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Custom Website Designs vs. Templates: Which is Best for Your Business?

Updated: Oct 16, 2023

website design on desktop

Picture this:

You’re sitting in front of your computer, and you’re exploring your website design options for your up-and-coming small business. As you cycle through the tabs on your browser, it becomes clear that there are two ways to go about creating your website: with existing templates or completely from scratch. It’s a tough choice, and you can’t help but tilt your head at what might be the best path for your business’ future.

Choosing between templates and custom web designs can be difficult, and the above scenario affects experienced business owners as much as novice entrepreneurs. Whether you’re building your first website or making upgrades to your existing site, it can be challenging to figure out whether a template or something custom will meet your needs. For some businesses, the focus might be minimal costs and quick completion time. But for others, the goal might be stronger and more robust search engine optimization (SEO) in a unique design. To help your business work through all these competing factors and make a responsible decision, this blog outlines some of the most important pros and cons of using custom website designs and using template-based designs.

✔ Pros – Templates

Affordable Cost

One of the immediate draws of using template-based designs is affordability. While building a website used to seem like a daunting and expensive project, there are now many free and inexpensive platforms for both businesses and the everyday content creator to begin building their online presence. The affordable cost of these builders comes from their reliance on templates, most of which are free or come at a small subscription price. Some of these platforms include Wix, WordPress, Squarespace, and GoDaddy, and their process is quick as much as it is cheap: pick your template, upgrade to premium (or stick with a free version), and then launch your website.

Faster to Market

The quick turnaround time of using a website template goes hand in hand with its affordable upfront and long-term costs. The development cycle of a template-based site is significantly shorter than a custom built one. Depending on the purpose of your site and how much content you have, you could have everything ready within a week if you’re on a tight schedule or within a few months if you take your time. The best part of using the features and functions of a template is that your expedited timeline won’t be reflected in your final website at all. For product launches and short notice events, a template-based site is the quickest way to get your service, product, or content into the online market.

Third-Party Application and Plugin Compatibility

Most people who are creating a website with a template usually have a simple purpose in mind. But templates and themes are compatible with thousands upon thousands of third-party apps and plugins that can help you take your website functionality to the next level. WordPress alone has almost 60,000 free plugins for users, including simple forms, image layouts, and spam protection. For more business-focused sites, Wix has over 250 web applications that offer powerful financial and marketing tools. And instead of frustrating yourself with coding and other tedious technicalities, all of these useful apps and plugins can be added into your template-based website quickly and seamlessly.

✘ Cons – Templates

Limited Design Options

Of course, even with the above benefits that save you and your business valuable time and money, template-based websites often have aesthetic limitations. If you only like two of the three colours in one template, you may not be able to swap out the third very easily if at all. If you would rather change a serif font to sans serif, you might only have a select few to choose from. You also run the risk of using the same template as one of your direct competitors, which doesn’t look good for either of you. When it comes down to it, templates and themes are created to make the website-building experience quick and easy and, unfortunately, that often involves some creative sacrifices.

Lack of Mobile Responsiveness

The future of web browsing and content consumption is evidently on mobile devices, but template-based designs don’t always transition well to a phone or tablet screen. Though many web design platforms have taken the step forward in integrating responsive design with their existing templates, the fact of the matter is that not all web elements appear the same on smaller screens. Font sizes can change, text and images can shift, and colour palettes might not be as pleasing for dark mode users. Even if you are aware of problems like these, your template might limit you from fixing them and improving your mobile user experience.

✔ Pros – Custom Designs

Designed Specifically for Your Company

Unlike a template, custom designs are created to align with your company’s brand and capture the attention of your target audiences. With a custom design, your website can quickly stand out from your competitors and bring a new angle or aesthetic to your industry, whether that be through interesting layouts, interactive features, or with a new design trend. A custom design also works to accommodate your content and marketing strategies rather than the other way around in a template. Instead of trying to fit the elements of your business into pre-established boxes, you can make some brand-new ones. As the saying goes, if you can dream it, you (or your designer) can build it.

Attention to SEO from the Start

We often talk about the importance of SEO in our blog entries here at CodeMasters Inc., and it’s for good reason. Strategic and thoughtful SEO is a foundational element of a professional website, and it is crucial for growing your online traffic, increasing your conversion rate, and boosting your website’s ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs). In template-based designs, SEO is either not built into the framework of the template, or it has few settings that users can tweak for their business’ needs. Because of this rigidity, template-based sites rank poorly on SERPs. However, custom designed websites have the advantage of complete SEO control. Your designer can ensure your code is neat and clean, and search engines will always find and attribute value to your website.

Ongoing Technical Support

Custom websites can be complex with advanced features, but thankfully your business can receive reliable and professional technical support from the person who designed it. A design agency (or a freelance designer) functions like an extension of your business’ management or digital marketing team, and the long-term commitment evidently works both ways: they provide the technical support for your site, and you provide them with further project opportunities down the line. Sometimes it can feel intimidating working with a large design agency that manages many websites, but agencies often put clients in direct contact with a project manager to keep tabs on all your digital needs. Smaller agencies, like CodeMasters Inc., can offer even more personable and one-on-one services to make sure your website stays functional.

✘ Cons – Custom Designs

Higher Cost

Custom designs can come with a high price tag to get all the aesthetics and features you desire for your website. Despite the hole in your pocket, most businesses agree that the higher cost of a custom design is worthwhile, especially for brand recognition and building a deeper connection with their clients. Working with a freelance designer might limit some of the costs in comparison with an agency, but the professional support from an agency team can often justify their higher price point. Even so, limited budgets aren’t always a dealbreaker for agencies since many are willing to organize and work out a suitable arrangement before beginning a project.

Extra Effort and Time

The time it takes to build a custom website can be lengthy relative to using a template. Whereas a template can get your site onto the web in under a month, it can take anywhere from four to six months (if not longer) to get a custom website into a publishable state. Of course, a lot of dedication and effort goes into building a custom site, and the process itself can be rewarding for both the business and the designer. The overall turnaround can also fluctuate depending on if you are using a freelancer versus an agency. However, the reality is that custom creations will take more time than a template.

So, what will you use? A template or a custom website design?

While we’ve outlined some of the major pros and cons of template-based websites and custom designs in this blog post, the choice, as always, it up to your business and how you envision achieving your goals for the future. As a design agency, CodeMasters Inc. is here to support you along your website-building journey, whether you’re using a template, a custom design, or trying to find a happy middle. There will always be a lot of decisions to make during the web design process, but we are here to provide credible advice and listen to your needs.


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