Pipedrive logo The CRM platform to grow your business
HubSpot logo Seamlessly connect data, teams, and customers
Wix logo Powerful web builder and advanced business tools
Planable logo If you plan content in sheets or lists, try this
Webador logo Create a new website in 10 minutes. Easy.

Custom WordPress development guide – how to work with a developer to create bespoke themes, plugins and websites

Last checked and updated on 14 January 2023

WordPress is a hugely popular platform for building websites. While there are many off-the-shelf themes and plugins available, sometimes you need something more specific or bespoke. That’s where custom WordPress development comes in.

In this guide, we’ll explain what custom development is, why it’s better than using pre-existing options, and how to go about choosing and working with a developer. We’ll also look at the risks involved in hiring a developer and how much it costs to get a custom WordPress project done. So whether you’re looking to create a brand new website or want to overhaul your current one, read on for all you need to know about custom WordPress development!

Compare prices for WordPress development

What is custom WordPress development?

Custom WordPress development is the process of creating unique, bespoke themes, plugins and websites tailored to your individual needs. It can be as simple as customising an existing theme with a few tweaks or completely re-building a website from scratch.

Why is custom development better than using off-the-shelf themes and plugins?

Using custom development gives you the flexibility and control to create exactly what you need. You can tailor it to your exact specifications, from look and feel to functionality and features. Custom development also allows for faster implementation of new ideas as compared to using off-the-shelf solutions which may take longer.

Is it better to avoid bespoke development and use pre-existing options instead?

It depends on your needs. If you’re looking to quickly set up a basic small business website, then an off-the-shelf option may work just fine. However, if you need something more specific or tailored to your individual needs, then custom development will be the way to go.

Technical performance of off-the-shelf themes versus custom themes can also be a factor. If you need a faster loading website, then custom development might be the better option as it can help optimise your website’s speed and performance.

Custom WordPress theme development

A custom WordPress theme is a unique design created specifically for your website. It will typically include themes, layouts, styles and templates that are not available in any other template or plugin. Themes usually also include additional features such as custom widgets, menus and shortcodes.

What is a WordPress theme?
A WordPress theme is a set of files that define the design and functionality of your site. These files are written using HTML, CSS, PHP, JavaScript and other web programming languages.

Custom WordPress plugin development

A custom plugin is a unique piece of software that adds new features or functionality to your website. It can be something as simple as a contact form or something more complex like an ecommerce store.

Plugins are usually developed by third-party developers, so it’s important to make sure you’re working with someone reliable and experienced in developing exactly what you need.

How to choose a custom WordPress developer

Freelancer, agency, or do-it-yourself?

When it comes to building WordPress websites, there are a few different options available. You can either hire a freelance developer, work with an agency or try and do it yourself.

Each option has its own pros and cons, so it’s important to consider your budget, timeline and specific requirements before making a decision.

Pros and consFreelance custom WordPress developerCustom WordPress development companyDo-It-Yourself custom WordPress development
✓ Pros✓ Generally cheaper than an agency

✓ Can be more flexible with timelines
✓ Access to a larger team of experienced developers

✓ Better support for long-term projects
✓ Cost effective

✓ You have complete control over the development process
✗ Cons✗ Skillset may be limited

✗ Less access to resources
✗ Usually more expensive than freelancers

✗ Timeline can be fixed
✗ You need to know what you’re doing and have enough time to dedicate to the project

✗ No access to professional support or resources

Risks when hiring a developer

Hiring a developer for custom WordPress development can be risky if you’re not careful. Make sure you do plenty of research on the person or company you’re working with and read customer reviews. Always make sure that your developer is experienced and that they have a portfolio of past projects to back it up.

How much does custom WordPress development cost?

The cost of custom WordPress development varies depending on the complexity and size of your project.

Usually, the more complex or time-consuming the project is, the higher the cost will be. WordPress developers usually charge by the hour or by the project, so it’s important to understand exactly what you’re getting for your money before committing to a developer.

Ongoing maintenance considerations

Once your custom WordPress development project is complete, there are certain maintenance considerations that you should take into account. This includes regular updates to the themes and plugins, security scans and performance checks. Make sure you discuss these with your developer before you commit to a project.

Is custom development slower than using an existing template?
It depends on the complexity of your project. Some custom WordPress development projects can take a long time if they’re particularly complicated and require multiple iterations. However, some simple changes can be made quickly and easily with pre-existing templates and plugins.

How to do custom WordPress development – step by step

How to do custom WordPress development

  1. Wireframing and information architecture

    Before starting any custom WordPress development project, it’s important to lay out the information architecture and create a wireframe prototype. This will give you an idea of how your website will be structured and what features need to be included. It also helps to identify potential problems that could occur during the development process.

  2. Interface design

    Once the wireframe is complete, the next step is to design the interface. This includes creating a mockup of how the website will look and deciding on colors, fonts and images that will be used in the design.

  3. Developing the theme

    The third step is to create a custom WordPress theme that meets your requirements. This includes creating the HTML and CSS files, as well as integrating any other features such as a contact form or ecommerce functionality. At the very minimum, a WordPress theme must consist of an index.php and a style.css

  4. Integrating plugins

    Plugins are used to add extra features and functionality to your website. This can include anything from SEO optimisation tools to image galleries and social media widgets. When choosing plugins, make sure they are well coded and up-to-date to avoid any compatibility issues.

  5. Testing and debugging

    Once the development process is complete, it’s important to test the website thoroughly for any bugs or errors. This includes running tests on different browsers, devices and operating systems as well as testing user experience features such as form submission or search functions.

  6. Launch

    Once all the tests have been completed and any issues have been resolved, it’s time to launch the website. This includes optimising the website for performance and ensuring that all content is correctly indexed by search engines such as Google. It’s also important to set up backups in case of any unexpected problems or outages.


When it comes to custom WordPress development, there are a few common questions that need to be answered. Here is a list of frequently asked questions:

What is custom WordPress development?

Custom WordPress development involves creating bespoke themes, plugins and websites from scratch or modifying existing themes and plugins in order to meet a client’s specific needs. It requires in-depth knowledge of HTML, CSS and JavaScript as well as the ability to work with WordPress API’s.

What are the advantages of custom WordPress development?

Custom development allows you to create a website that is tailored to your specific needs. This means that the site can be designed and built exactly how you want it, with no compromises. Additionally, custom development allows for greater flexibility and scalability, so your website can grow as your business does.

Is bespoke WordPress development worse than pre-existing options?

In some cases, it may be better to use off-the-shelf themes and plugins rather than custom development. If your needs can be met with an existing solution, then this may be the best option in terms of cost and time. However, if you require a unique solution that cannot be satisfied by existing options, then custom development is the way to go.

How much does custom WordPress development cost?

The cost of custom WordPress development will vary depending on the scope of the project, the complexity of the design, and the skill and experience level of the developer. Generally speaking, custom development can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars for simple modifications to several thousand dollars or more for complex projects.

In conclusion, custom WordPress development can provide an efficient and effective way of creating bespoke themes, plugins and websites tailored to your specific needs. It is important to understand the risks involved when hiring a developer and to evaluate different options for your project in terms of cost, timeline and skill level. It is also essential to make sure you are aware of the ongoing maintenance requirements for your project.

By following this guide, you should be able to find a reliable developer and get the most out of your development journey! Good luck!

ⓘ Compare prices?

Important – The information provided in our articles is intended to be for general purpose use only, and not advice for you or your business. We strive to publish accurate information, but encourage you to fact-check and seek expert guidance. You should always speak to a qualified professional to get tailored advice about how to operate your business under your specific requirements and circumstances.