Custom Websites vs. Templates

Custom Websites vs. Templates
in: The Basics

Anyone who owns a business or runs a company of any sort, will be in the market for a website at one point or another. A common question they may ask themselves is, “Do I want to get a custom designed site through a design firm, or should I just make a site from one of those website template sites? What is the difference?” Our goal for this post is to cover general knowledge of both template websites and custom websites as well as pros and cons for each.


Questions people will want to consider when determining what route is best for them will include:

- “Which option would be more profitable for my company?”
- “Which one will make our company stand out among the masses?”
- “Which method will adequately grow and change with along with our company’s progress?”

Before deciding which is a better option for you, a good rule of thumb is to become educated on the differences between the two. A template is exactly how it sounds: pre-designed and pre-built. There are thousands of template building companies out there that generate templates to sell to people wanting to make simple sites. Each template is built specifically built to be simple and generic. This way, whether you are a corporate salesman or a professional dog walker, each template has a genuine chance of being the “one” for you. But that’s just it. What you might find to be the “one” for you, has probably also been the “one” for hundreds of other people just like you. There is usually a place for a logo, some content areas, some kind of generic design in the background, and a footer area. Sometimes they will make cheeky little design decisions like using lots of straight lines and dark colored patterns to give it a professional look, or maybe a pencil cup and a big chalky A+ to represent an educational feel. For the most part though, these designs are very basic and let’s face it...dull. Every once in a while you may stumble upon a stunning template design and you might think to yourself “Wow for a template that looks pretty great!” But think about this. Imagine going to a sales meeting to pitch your new product. You show your audience your website with your fancy new template, only to discover your competition has pitched their product at a previous sales meeting and has the same exact website template. Alas, a third interviewee comes in and has a fresh, originally designed website tailored to their product’s selling points, features and benefits.. Obviously the third is the most impressive and unique.

Custom websites are an entirely different creature. No matter what concept or product your business is trying to sell, after finding the right design firm, you will have an opportunity with their creative team and start a brand new idea for a custom design geared to make your efforts a success. Not only will the outcome be top of the line and trendy, but it will be functional and easy to maintain. With a custom website designed by a professional firm, you will have great ongoing support and, if properly built, a flexible website that will be able to change with the times. It may be a larger initial investment, but the originality and flexibility of a website designed to your specific needs can potentially save time and effort over the life of your website. When a designer starts a new custom site design, they start out with a blank screen. What this means to you, is that the sky's the limit as far as pushing the boundaries in the design world. This is the biggest difference between a custom design and a template. A blank canvas to Van Gogh, is like a blank screen to a designer. Templates can be seen as more or less a paint by number. You have a tiny bit of leeway as far as making decisions, but it will never be entirely unique.

Since we have listed the cons of website templates in the previous paragraphs, we must say, that there IS a time and place for templates. If your company is just starting out and you don’t really have much budget at all to play with, a template might be the way to go. They are cheap, and simple. It probably won’t get you far by way of productivity, but if you just want to get your name out there, you may want to consider a template. Look high and low and to do your research as far as deciding what template to use. Each template can offer a completely different variety of customization. It won’t ever be as elaborate or impressive as a custom website, but one template might let you have a lot more editing freedom while another one may give you much less flexibility. Let’s take a detailed look at the pros and cons of each route.

Custom Designed Website Pros and Cons:
  • the most obvious benefit of a custom website is that the entire look and feel will be based upon your company’s branding which will make it stand out as a stronger cohesive unit in comparison to “templatey” looking sites
  • support is a huge benefit for building a custom website. Assuming the company you choose to build your site has a good reputation, they will always be there for your tech needs.
  • a custom site will fluidly grow as your business does. If you have ideas about what your site will need to do in the future, the professional designers and developers will work with those ideas in mind so that your site matures flawlessly
  • custom sites will be search engine friendly and be geared to your specific marketing needs
  • your site will consistently be tested across all browsers
  • a custom designed website will be developed to the buyers exact specifications, so it will function precisely how the buyer wants or needs it to
  • a custom built website is more flexible to the buyers needs. If you all of a sudden need a chart that you want to function and look a certain way, a creative team can get that done in no time whereas a template wouldn’t have that feature built in.
  • when buying a custom website, you have the option of requesting a CMS(Content Management System) which will allow you to have the best of both worlds. A creative team will create the perfect design for your company and then the development team will build a CMS within the site so that the buyer can manage content themselves from wherever they are
  • because a custom site is built from scratch, the user experience will be a much more pleasant one because the navigation can be well thought out based on the buyer's overall goals. Having an easy to navigate website isn’t always possible with templates.
  • the process of making a custom design takes longer than picking a template
  • a custom website typically costs more than a template
Website Template Pros and Cons:
  • templates have a shorter development time and are therefore cheaper upfront
  • templates are ideal for a very low budget
  • templates can be made without any code knowledge(html/css)
  • any businesses or companies that practice the same trade as you might be using the same template which means your site could look cheap or not stand out among the crowd
  • since you can’t track down the exact person who built your template, it is not likely that the support will be a good as a custom site’s support team
  • adding ecommerce to template sites is often impossible with templates. if it is offered, the quality of functionality is likely to be subpar
  • templates might not be tested on all browsers so there’s a chance your site won’t look right on some of them
  • the customization of a template site is strictly limited to what you see in the template demo
  • when adding images or content to a template site, it must fit within the predetermined restrictions of the template’s structure
  • some templates are not built to be search engine friendly
  • user experience isn’t always easy or even possible to control in templates. you want your website to be navigable or viewers will get frustrated and leave your site
  • a very dangerous con here is filtered under security. website hackers tend to want to attack templates more often because it presents the opportunity to hack more than one site at a time

When creating a new website, basically one might say that you get what you pay for. There are definitely some circumstances where a template might benefit your cause in the meantime. But no one uses training wheels forever. If you are aiming for long term commitment and financial success, there is no doubt that a custom solution is your answer.

Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you make an informed decision on what method may be best for you.

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