Your decision whether or not to use a website theme should be made with knowledge on the methods of designing and building a website, and consideration of your particular circumstances and objectives against:
- Your resilience levels in chaotic environments
The traditional website build method.
The traditional method of implementing a website interface design required a design team to produce initial website templates in a graphical source file format (typically .PSD), with high-fidelity screen composites/mock-ups clearly showing the layout's grid system and spacing for the front-end developer to integrate into your CMS system, in the form of a custom theme. This is an iterative, consultative process and I have worked on projects where this process costs anywhere between $5,000 - $50,000.
I will also highlight here that the high-end $50,000 template graphics, are not necessarily any better than the jobs for $5,000. In fact, I have seen superior .PSD website templates produced for less than $5,000 when compared to the top end. The difference is that some interactive agencies have got themselves in a position where they can charge top-end prices.
The next step of this traditional method involves integrating the .PSD website templates into your CMS system. I've seen this cost anywhere between $700 - $40,000 depending on the CMS platform and the developer agency. On one occasion for an IBM CMS, I had an in-house developer state it will take them 2 years to integrate the templates into the CMS. And then when we asked an incumbent agency to integrate the templates into the IBM CMS, they felt that they were in a position to charge $250,000. For the record, a new CMS platform was selected by the organization at the disappointment of the developer and interactive agency.
If you've been doing the math whist reading above, you will typically spend anywhere from $5,500 - $90,000+, to get a design implemented into a CMS, the traditional way. Then you also need to consider the time that it will take to accomplish this. Going well it will take weeks, otherwise it typically pans out into to months of duration to design from scratch and get those .PSD website templates integrated into your website.
Using a website theme.
On the other hand, by leveraging an "off the shelf" website CMS theme you are in a position to integrate a professional design with considerable savings in cost and time. In a nutshell, it is possible to purchase a premium quality theme from a supplier's website for $40 - $100, customize with your visual design and branding, and have it live on the web in hours or days (some achieve this in minutes). If you've participated in website designs and rebuilds in the past, using an established theme is an incredibly liberating method. If you are starting out for the first time, using a pre-built theme can save you a lot of effort/time, money and grief. It also frees up your time to focus efforts on website publishing activities that will deliver tangible benefits.
It's quicker and less expensive to have a designer/developer modify an existing theme, or work from a starter theme, than it is to design and build a website the traditional .PSD templates way. A newer method called "design in the browser" completely bypasses the template or design composite method. The traditional method of starting with mock-ups and composites is lag from the good old print design days, where a composite was agreed upon prior to the design going anywhere near a print run. Showing design concepts inside a browser is cost effective and makes sense. In fact, if you have hired a web developer to build you a website and you start with the first previews inside a browser, then odds on they are working with an existing theme or a starter theme.
In the past there has been voluminous debate on the benefits that a good website design can provide. Although there are many things that should be done to a website experience, that deliver benefits prior getting visual design right, in [php]echo date("Y");[/php] there's no reason to not have a professional design from the get go thanks to the power of pre-built templates. This also alleviates the old chestnut of looking tired and drab through having an outdated visual design: you can keep up to date on the latest hottest design trends. In addition, you need to have a website that renders on the screens of mobile devices these days; a mobile responsive theme has you covered.