If you’re building a website for the first time, it can be daunting to know where to start or even just understanding the available options. Your options for creating a website range from cheap do-it-yourself solutions to fully custom websites with all the bells and whistles. Somewhere in the middle of this spectrum of choices lie 2 popular options: website setup and website customization.

This article will explain these starter options so you can decide if this is the route you should go.

Website Setup

Website setups are the most basic option available and are a step up from building the website yourself. A typical website setup package will include a website developer installing the WordPress software, an off-the-shelf theme, and configuring all the important settings. This is a budget option, as there is minimal work for the developer because they are simply putting off-the-shelf components together and not writing any code for your site.

Website setup packages usually also include some personalization. For instance, you should be able to add your own logo, and change the colours to match your branding.

Because this option makes use of off-the-shelf components, it’s important to choose the right design and layout that will best get your message across at the outset. A photographer wanting to showcase their portfolio will likely want a very different look to a financial services firm. Knowing your goals, you must then choose a website theme (design) that has most or all of the features you need. The website developer will then create your website with the chosen theme.

Prices for a basic website setup start from around $100. Graphically Designing offers a ‘24 hour website’ package which includes a theme installation, site setup, installation of plugins and updated colours and fonts. Web design studio Restored 316 will install and setup one of the themes from their shop at a similar price point in their ‘Sparkle’ package.

Graphically Designing's website packages.
Graphically Designing’s website packages. Let Susan know we sent you 🙂

Both Graphically Designing and Restored 316 offer higher value packages with a more extensive scope of work (Semi-custom and Shine respectively). These higher value packages are the 2nd option we’ll explore today – Theme customization.

Theme Customization

This is the next level up from a basic website setup and costs more because the developer spends more time with you to modify the theme to include more customized elements. They may even add new features to the site by installing and configuring additional plugins.

The additional work means that customization packages will cost more than website setups; expect to pay about $500 onward for packages like this. If you need custom graphic elements as well, expect to incur graphic design fees too.

While a basic website set-up is like buying a car with standard options, a customization package is akin to getting a custom paint job, upgrade air-conditioning, a new stereo system and better suspension.

A visual example may help to illustrate the point. The Metro theme is a popular theme made by theme company StudioPress. It features a cool background fade-in effect and here’s what it looks like without any customizations:

Metro theme by StudioPress
Metro theme by StudioPress. Click to view demo site.

The Web Princess and Phase Creative used it as the base for hiking and adventure blog Lotsafreshair. With a bright color scheme it looks quite different from the original Metro theme, but the work and investment involved was only for the design elements and didn’t involve creating the theme from scratch.

Lotsafreshair was built on top of the Metro theme. Click to view site.
Lotsafreshair was built on top of the Metro theme. Click to view site.

David Coleman’s popular photo blog – Have Camera Will Travel – is another example of a site built on the Metro theme. This example has more extensive customizations to the layout, but you can still see it still sports the Metro theme footer and background fade-in effect.

Have Camera Will Travel was built on top of the Metro theme. Click to view site.
Have Camera Will Travel was built on top of the Metro theme. Click to view site.

Here’s another example where an off-the-shelf theme has been tweaked to provide a unique look. Parallax Pro is another popular theme from StudioPress. It features a full-width, edge-to-edge layout with parallax scrolling effect on the images. Here’s how it looks:

Parallax Pro by StudioPress. Click to view demo
Parallax Pro by StudioPress. Click to view demo site.

Michelle Martello of Minima Designs swapped out the fonts, added some color and an email optin bar for a stylish, professional website design.

Minima Designs is built on top of Parallax Pro. Click to view site.
Minima Designs is built on top of Parallax Pro. Click to view site.

A theme customization is still a much cheaper option than designing and developing a website from scratch, but you get a more personalized result than a basic website setup. It may be a good halfway option if you need something a bit more specific, but don’t have a large budget.

Typically, customization packages have a set number of custom elements to keep the scope of work predictable and manageable. However if you need more features and more customizations, the cost can balloon quickly.

Molly and Luanne at Clean Food Dirty Girl recently revamped their website. They had wanted to use a customized version of Parallax Pro, but ended up adding an email signup form, latest blog posts, testimonials and even removed the parallax feature. They even got a new logo and professional photos taken.

Clean Food Dirty Girl's design was inspired by Parallax Pro. Click to view site.
Clean Food Dirty Girl’s design was inspired by Parallax Pro. Click to view site.

Although you can see that the result is inspired a lot by Parallax Pro’s design, the site and theme is quite different. The cost of a project like this would far exceed an ordinary customization package and is closer to a fully custom website solution. Theme customization is more flexible but can add up in cost too, so keep additional modifications to a minimum if you are on a budget.

Ready For Your Own Website?

I hope I’ve managed to explain the differences between website setup and website customization packages. If you have decided on the best option for you, please let us know in the comments and how you arrived at that decision. I’m sure others would find your reasons helpful as they figure out the best options for themselves.

Now that you understand the options, I’d like to invite you to explore ClickWP’s own website setup package. Our ClickStart package includes website setup, basic design customizations and essential optimizations like social sharing buttons and a [email protected] email address from only $200. Learn more about ClickStart or get in touch if you have questions.

Reader Interactions


  1. Cath from PhaseCreative

    Awesome post David, and great to see it explained visually. Customising a pre-prepared code-base can streamline the process of getting a unique site. If the functionality you need is already in place, the case for customisation is a good one. Love you work!

  2. David

    Thanks everyone for your positive feedback! This post was a collaboration between myself and our new guest author Larissa. I just supplied the idea and screenshots, Larissa did all the hard work writing and editing 🙂

  3. Helena - DIY Website Coach

    This is such a great article – thank you for starting the conversation.

    It’s so important for beginners & new entrepreneurs coming into the web space to know there are affordable options for them to get a new, professional and beautiful looking website and that DIY isn’t their only option, nor do they need to spend thousands and thousands before they can afford it.
    We started offering a Theme Installation & Setup Service with some customisation 4 months ago and it’s been very popular – and it’s an awesome feeling to be able to help people get their blog or business off the ground quickly and affordably.
    David, thanks for inviting me to share what my business is offering in this area of the market – http://www.diywebsitecoach.com/services/

    • David

      Hi Helena! Thanks for stopping by. You are so right that DIY and professional design / development are not the only options. Your coaching services are very valuable too because we know from personal experience some customers really need it! I’ll definitely be recommending you to the ones who may not be the best fit for us. Cheers 🙂

    • Larissa

      It’s true Helena – it can be a little overwhelming for first-timers like me to realise there are other affordable options aside from DIY, especially if one isn’t a tech guru!