There is a difference between a web designer buying and customizing a theme and a web developer who is able to code a custom website.
We build custom themes from scratch for our clients – always have and always will. Even before we started building WordPress websites, we built custom templates for our client sites.
Why? Yes, it’s our craft. More importantly, the site does exactly what you, the client, require. Plus, it results in leaner code that loads faster, making search engines and cell phone users viewing your site happier. Who doesn’t want happier prospective visitors?
So what’s the big deal with purchased themes?
We've had our fair share of experience ‘fixing' sites built with purchased themes, so we understand the downsides. These sites are usually customized by a web designer who changes colours, drops in logos, maybe adds some images and picks a font. Then the client starts asking for functionality that isn't part of the theme, so plugins (bits of code) start getting added to solve the problem. And this is where the costs of using purchased themes can start to add up.
Security: Pay up or else
Many clients don't realize (or their designers fail to mention) that purchased themes usually come with on-going licensing fees. If those fees aren't paid, the theme becomes out-dated and vulnerable to security issues. Plugins and WordPress have regular updates too. Sometimes those updates offer new functionality but often they're for security. If themes, plugins and WordPress aren't being kept up to date, a site is exposed to hacking. Plus the longer a site goes with out updating, the more hesitant a site owner is to update, thinking they'll blow up the website. Cleaning up a hacked site is not always a quick or inexpensive fix either. And guess who pays for the fix? You.
Accessibility: The 15% of the market you are excluding
An accessible website means that anyone – like the 12% of men who are colour-blind or visitors who can’t use a mouse – can use the website. If having an accessible website is important (and we truly believe it should be), then purchased themes pose a new set of challenges. Not all themes are built with code that supports accessibility. Often, they actually make things worse. And if the web designer hired to customize those themes doesn't understand accessibility, they likely won't know to choose an accessible colour palette or how to identify a theme that just doesn't work.
Not all web people are the same. Like the saying goes, you think a good craftsman is expensive, you should see how much an inexpensive one ends up costing you!