It’s no secret that businesses acknowledge the importance of a nice-looking website to present their profile in an online environment. An effective and well-designed website is capable of speaking for the company more accurately than the office or printed materials, such as marketing brochures, booklets or newsletters. Not surprisingly, websites have become not only digital marketing tools but also salespersons to boost the business sales.
Therefore, businesses and individuals are striving to find the best solution for a professional website that will best represent their brand. If you are considering starting a website, you will face a dilemma whether to use a website template or a custom web design.
With a large number of web designers and millions of website templates available it has become quite easy and affordable to have a website up. To say nothing of template-based website platforms that are driving the web design industry by providing the tools necessary for creating an elegant and responsive website.
Still, many entrepreneurs don’t really understand the benefits and pitfalls of the two options. This often leads to uninformed decisions, as a result of which both the website owner and the designer are left dissatisfied with the outcome. This article lends itself to provide guidelines for choosing the better option by presenting factors to take into account as well as a brief list of pros and cons of website templates and custom designs.
What is a custom web design and what is a template?
When we talk about website templates we refer to website layout coded with specific technologies, such as HTML, CSS, WordPress, Joomla that can be customized with content, images, videos or any style elements to build up a complete website. Templates are known to simplify the whole web development process, enabling people with little or no programming experience to build their own websites.
A custom web design, on the other hand, is a design layout developed by expert web designers from scratch. With tailor-made navigation, information architecture, graphics and website functionalities all features are meant to meet a company’s unique specifications. Custom web design involves a great amount of strategic planning before starting the design works and therefore requires more time.
Before taking a route, it’s important to note that there isn’t a definite right or wrong answer as to which one is the best. Your choice will be determined based on factors, such as your budget, time, brand requirements which also define your website objectives. Essentially, in order for your website to match your unique needs, closely consider the factors listed below, as well as the benefits and drawbacks of the two options.
Initial Cost and On-going Expenses
Businesses are always striving to save money when it comes to making an investment. When building a website, your choice will mostly depend on your budget.
Comparing the two options with respect to pricing, website templates appear the more affordable ones. Selecting a website template will cost much less than hiring a web designer for a custom design. There is a wide range of free and paid templates available on the net to choose from. You can easily find templates as cheap as $25 in online marketplaces, independent theme shops and directories. There are pricey templates as well costing up to $190, yet their price does not normally exceed the cost of the web designer’s service.
A custom web design costs $400 for a simple design and can go as expensive as more than $2000 based on the designer’s qualifications, skills as well as your specific requirements. Some web designers will charge extra expenses for a consultation or a mock-up design. However, most agencies and designers are eager to work with quite a reasonable price if you entrust your project to them and rely on their experience.
Therefore, it will cost you much cheaper to obtain a website template in the short run. However, whether it will be effective in the long-run as well, is questionable. Starting low-cost you may end up spending more money on your website as your brand grows. As your business has a wider scope, you will evidently be faced with the need to upgrade your website which will result in additional expenses. Thus, consider your business needs before going for the cheaper option in the first place.
If you need a personal website, a small blog, a small business website or a site to showcase your photography skills or painting skills, then you’d better choose the template route. In these cases, you will most likely not need major changes in the long-run and can get without extra expenses. On the other hand, if you are expecting your business to undergo considerable changes and grow in scope, you will need advanced functionality tailored to your needs. In view of this, you should go for a custom design in the first place to avoid additional expenses in the future. Switching to a custom design later will cost additional charges and negatively affect your website traffic.
Brand identity and Creativity
Brand identity is an underlying factor to consider while deciding to choose a template or a custom web design for your website. Your brand is your product, service or concept that lets you stand out among other products, services or concepts. If you have well-established branding guidelines that reflect who you are as a company, then a custom solution is best for you. Custom design revolves around your brand incorporating your business goals, mission, strategies, brand requirements, and so forth.
Expert designers are capable of providing unlimited design possibilities with their excellent skills and expertise. You’d prefer to have an eye for creativity along with your brand identity and provide unique user experience to your visitors. With branding in mind, define your preferred colors, typeface, and navigation styles to apply in your website. As a matter of fact, it is advisable to explore several websites of your preference, highlight features that appeal to you and ask your web designer to come up with a mock-up with those in mind.
Very often, however, you will not have an idea what the final outcome will look like. For this reason, you might be tempted to go down the route of a web template. There may be quite creative and appealing web templates available but they are not able to fully convey your brand identity no matter how hard you try to make a suitable selection. In addition, be mindful that a template you select may have been downloaded hundreds of times and you cannot ban future downloads or purchases. This said, there is a good chance that your website will have several “clones” on the Internet despite the customizations you have made.
Websites that are custom built can forge a personalized feel for your concept, your brand, and your vision. If you have strict expectations for brand presentation and creative solutions, custom design is the better solution. It connects to your audience, customers and investors in the most incredible way possible providing excellent user experience. Even though website templates offer hundreds of customization options they are not sufficient to achieve what you could with custom web design. If branding is not a concern for you, at least at the initial phases of your business, templates are great alternatives to save money and time.
Time is money. With the modern web development solutions, you can get your website up-and-running in a few hours with a template or a few months with a custom design.
Today purchasing or downloading a free template is a matter of minutes. All you need is to spot a proper theme, make several tweaks, add the content and your website is ready. As a start-up company seeking to promote your activities online, this hasty decision is well-justified. Likewise, for a personal website or portfolio to publish authentic artworks, the template route is quite efficient. Indeed, it is an ideal option if you are short in time and need to ensure your online presence.
In the case of a custom design, as opposed to templates, you would not expect to go from idea to launch any sooner than two weeks for a simple design. As it requires due care and diligence, creating a custom web design is quite time-consuming. A design with over five pages and full of graphics will take up to two months.
Given time constraints and growing demands of you company you will very often be tempted to opt for a template irrespective of your company size and growing needs. However, like in the case of pricing, as templates are not easily customized, you will eventually come to realize the drawbacks of your choice. While templates may save time at the start off, in the long run you may waste more time on website updates and maintenances during which your website will often be down.
If you are not limited in time and want to get it right, don’t rush for a template. A tailor-made suit will fit better than a ready-made one purchased from the shop right away. Allow sufficient time on website design in the initial phase, so that you may win in the long run. Your website designer will ensure that your site does just what you want it to do and will make your further design changes unnoticeable.
Two in one: SEO-friendly and responsive.
Today, it has become inevitable to start a website without considering whether it is Search Engine Optimized and responsive.
Regardless of your website type, you will need to attract more traffic into your website with the help of search engines. SEO is a necessary component for both small and large businesses, individuals and corporations. If the search engines are not connecting your website to our target audience, then everything else goes in vain. Still, with many people aware of the relevance and importance of search engine optimization, they have no idea how their websites should be optimized.
With a custom design, you will largely have no worries about SEO as it will allow you to incorporate on-site SEO as most web designers are well-aware of its importance. With website templates, however, there are often restrictions for SEO. Some website themes are not optimized for search engines. Henceforth, many website owners have to hire SEO specialists to work towards improving their website ranking. Nonetheless, if your website is not easily customizable, a SEO specialist will not appear very helpful. The only area that will benefit for SEO would be your website content, which is often limited in characters due to limitations of space on the template layout.
Another important feature of a modern website is its accessibility on mobile devices. While most templates in the market are responsive, i.e., they resize, fit, move the content according to different screen sizes, many of them don’t offer the exclusive feel-and-look as custom designs do. You might find an incredible template on the web later to find out that the mobile version is not as professional-looking as the desktop one.
While choosing a website template, pay attention to choose a SEO-friendly template to avoid hiring a SEO specialist. Many templates lack this essential and/or are not easily customized to make the website Search engine optimized. With responsive design being in the core of website development, you should be careful that your selected template supports this feature. By hiring the right web designer, your website will be built in a way that it is easily indexed by search engines and is fully responsive for smartphones and tablets.
Custom websites offer more flexibility in terms of customization, adapting to your brand needs and creating an outstanding design. However, with regard to pricing and time, templates are becoming more and more popular. They are good alternative for companies or individuals that seek to establish a web-presence quickly and affordably. Templates allow both users and designers to save their time as they don’t necessarily have to keep in contact while implementing the template.
Nevertheless, web templates do not go hand-in-hand with extensive functionalities but are great choice for companies with a limited scope. For growing companies for which brand identity is instrumental, a custom design will offer complete reflection of your goals, mission and vision. Bear in mind that web designers are professionals competent to produce outstanding layouts. There is no necessity to control their each and every choice in color and shape. Providing clearly defined branding guidelines, you will be granted with an impressive custom website design to build up your online business.
Finally, be mindful that as your business will grow, so should your website. Whether you’re building a custom site or implementing a template consider the extent to which you will need to make modifications. Very often you will have to hire a specialist to carry out on-going support. The same holds true for SEO if your website template is not compatible with search engines.
To sum up, have a look at the chart below to compare the benefits and drawbacks of the two options
|Benefits||– Affordable for small businesses or individuals with limited budgets|
– Demands shorter development time
– The look of the final product is known from the start
– There is a lot of choice with abundance of designs available
– Great for simple websites, such as a brochure website or a blog site
|– Provides unique look-and-feel|
– Fully represents the brand
– More adaptable to the company needs
– Most have room for expansion as the company grows
– Most are fully customizable
– Most have advanced functionality
– Most provide customized support
– Great for growing businesses
|Drawbacks||– The same template is used for multiple websites|
– Not exclusive styles
– Some are not search engine-friendly
– Most have limited functionality
– Most have limitations on customization
– Some have unnecessary built-in features and functionality that may weigh the website down
– Some are not responsive
– Most design features that don’t fit your brand
|– Demands longer development time|
– Demands increased cost
– The look of the final product is not known from the start