Web Template vs WordPress Theme — Which Is Right For You

Two of the most common questions we get when someone calls inquiring about setting up a website, are “What is the difference between a WordPress Theme and Website Template and which should I use for my website?”

Website Template

A website template is a grouping of HTML documents, with supporting assets such as CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), JS (JavaScript), and images.  We provide our website templates formatted for specific editors such as Adobe Dreamweaver (CS3, CS4, CS5, CS6, and Creative Cloud (CC)) and Microsoft Expression Web.  In fact, we’ve been developing website template so long, we had at one time formatted our templates to work in Microsoft FrontPage 2000, 2002, and 2003.  Wow!  We’re practically IMMORTAL when it comes to lifespan of a web development company.

The great thing about website templates is that you work within a structure, and you typically have FULL control over the design and structure of the code.  You can completely customize the template for a very unique look and feel.  Content can be specifically tailored and styled.  The downside is that there is more of a learning curve to the development.

Strengths

  • flexibility to modify the page structure
  • full control over the CSS
  • extendable with our database enabled website enhancements (no PHP experience required)

Weaknesses

  • not designed for day-to-day content updates
  • steep learning curve
  • your SEO is in your hands so far as making sure you have all of your page titles, and content optimized for your pages

WordPress Themes

A WordPress Theme includes much of the same assets as a Website Template, however there are no HTML pages included.  Instead, a framework of PHP files are included which are called upon by the WordPress engine to render a dynamic site that may include a blog, calendar, or any number of other dynamically scripted features.

The great part of WordPress is that it is a Content Management System (CMS).  A good CMS allows you to concentrate on crafting your content, and not so much on the design and structure of your page.  The structure of your web pages is governed by the pre-defined theme, so you as a website operator focus instead on providing the content in the pages.  The learning curve is usually not as steep as with a web template, however there are a lot of limitations to how much configuration and tweaking you can do to the underlying page structure.

Strengths

  • short learning curve
  • focus on the content and not on being a web designer
  • lots of free plugins available (you often get what you pay for though)
  • SEO can be managed by via some great SEO plugins
  • relatively easy to switch to a different theme, and retain all your existing content

Weaknesses

  •  little control over the structure of the pages — you end up getting a more cookie cutter feel
  • all your content is stored in a database, so if you do ever want to move to a different platform, there can be migration issues
  • developing or extending the WordPress theme requires extensive PHP knowledge

[TL;DR]

If you’re a web developer and you work with Dreamweaver or Expression Web on a regular basis, Website Templates are probably the way to go.  If you’re just a small business or organization and need to focus more on the content of the website and not so much on the design, then WordPress is your best bet.