Website Design: Template vs. Custom

When it comes to website design, there are two main routes to take: Template or Custom Build.  

Each option has its own merits and reasons as to why it may be a good choice for a particular business. This page will give an overview of both types of design, what that entails, and the reasons why they may or may not be a good choice (depending on the company).

Contents

What is a Template Design?

A website design built on a template simply means that the layout and general design of the site is already complete, and the information unique to the business that has ordered the site will be implemented into what has already been built. There are thousands of website templates in existence, with hundreds of different sites dedicated solely to providing them. The great thing about templates is that as the web design industry evolves, the possibilities for how good templates can be evolve with it.

When a template is being used, typically the only things that are changed during the web design process are the content and the logo. This means that, for the most part, what you see is what you get. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as it cuts down on the time needed to get through the creative and production processes. This doesn't mean that a website built on a template can't separate itself from the competition, though. Providing excellent imagery and site content will always be the best way to accomplish that.

What is a Custom Design?

A custom website design is exactly what it sounds like - a site built from the ground up based on the vision that the customer has. Custom Web Design consists of much more than simply creating a unique look and color scheme. It also involves a significant amount of strategy. Such strategy includes user-centric design, which is a design layout and interface that centers around the user and aims to make site navigation as easy as possible. The average internet user is somewhat impatient, and will browse through websites quickly. It's easy for them to hit the back button and find something else, and custom website designs are instrumental in capturing the attention of a site visitor and keeping them on the page. This is the main difference between custom and template designs. Custom designs allow for greater strategy in presentation and marketing.

Advantages/Disadvantages

Template:
Advantages

  • Can get up and running very quickly
  • Minimal cost to the client
  • You know what you will get, with very little chance for being unhappy with the result
  • You're left with more time for marketing, instead of working on the website

Disadvantages

  • There is a good chance that several other companies will have a site that is very similar to yours
  • Less opportunity for customization to impress site visitors and enhance their experience
  • Less room for expansion. Many templates come with a set number of site pages and menu links
  • Not always built to be search engine friendly

Custom:

Advantages

  • Unique design built to reflect your vision of the company
  • Search engine friendly, more opportunity for search engine optimization
  • Room for expansion when you want the site to grow
  • Opportunity for the "wow factor" that will keep visitors on the site
  • The site will be planned out in a much more user-friendly fashion, customized to meet industry-specific site needs
  • Will typically be more secure

Disadvantages

  • Longer development time
  • Increased cost
  • No example of what the end design will look like

Choosing a Route

There are several factors that go into deciding which design option is right for a particular company. While custom website designs will always be more effective than a template, it may not always be the right choice. It's important to think about what you want out of the site itself, and how much effort you are going to be able to put into your online efforts prior to making a decision. If an online presence is only supplementary to your business, and won't make or break your success.  

For example, the right choice for a restaurant may be a template, because it won't break the bank and it will quickly meet the minimal needs for added foot traffic.

However, if an online presence will be instrumental to the growth and success of your business, it would be wise to take the extra time and expense to create an outstanding website.

For example, an eCommerce website lives and dies based on exposure, traffic, and conversions. For this reason, a custom website design will benefit you much more in the long run.