Will Developer Themes Make Custom Website Design, History?

It's no secret that websites come in many flavours from good, to bad, to frankensite. As a result, we've set out to eliminate the worst and make the first one better. Our aim is to build a more beautiful, productive website for every client, and this is how we're doing it.

The good. The bad, The frankensite.

For the record, good sites focus on delivering clear messaging. They load fast, and look great. And, they’re easy to use (for site owners and visitors, alike).

You know what bad sites look like. They're ugly or slow (or both). Worse, they're vague, asking visitors to Subscribe or Buy Now without any trust-building effort, blindly ignorant of what the visitor needs. They've likely been written for (or by) the business, instead of the customer. Or they have been cobbled together by a technical team, easy for them to operate, not so easy for the client to use.

And then there’s the frankensite…a website so stuffed with differing technologies and bloated with (or lacking) content, that people leave faster that they arrive.

Businesses who have bad sites talk about them in terms of embarrassment. To them, their website is painful. Not because it looks bad, but because it’s hurting their business. Lowering their reputation. Killing deals. They have an urgency to change, to redesign, or to go to a new agency.

There are options.

  1. Install a Starter theme
  2. Design & Develop a custom site
  3. Install and configure a Developer theme.

Starter themes

Truth...I’ve never met a client who didn’t like the sound of free. I like the sound of free. You probably do too. Until we see what free gets us, of course.

In fairness, free (in a website sense,) can be a solid win if your website needs are nominal.

Simple websites don’t require a lot of bells and whistles. If your website is that simple, a Starter theme from a marketplace may work perfectly. It’s why these themes exist. In HubSpot, the Free and Starter level CMSs are made for these types of easy sites.

Keep in mind that Starter themes are just that. You’ll probably need to lay out pages and adjust styling for every module…things like padding, margin, etc. While those actions only take a moment each…add them up and it can mean real time and effort. If you're an agency, be sure to bill for that effort. If you're a client, consider doing it yourself. It's easy, just time-consuming.

Starter themes can come at a cost.

Expect limited features, layouts, and manual design efforts. Sometimes these limits can send a client looking for a new theme. This is where things start to go wrong.

Most marketplace themes and templates are filled with gorgeous photos, fancy animations, and powerful text…all engineered to impress. Let’s call that “marketing.”


Marketplace themes feature beautiful photos and professional copy which influences us to select that theme, regardless if the features meet our needs. When this new theme doesn’t meet your needs, it’s back to the marketplace to select yet another theme...a vicious cycle of frustration that distracts from sales and marketing. The things that make us money and grow our businesses.

This approach doesn't solve problems. In fact, changing themes often leads to frustration, which leads to changing website partners, which isn't good for anyone.

In a nutshell, Starter themes are fine for DIY projects and simple websites. Anything more will require one of the next two website options.

Custom website design and development

We all love custom website design, because we care about how a new site will look and function. Custom design helps us be in control…a confirmation that our website is special. (Tip: It's not, really. It's just a tool...powerful if we do it right...but not special. There are millions (billions?) of them out there.)

On the flip side, we fear the budget. Clients (us, too) will spend countless hours writing RFPs, interviewing prospective partners, scoring responses, and justifying the investment to internal stakeholders.

Then, once budgets are approved, marketers come under dire pressure to get it done. It's a gamble for marketers. A bad experience can cost marketers their jobs, while a good experience can result in a promotion. Such a gamble makes a website redesign (or website migration) both exciting and stressful at the same time.

When it goes wrong, scope creep gets real. Complexity gets real. Budgets grow, re-negotiations happen, and deadlines are missed. All at a cost to sales and marketing (in the form of delays and lost opportunities).

For the vast majority these projects, in the end, clients just want to get it done.

A new reality emerges: changes. Design and development is in essence, custom manufacturing. Clients ask why "that" wasn’t that included? Wasn’t that your job? Why is it their responsibility? Who’s going to pay for that? Assuming the scope of work was met, the client pays of course…just before they start looking for a new website partner.

In all fairness, this is just one scenario. Many projects get completed without issue. They just take time and money. We've all got loads of that, right? ;)

Developer theme configuration

Enjoying the speed and usability of a starter theme, alongside the feature set of custom development, a developer theme becomes the great equalizer.

  • It’s a set of pre-developed modules and code files that are configured to a client’s brand. Fast.
  • Page edits can be made by marketers. Fast.
  • New templates can be created by marketers. Without developers. Fast.
  • Budget approvals are easier to get. Fast.
  • Marketers can modify the templates on-page. Fast.

Developer themes eliminate almost all of the time lost to custom development work, including the huge budget. In reality, they can make custom design & development efforts a waste of time. Exceptions happen of course, but wow, what a head start!

With DropZone Pro Theme, the portal license includes 10 hours of expert technical and strategic support (post-configuration or post-launch) to further customize the theme components if desired.


It really is a win, win, win, for everyone involved. Faster to market. Simplified delivery. Warranted.

The bonus benefit nobody talks about

Future redesigns are a re-configuration of the theme and modules. No more starting from scratch. No more lost data. No more frustrating or costly projects. No more broken links. Just a reconfiguration effort, even on a live site. You will NEVER need to purchase a new theme or enter a design and development project again. You can focus on sales and marketing. You can focus on leveraging your website to advance your work and convert your leads, instead of focusing on “the website.”

Nirvana? Maybe not, but it's as close as website design gets.


The Win, Win, Win scenario

If you are a partner in our DropZone Pro Theme partner program, refer your clients DropZone Pro Theme for HubSpot CMS. We reward you for helping your client get their best website ever with a 10% commission on portal license sales. And, we may engage your team to deploy DropZone Pro Theme. Pricing is set to sit at the lowest end of the custom design and development range - so it's affordable, while reflecting the 900+ hours we’ve committed to the theme’s development so far.

The theme includes 20+ advanced custom modules, eight UX-optimized templates, code files, and benefits such as 10 hours of technical support, 1st year of AccessiBe (Ai-enabled accessibility optimization to meet compliance laws - get a free accessibility audit), along with quarterly updates. Warranted.

After a year, customers may purchase Premium Support to renew the benefits annually. If they elect not to purchase premium support, the theme is still good to use, there just won’t be updates or the added 10 hours of technical support. Our license allows customers to skip renewals, then renew when needed…that’s no problem. Once renewed the benefits are restarted.

save $4k on a website migration when you license DropZone Theme