Your website reveals so much about your company to your customers. It’s a brand ambassador and a key point of contact, so it needs to be good, especially when one considers that the latest statistics suggest 48% of users determine a company’s credibility based on its web design and usability.
Companies must ensure their website not only looks fabulous but also provides the best user experience. Nowadays, there are so many questions to answer when planning web design, but the most common one revolves around whether to choose a template or a custom design and which is best.
Choosing between a template or a custom website design can be fundamental to how your customers feel about your business. The latest research suggests it only takes 0.05 seconds for users to decide whether to stay or leave your website, so you must make a great first impression.
If you’re struggling to decide to go with a template website or a customer website, this article will cover the differences, the pros and cons of both, and the factors you should consider when choosing the best option that meets your needs.
What’s the Difference between a Custom Website and a Template Website?
Just like email templates use pre-written text and format where you customize the contact details or amend the bits that you need, a web template is a pre-designed web page that follows a theme. Companies can choose from a vast range of design templates that can even include industry-specific themes or designs. Companies then insert their contact information and content using the templates, with no need for web design or coding skills.
Custom websites are bespoke and designed to meet the specific needs of a company. Designed and coded from scratch, a custom website is unique and tailored to meet your specific requirements. This allows companies full control of every aspect of their website, from design and layout to functionality, which can personalize your website in ways beyond simple color and font differences. Custom websites require skills in web design and coding to create a website that meets your every need.
There are pros and cons to both template and custom websites, so let’s examine them first.
The Pros and Cons of Custom Websites
Whether you produce podcasts for software developers or you’re an online boutique, when you choose a custom website, you have full control over the appearance and function of your web pages. This means you can design a platform that meets your and your users’ unique needs.
When you design a bespoke website, you create it in line with your branding, from logos and fonts to color schemes. This means that everything on the website will be consistent with your brand values.
Because you have designed your site to include the plugins you need, there won’t be any unnecessary code hanging around that may slow loading speeds. Your site will have exactly what you need to give an excellent performance for your users and allow for scalability as your needs change or your company grows.
Your custom web design belongs to you and with the support of the right development team, you will have full control over what changes are made to the design and functions. You are not reliant on an unknown design team who may want to withdraw the template or discontinue functions that are vital to your platform.
This could mean you can no longer use that template and may have to redesign your website. With a custom website, your web design has long-term sustainability, helping you to build trust with your users.
Web design skills required
Like building a custom CRM for your business, creating a custom website requires highly developed design and coding skills. Some larger companies may have in-house teams with those skills, but many do not. If you want a bespoke website that meets your every need, you will need to hire a web developer to do it for you.
Not only is there the upfront cost of hiring a web developer, but you are also responsible for the ongoing costs of maintaining the website to ensure it continues to function effectively, meeting your needs and those of your users.
When developing code from scratch, there is a lot more scope for error. Code will need to be tested and bugs fixed, preferably before launch, which can increase the set-up time for your website.
Unfortunately, it takes time to build a fantastic bespoke website that meets your every need. Timeframes can vary, but it could be anything between three and six months (perhaps longer depending on the complexity) to get your website up and running.
You must plan
When you’re spending your valuable budget on a custom web design, you want to know that it will grow and change in line with your business. To ensure scalability, you must apply long-term planning. There’s no point in investing in a website that does not allow for growth and increased traffic.
You may design a website for your currently small enterprise, but what about five years from now when your customer base may have increased and demand is higher? Planning will allow you to get it right the first time and allow for scalability.
The Pros and Cons of Template Websites
If you want it to be quick, you can have your website up and running with a few clicks when you use a website template.
A more realistic time frame, however, is two to three weeks, which allows you the time to customize the contact pages with your company’s details, add logos and images, and upload your content.
No special skills required
You don’t need to hire a web developer because the pre-set designs and coding have already been completed for you. You may need to include a plugin or two, depending on what you want your website to do, but there are plenty of online tutorials to help you along the way.
Whether you’re trying to create a CRM on a tight budget or a website, both the above means a template website is much easier on the finances. Plus, the web developer who designed the templates is also responsible for any ongoing costs regarding fixing bugs.
If finances are a problem you could look into other options to raise capital such as revenue share deals, where, for example, a party could put a sum of money upfront for website development and in return receive a percentage of the revenue, or the revenue of one department.
Perhaps you don’t need a website with complex functions or design. If you find a template design you like that provides the functionality you require, why not use it? There are hundreds of thousands of templates to choose from, so if you want something simple, you should be able to find it without feeling restricted.
Less customization potential
While design templates are perfect for those who want to keep things simple, if you’re in a niche market and require highly specific functionality, you may struggle to find a template that meets your every need.
Requires developer support
Templates also require continued support from the developer (who has not been employed directly by you) and who may at some point decide to pull support for your chosen theme. Without regular support and updates to fix any issues, your website could crash, which could damage customer trust in your brand and send you back to the drawing board to rebuild your website.
It’s a good idea to research the template provider and check reviews to see if they have a history of pulling support for their web templates.
Templates have pre-installed code for any potential plugins that companies may wish to add to their sites. These extra elements can slow performance and lead to a poor user experience. Google doesn’t like slow-performing websites and consistently punishes them with poor visibility on search engine results pages.
Template designs are not unique, so there is the potential for other companies, including your competitors, to choose the same design. This doesn’t help if you want your website to stand out from the crowd.
How to Decide Between a Custom Website or a Template Website
As we’ve just seen, both website types have pros and cons; however, the best choice for your enterprise is the one that meets your needs and provides your customers with the best user experience.
Like a call center installing an IVR phone system, setting up a website is an enormous investment in both time and money and needs to be done right if you want to enhance rather than damage your brand. Don’t forget, your website design and usability can have a tremendous impact on your company’s credibility.
Before you invest in your website, determine the following to help you find out the needs of your enterprise and your customers.
As always, your budget affects all decision-making, including your website design.
If you are a small company or a start-up with a limited budget, a template website may be the best choice, with lower upfront costs. A template website can still offer you a beautiful design with the essential functions you need to get your site up and running.
If you have a larger budget, you can invest in a custom website created from scratch by a web developer that meets your brand requirements and incorporates every function you and your customers require. If you are planning to hire a web developer to build a customized website and want to understand your options, then you may wish to attend the world’s leading event for developers. This will enable you to meet numerous developers and learn about cutting-edge industry trends.
But don’t let a limited budget get you down.
Budgets are by far the most important factor in deciding the way forward with your web development.
A meager budget doesn’t mean you will be reduced to using a dull, generic website with poor design and equally poor performance.
If you can’t consider a custom design, a template will still allow you to produce a visually appealing and effective website that provides a good user experience.
Do your research and test templates to find the best one to meet your needs and your budget. Find add-ons that will help you provide the functionality you require without damaging the user experience.
If you care about optimizing your position on search results pages, then try to find a template that allows you to include HTML tags and meta descriptions so that you can make the most of your SEO strategies and help search engines to make sense of your content.
If you want to add certain features that are not included with a standard template, find a template that allowed the integration of third-party applications. There are industry-specific template providers that can meet the additional needs of eCommerce retailers or software product marketing, or perhaps you run a beauty salon and want to include an online booking system.
Don’t forget, you can always upgrade to a custom design as your company grows, and you have more resources to invest in your website.
If you need to have your website up and running quickly, go with a template. All the time-consuming work has already been done, so once you’ve uploaded your company details, logos, images and content, and any additional plugins you require, you can have your site ready to go within a couple of weeks.
A custom website, on the other hand, requires time and patience to set up from scratch. So, if you don’t have a specific deadline, you can use that time to create a website that requires complex coding and testing to meet your individual needs.
If you just want the basics for your website, such as a blog or simple eCommerce functions, then a template should be enough to meet your needs and be professional and effective. Not every website needs to provide the user with every function, especially if you are a small business.
However, if you need more, like a fully interactive user experience or to allow users to customize their products, a template will be too restrictive. Here, a custom website is the way to go and will allow your web team to create the specialized functions you require. Custom websites are also best if you want to include lots of graphics or provide a customer portal.
If you don’t think your website will have to deal with rapid increases in engagement over time that may compromise performance, then perhaps a template is the best choice for you. However, templates lack the flexibility of a custom website and don’t allow you to change the functionality as your business grows.
If you expect your business to flourish and user engagement to increase, then choose a custom website that will allow you to expand its functionality as your company and users grow. You can add new features as and when you need them to ensure your customers continue to receive the best user experience.
If you don’t envisage using a lot of add-ons or need your website to communicate with other business tools like your social media accounts or customer service software, then go with a simple template.
But, if you need to integrate those things, you need your website to offer the compatibility required to ensure a seamless customer experience. When you have more add-ons, you need a website that can be easily adapted to incorporate them. Templates tend not to have that ease of extensive compatibility with other platforms and software.
Templates can be customized enough to help you differentiate yourself from other companies using the same pre-designed template, so this may be the best option if you’re not too bothered about an exclusive web design.
Custom templates, however, allow you the complete creative freedom to design unique web pages that are exclusive to your company and help you stand out from the crowd. You can ensure your website is in line with every aspect of your brand, rather than having to make it fit as best you can.
Templates can often come with imperfect code. Without regular updates and maintenance, this can slow performance, which also affects your position on search rankings. If other things like budget take precedence, then go with a template.
Custom sites are maintained by your team of web developers, so you have no excess code clogging up performance and can keep your coding up to date. This will have a positive impact on SEO and search rankings, keeping you higher on the results page and maintaining decent loading speeds to improve performance.
If you want to update the content on your website yourself, such as adding a UK business phone number, then it doesn’t make a difference whether you choose a template or a custom website.
Templates have a built-in content management system and make it simple to update content yourself, but you can also do the same on your custom website. All you need to do is ensure your web developer integrates a content management system or builds an administrator portal where you can easily access and update content.
Unfortunately, a lot of templates, be they website templates or user management templates, don’t provide the same performance across all devices.
If you’re constrained to using a template but know your customers will access your website via a mobile device and want to provide seamless navigation, then do your research. Some templates are tailored to look and function equally well across all devices. You just need to test them first.
If you want full control over your user experience with a website that is easy to navigate, whether on a desktop or by simply using a thumb to browse on a mobile phone, then go for a custom design.
Template or Custom—Which is Best?
The answer depends on your needs.
Whether you’re a solopreneur or a blue-chip company in any industry, you want a beautifully designed website that provides a seamless customer experience and generates credibility and trust among your customers.
However, not all enterprises need a website with every available functionality, and many do not have the budget to create it.
If you’re still not sure which is the best way to go, check out the web development services from Flatlogic. Their experienced teams can help you create a top-notch website, whether you’re a new startup or hoping to upgrade your webpages and improve performance.
There are pros and cons to both templates and custom websites, but when selecting the best option for your business, establish the needs of your company, your team, and your customers, and choose the option that meets those requirements. Check out another top-notch article about custom templates and development: