordPress websites being “templated”. In web design, it’s pretty common to see reoccurring themes in layout design. Things like the menu navigation or the footer looking similar to other websites may be perceived as a template — but this sort of overlap is not bad at all. There’s no sense in reinventing the wheel in some situations, especially if the UX is proven to be effective.

For example, one of our best practices at Mighty Fine is to include some form of Secondary Navigation on the homepage of a website site. This includes a section that highlights the 1-4 crucial, key pages you want people to go to. We use these trends to our advantage because ultimately the goal of your website should be to get people to the place you want them to go. Also, make it super simple for them to navigate with ease. You can read our blog on user experience here if you’d like a deeper dive into the subject.

Custom, On-Brand Design Ensures Your Website Is Uniquely Yours

Although we touched on this briefly before, let’s dig in a little deeper. The most important part of using a Builder versus a Template is the ability to create any layout you choose. Since everything is being created from the ground up, it’s worth also creating original graphics instead of using anything third-party. When we create sites with our Builder, we only use custom, hand-made original graphics. All designs are 100% unique to your brand — and make you stand out from the rest of the pack. We always recommend using only high-quality custom assets for your website.

Final Thoughts

WordPress websites are incredibly flexible which makes them the most popular choice in the world. WordPress gives our team the tools needed to deliver sophisticated branded designs. It also allows our team to incorporate custom coding to accomplish whatever goals you might have so the website can scale with your business.  Ultimately, it comes down to what you value the most when creating a website.

Template Themes are great when budgets are limited and will limit your branding choices. Builder themes do involve a budget because the website is custom-made but pays off in the long run for a few reasons. Full customization, and the ability to create design systems that allow your WordPress website to grow alongside your business to name a few. And finally, a custom-designed website will be 100% unique to your brand – one of a kind! Here at Mighty Fine Design Co. as a creative agency, creating professional, on-brand websites for our clients is one of our passions.

If you’re curious about our capabilities, take a spin through our catalog of websites we’ve designed for our clients.


John Hawley
John is the lead designer at Mighty Fine and has been crafting visual solutions for clients for over a decade. Hailing previously from Boston, John graduated from Northeastern University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design. Outside of work, he enjoys drawing, writing music, and playing video games.

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