Do I Need a Custom Website or a Template Website?
If your business is in the planning stages of a new website, one question has probably been the subject of more than a few meetings and budget proposals: “Should we build a custom website, or should we use a template?”
When comparing custom websites vs. template websites, it’s important to consider the implications each type of site has for your business. Making the wrong decision could leave you wishing for a new site much sooner than you (or those in overseeing your budget) had planned.
So, how do you decide whether a custom website or a website built using a template is right for your business? What are the pros and cons, and how do you know if the cost will match the reward when it comes to your bottom line?
Custom vs. Template Websites: 3 Questions to Ask Before You Act
When speaking with new or prospective clients about building a new website, it is always our goal to connect them with the product that best matches their needs and budget. So when the question, “Should I build a custom website or use a template” comes up, we like to start the conversation by asking three key questions.
1. How fast do you need your website?
A custom website takes longer to create than a template site, period. Depending on the size of the site, a custom build can take anywhere from 4-6 months or longer. The speedy results you gain with a template site, however, come with certain compromises. As marketers, we understand how internal expectations and excitement can make it seem like every project needed to happen yesterday. But at the same time, it’s important to weigh timing needs against timing wishes when deciding on the website you’ll be using for the next several years.
2. How big (or small) is your budget? It’s important to look at your budget both in the short and long term when deciding between a custom website or one built on a template. Custom websites do cost more up-front than websites built using a template, but depending on your goals and the nature of your business, that cost can ultimately pay for itself once everything is up and running.
3. What are your long-term business goals? Assessing your business goals and determining how your website fits into your long-term trajectory is the most important piece in determining whether a custom site or templated site is what you need. If you’re new to the market and just need a simple place to sell your product and host your blog, then a templated site would probably work great. If you’re an established business and need a fully branded web experience with multiple levels of functionality, then that’s kind of thing only a custom site can deliver.
With these questions in mind, let’s take a deeper look at what investing in templated vs. custom websites actually entail — both good and bad.
What is a template site? Pros and cons
A website template is a pre-built and packaged website that supports a set number of page layouts, basic functionalities and elements. Working with your digital partner, you can choose a website template that includes your desired site features and meets basic functionality requirements. Once a template has been selected and purchased, you or your digital partner can build the finished site on a content management system (CMS) like Wordpress, Shopify or Netlify. You will likely need to pay for further customization options in order to add r branding, copy, colors, and adding specific pages or functionalities that are not provided or supported in the purchased template.
Pros of a template website
Quicker turnaround time
Because templates are pre-built to meet certain common functionality requirements, it takes less time to get the final site up and running than it would to code a custom site from the ground up. These presets give you and your team more time and more room in your budget to focus on key elements like content, search optimization, design elements and more.
Simpler setup = fewer hours required to build your site = lower cost on the finished product. While you still have to pay to access a template — and price can still scale with the complexity of your needs — building on a template almost always costs less than building a custom website.
Easy to make your own
Just because a website is built on a template, that doesn’t mean it has to look like every other website built on that template. With the ability to upload your own graphics, color schemes, and content, templates build on site experiences that are familiar to users and friendly to search engines without sacrificing your brand identity.
Cons of a template website
Some of the built-in features that come with most templates can slow down your website and potentially interfere with SEO. This is especially true of many blogs within popular site templates.
Same-feeling site experiences
While there are some hidden gems out there, many of the best templates are also the most popular, meaning other businesses in your industry may use the same template for their website. While your branded elements can differentiate things visually, the overall experience won’t feel unique.
Long-term limitations While plugins can be used and adjustments can be made in most templates, some custom features and add-ons are difficult and costly to add to a template site. It’s not uncommon for businesses who started out on a templated site to move to a custom site that can more easily grow alongside their business.
Expensive to update
When you need to add new functionality such as integrating your CRM or sales tools into a template site, you have to make sure there’s a plugin to support it, first. If there isn’t, two problematic things can happen. First, you may be forced to break away from the template and add features that answer your need but are incompatible with the template. While an OK temporary fix, doing this can wreak havoc down the line when implementing updates or asking for theme support. If you opt to stay with the template but create a less-than-ideal workaround, your internal business processes are more likely to encounter the type of inefficiencies and complexities that you wanted to avoid in the first place.
What is a custom site? Pros and cons
A custom website is one built from the ground up, with every design and development decision driven by your business’ unique needs. Every element, from the flow of information to the placement of menus, is determined by you and your digital partner to ensure a cohesive web experience that reflects your goals and the needs of your target audience in equal measure.
Pros of a custom website
When you’re investing in a new website for your business, the last thing you want to do is compromise. With a custom site, you and your digital team are free to choose experience and functionality elements that match your needs, and build a website that works exactly the way you want it to work.
Grows and scales with your business
A template site may work well for new businesses that are just getting started, but many business owners eventually find that their old template site simply can’t keep up with their evolving needs. Custom sites lack the built-in limitations of a template and can be modified and expanded to match your goals and ambitions.
Better search performance
Generally speaking, search engines prefer custom sites. Because your site experience is designed from scratch by digital marketing experts, SEO best practices can be built in from the beginning. Additionally, custom sites offer a more enticing user experience and faster load times, both things that Google and other search engines like when ranking sites.
Updates are easier to make
By investing more time up front, you can ultimately save yourself a great deal of time and money on updates in the future. While you can update pre-built templates, doing so effectively means breaking them, which requires more time, reverse engineering and navigation of the code, all with less elegant results. Custom sites can be easily updated to meet your evolving needs faster and easier.
Deeper capabilities + more integrations
If you have a lot of integrations, such as Salesforce, Hubspot, and Google Sheets, a custom site has no limits in integrating these functionalities because you are not tied to a template or themed site.
Cons of a custom website
If you needed your website yesterday and need something to go live fast, a custom site may not be the answer for you — at least not right away. Custom design and development is a major time investment, and while it can pay off in better functionality and smaller time investments down the line, it can be difficult to launch a custom site under urgent conditions.
Bigger up-front investment
Because custom websites involve more planning and come with deeper development needs, the initial cost of developing a custom website is higher than simply working from a template.
Build the right site for your business
Still asking yourself, “Do I need a custom site or a template site?” The digital marketing and technology experts at Baal & Spots are here to talk through your needs and find the solution that makes the most sense for your business.
At Baal & Spots, we focus on digital marketing and technology solutions for our clients. We do not offer one-size-fits-all solutions and are nimble when it comes to meeting our clients’ needs. Because of this, we are always educating our clients about their options and our recommended solutions based on their desired results and budget.
Explore some of the websites we’ve crafted for our clients, and reach out to Baal & Spots today to get your new website project off to the right start.