Custom WordPress Development vs Elementor for Enterprise

We’re pretty excited to witness more and more large and enterprise scale organisations using tools like Elementor to test out ideas and campaigns on WordPress. This kind of exploration provides a soft landing into WordPress, in the same way that stabilisers help you to ride your first bike.

If you’ve made the choice to use WordPress, that’s a wise one indeed. We probably don’t need to throw the stats at you about how WordPress dominates the CMS market, but you might be looking at your options when it comes to content management for your brand.

Exploring your options for content management and page building is a vital task. In fact, it’s a decision that could lead to disaster, or result in resounding success. So, should you look to page builders like Elementor, or head straight for an expertly developed website?

Whilst there’s a tonne of off-the-shelf choice out there, we’re going to look at the two most popular options (from an enterprise perspective) to help you decide:

  1. Elementor, the most widely used drag-and-drop page builder for WordPress; or
  2. Custom theme development, using the Gutenberg editor that’s native to WordPress.

Given that we’re huge fans of WordPress and everything it’s so graciously capable of doing, it really is exciting for us to see brands use no-code solutions like Elementor to create fledgling websites, or test out their ideas and campaigns. There’s also an ideal time to move on and get more serious about a website and the experience on offer to its users.

We’re going to dive into both options, looking at the strengths and weaknesses of Elementor, and explore why custom development may be the better choice for enterprise brands as they scale their digital experiences.


Elementor’s shiny marketing draws you in (kudos!), explaining its easy and cost-effective solution, and making website building accessible to the masses. But using it can limit the level of control over your code and customisation options. This could be problematic for enterprise organisations that require custom solutions, consistency of branding, and integrations with other software.

On the other hand, custom theme development delivers complete control and flexibility. This approach is empowering to enterprise companies when designing a site in line with their unique brand identity, and creating a scalable website for future growth.

Let’s dive into the comparison, and explore why custom theme development may be the better choice for your enterprise brand.

What is Elementor?

Elementor is a pretty popular drag-and-drop page builder plugin for WordPress. It gives you the freedom to easily design and customise a website without writing any code. A pretty neat no-code solution.

Launched in 2016, it quickly gained popularity for its ease of use and affordability for small businesses and freelancers, and now boasts an impressive 5 million plus active instals worldwide.

The Elementor product is paired with a huge library of pre-designed templates and widgets that can be easily customised to fit the needs of pretty much any kind of site. It’s also available in both a free and paid version, with the paid version offering additional features like advanced widgets, a theme builder, a WooCommerce-specific theme builder, and more.

A gif showing the back-end editor experience in Elementor for WordPress
The Elementor page editing experience in WordPress

In a nutshell, with Elementor, users can quickly create beautiful and responsive websites that are optimised for mobile and desktop devices. It’s a great tool for getting started with your first website and is really well suited for small businesses, or large organisations looking to test out new ideas or campaigns.

However, while Elementor may be a tempting option for enterprise brands, it’s important to carefully consider its limitations and potential impact on website performance before making a decision.

Elementor, the pros and cons

While Elementor may seem like an easy and cost-effective solution for building a website, let’s explore both its advantages and drawbacks to help you make an informed decision about your WordPress website framework.

The big strengths of Elementor

There are certainly good reasons brands choose Elementor to build their websites and manage content. As we mentioned earlier, it’s gathered a huge amount of popularity and has millions of active instals. People clearly like it, and as a website tool they’ve gotten a lot of things right.

Let’s take a look at what could be considered the main strengths of Elementor…

Ease of use

With a simple drag-and-drop interface, Elementor makes it easy for non-techy users to create and customise websites without having to write any code.

It’s great for getting started with WordPress, and for people looking to do everything themselves.

Time and cost savings

Elementor’s pre-designed templates and widgets can save time and money compared to custom development, especially for smaller sites or projects with a limited budget.

No WordPress agency or freelancer is needed for Elementor, if you so choose.

Design flexibility

With a pretty hefty library of themes and design templates, Elementor puts on a fine spread of choice for those designing their own website.

You can also get a bit more techy with it if you choose, including the ability to mess with custom CSS and global settings, to create a unique and customised site.

The downsides of using Elementor

Whilst Elementor has some pretty good strengths, there’s a few potential downsides as well, depending on what you’re looking to build.

Let’s take a look at where Elementor falls short…

Limited control over code and code bloat

By its very nature as a website creation tool, Elementor generates rather a lot of code, far more than you would if you created the same site via the custom development route. That’s not a worry or drawback for some, but it’s worth considering the impact on website performance, as well as making it difficult to maintain and troubleshoot in the future.

Of course, this can be especially problematic for enterprise brands who may start out using Elementor and then require custom solutions and integrations later on.

Plugin bloat

Similar to code bloat, Elementor relies heavily on plugins to help create the features and functions you might be looking for from a website. This means your site can quickly become bloated, again impacting website performance and security.

Limited scalability

Whilst Elementor can be expanded with themes and plugins, it’s not a great foundation for creating a truly scalable website. For enterprise brands that expect growth in traffic, usage and website functionality, Elementor’s structure will prove increasingly difficult to manage and maintain.

For this reason, a truly mission critical website should avoid using website builders like Elementor.

Design inconsistency

With Elementor and similar website builders, it’s easy to create a pretty messy website when it comes to visuals and user experience. With so many options available to the content creator, it’s easy to lose brand consistency and create confusion for your users.

In the next section, we’ll take a look at the custom theme development alternative and its pros and cons. After all, who doesn’t like a balanced view to help make an informed decision?

Custom theme development using WordPress, the pros and cons

When you’re having a new website built, custom theme development is a great option that involves building a website from scratch using HTML, CSS, and PHP. Building this way can offer a range of benefits and drawbacks.

Let’s dig into a few of these and explore the other side of the website-shaped coin!

The big strengths of custom theme development in WordPress

Avoiding website builders altogether is a great shout for enterprise brands, but why? Custom theme development in WordPress brings a great number of advantages for organisations looking to benefit from the very best.

A gif showing a demo of the Gutenberg editor in WordPress, built using ACF

Gif demo courtesy of Jason Bahl’s “Two ways to build Gutenberg Blocks”

Let’s take a look at the biggest strengths of custom development…

Complete control over code

Perhaps the most obvious benefit of custom development is the ability to have complete control over a website’s code. No need for fishing through and figuring out someone else’s quirky coding techniques.

With WordPress, developing a custom custom theme allows you to build what’s needed for your brand and ensure it’s optimised for performance, security and tailored to your specific needs.


A very big benefit for brands looking to grow their digital experiences is the scalability on offer when developing a completely custom website. Designers and developers can accommodate for a large amount of content, complex functionality or a site that’ll see significant visitor numbers.


Similar to scalability, custom development also offers literally unlimited design and functional possibilities. When planning your new site, the sky’s the limit. Unlike Elementor where your theme or plugins are the limit, your custom developed site can be customised to fit the unique needs of your brand.

Brand consistency

This is the big advantage of custom theme development that our own clients love, the ability to maintain brand consistency. Within your very own theme, the branding and design is set and content managers can focus on creating and launching great content quickly, without thinking too hard about how things will look when published.

Bristol Waste's website custom developed using WordPress

An example of a custom website for Bristol Waste developed with WordPress

The downsides of custom theme development

Depending on the size and budget of your brand, and the time and resources available to you, there can be some evident downsides to custom theme development, too.

Let’s explore when custom development might not be suitable for you…

Time and cost

There’s no avoiding the truth that custom development can be time-consuming and expensive, especially for enterprise brands that require a high level of customisation.

If you’ve got healthy marketing budgets and are happy to pay WordPress experts for their time, you probably won’t mind this. If you’re looking to create something quick and more rough around the edges, then custom development might not be the right choice.

Technical expertise

Custom development, by its very nature, requires a higher degree of technical expertise than page builders like Elementor. It’s pretty easy to get things wrong if you don’t have experience with a particular platform like WordPress.

This sort of development expertise may not be readily available for some brands, especially when looking to keep things in-house.

Maintenance and updates

Whilst all WordPress websites will require some level of maintenance and regular updates, with custom development the process is often more manual, with a greater sense of technical ownership over your own code and updates.

A screenshot of the plugin updates screen in WordPress
The plugin updates screen in WordPress

Overall, custom theme development gives you complete control over your website’s code and scalability, but can demand a more significant investment of time, money, and technical expertise. In the next section, we’ll pull together what we’ve looked at so far and think about which could be best for your brand.

So… what’s the verdict?

Choosing between Elementor and custom theme development ultimately depends on the unique needs and goals of your enterprise brand.

If you’re looking for a cost-effective and easy-to-use solution for a small website or project, Elementor may be a good option. It offers a range of pre-designed templates and widgets, and its drag-and-drop interface makes it easy to create and customise a website without needing any coding skills.

However, if your enterprise brand requires a scalable website with a large amount of content or complex functionality, custom theme development may be a better option. It allows complete control over your website’s code, ensuring that it’s optimised for performance and tailored to your specific needs.

While Elementor may seem like a quick and easy solution, it can quickly become bloated and limit your ability to scale and customise your website. Custom theme development may require more time, money, and technical expertise, but it offers complete control over your website’s code and scalability.

Ultimately, the decision between Elementor and custom theme development comes down to your enterprise brand’s specific needs and goals. By considering the pros and cons of each option, you can make an informed decision that will set your enterprise brand up for success in the long term.

Overall, whilst Elementor offers a range of benefits, from our experience it’s not the ideal choice for scale-up businesses and enterprise organisations. Larger brands often need custom solutions, mission-critical integrations, space for scalability, and complete control over their website’s code. All things that can only be achieved when developing a custom WordPress website.

WordPress custom theme development for enterprise brands

At Illustrate Digital, we specialise in custom theme development for enterprise brands. We understand the unique needs and challenges that enterprise brands face when it comes to their website, and we’re committed to providing customised solutions that meet their specific needs and goals.

Custom WordPress theme development
Our developers building a custom theme in WordPress

Our custom theme development services offer a range of benefits that are specifically tailored to enterprise brands:

Benefits of Illustrate Digital’s custom theme development services

There are some big benefits when choosing to work with an experienced WordPress agency to develop your website, versus the DIY or generic agency approach.

Here are a few of the benefits of working with our team of development experts at Illustrate Digital…

Strategic direction

Every project we deliver must be driven by strategy, it’s how you know you’re going to get the best results from your new or upgraded WordPress website. Working closely with you, we dedicate time to understanding your business goals and target audience, as well as your wider technology ambitions, to create a plan of action that matches your growth objectives. Begin with the end in mind, as they say.

Focused towards customer experience

Websites built around performance are significantly more likely to rank well in Google, and provide a delightful experience for your users. In practical terms, they’re also far more likely to convert to enquiries or sales. Check out our latest Global Page Speed Report to learn more about the impact of performance on user experience.

Ready for scalability

If you’re part of a large or enterprise-scale organisation, it’s important that your technology and digital experiences are ready to scale as you and your audience does. Our custom theme development services are designed with scalability in mind, allowing you to freely add new features and functionality as your marketing evolves.

Serious about security

Our experience working with banks and governments has led us down a pretty solid path when it comes to security. Pair that with our ISO 27001 certification for information security and you can be sure you’re in very safe hands.

What’s it like working with Illustrate Digital for your custom theme development needs?

There are plenty of reasons our clients love working with us, and how we’ve become some of the best in our field at delivering WordPress development projects for brands like yours.

Headless WordPress Development Agency
Our developers collaborating on a client’s technical strategy

Here are some of the reasons our clients share about loving working with us…

A relationship, not a transaction

Let it never be said that we don’t care about our clients at Illustrate Digital. That’s why we’re very intentional about creating strong, lasting relationships with our clients. Getting to know you and your organisation, and getting to understand your goals and ambitions, we can go further towards helping you succeed and getting results from your digital experiences.

Research and development

The growth of the web never sits still, and nor does our commitment to improving digital experiences and trying out new things. That’s why 10% of our time is dedicated to research, development and innovation. Always pushing the boundaries and forging new, creative solutions on behalf of our clients.

Top industry talent

Our people are, and have always been our ‘secret sauce’ as an agency. Our intentionally people-focused culture helps us to attract and retain some of the industry’s best UX designers and WordPress developers, all ready at your disposal to work on next-level, user-focused projects.

At Illustrate Digital, we’re committed to creating custom websites that help enterprise brands like yours achieve their goals and drive results. Contact us today to learn more about our custom theme development services and how we can help your brand succeed online.