Custom Design or Template Website: Which is right for you?

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In today’s digital landscape, having a dynamic and effective website is a critical part of doing business. This is because most consumers turn to their laptops and mobile devices when looking for new products and services. What they find online, and more specifically, what they find on your website, will strongly influence whether they decide to choose your business, or head over to one of your competitors.

This is why having a clear, easy-to-navigate and responsive website is essential for your business.

So you’re sold on the idea of getting a website, but now you need to know which type of website is best for you. Like any modern day consumer, you’ve probably done your research and have found that you can go with a couple different options when it comes to building a website.

The first option is to go with a template website. These websites are built using pre-made themes offered by companies like Wix, WordPress, Squarespace and Drupal to name just a few.

The other option is to build a custom website from the ground up. Unless you own a web design company or you’re a website coding wiz, this option will usually require the help of a professional web design agency.

The Difference Between a Template Website and a Custom Website

There are a few significant differences between template websites and custom websites. Timeline, functionality, price and uniqueness are just some of the key factors that matter most to our clients.

Pros to Using a Template Website

Timeline – When you go with a template website, you choose a pre-existing theme that’s already been developed. If you’re on a tight timeline and need to get your website up and running as quickly as possible, this is a great option. Because the framework of the site is already in place, it will require much less time to build out the rest of your website.

Price – If you are building your website on a shoestring budget, a template website is a good option. These websites tend to be cheaper than custom-built web designs because the templates are already built for the most part and ready to go.

No Surprises – When you pick a template design, what you see is what you get. Essentially, you know what your site is going to look like right from the beginning, and there should be no surprises when you see the final version. And because template websites are made from pre-existing themes, you can even check out other businesses who are using the same theme to see how their sites have turned out.

Cons to Using a Template Website

Lacks Uniqueness – When you build a website, you want that site to fully encompass the identity of your brand. You want to show potential customers why you are different and better than your competitors. So what does it say when your website uses the same template as everyone else? Because template web designs are made from pre-existing themes and not customized to the needs of your specific business, they can often come off as generic and bland, and blend in with all the other websites that are out there on the internet today. Although colours and images can be different, the general layout of the site will be the same.

Redundant Options – When a designer builds a theme or template, they are hoping it will appeal to as many business owners as possible. This will lead to more downloads of their template and more revenue for the designer. Because of this, designers code in options that are redundant to most users. For example, the template you choose may have three different navigation styles. While this appears to give you more flexibility in “customizing” the template to your preferences, it actually makes two of the three styles redundant as you can only choose one.

You may think that unused options don’t matter to you at all, but in actuality they can greatly impact the functionality of your website and how search engines find your content. Those redundant options that are coded in behind the scenes effect your site’s page load speed and search engine optimization (SEO). Search engines like website codes that are clean and easy to use. Redundant coding for unnecessary options will slow your site down and could penalize you in search engine rankings.

Poor SEO – As mentioned above, there are a few things about a template website that can negatively impact your SEO. Put simply, custom websites usually out-perform template web designs when it comes to SEO. This is because search engines love original, coding best practices, high-quality content, and unfortunately, a template website is just not original.

Benefits to Having a Custom Web Design

Unique Design – Custom websites are built specifically with your business in mind. The design team will spend a great deal of time thinking about the unique qualities of your product offerings, your brand and the consumer behaviour habits of your target audiences. Everything about your custom website will be geared towards hitting your company’s key performance indicators and goals.

Performance – When a website is tailor-made for one specific client, you can usually guarantee that it will out-perform any template-based website. This is because each line of code has a well-thought out function and purpose. While template sites use redundant coding to get that “one site fit’s all” effect, custom built designs focus only on the features that matter for your business and brand.

Improved SEO – A unique and performance-driven website can dramatically improve your SEO. Professional web designers know what elements attract search engines to a site, and will use this expertise to build an SEO-friendly web design that will get you to the top of the search rankings.

Experience – The best web design companies have developed hundreds of custom-built websites over the course of their many years in business. They know what works and what doesn’t work. They know what search engines are looking for today versus what they were looking for two years ago. They’re even up-to-date and well-informed on consumer behaviour habits, the customer journey and techniques on guiding a prospective buyer through the sales funnel. That my friend, can give you a significant advantage over your competitors.

Cons to Having a Custom Web Design

Timeline – Just like with template websites, there are some disadvantages to a custom design. One setback for some is the length of time that it takes to build a custom site. In most cases, a custom web design takes a minimum of three months or more to develop. For businesses that need something up and running right away, a custom website might not be the right choice.

Cost – When you think of something that is custom made, you probably think of high quality, and inevitably higher costs. The same can be true for custom web designs. Because these sites are built step by step with your specific business needs in mind, the price is more costly.

So What Should You Choose?

There are some great benefits to both template and custom-built websites. Before making any decisions, take a look at what your main business needs are, what you want your website to achieve, what your desired timeline is and what your budget looks like. This will help you make a well-informed decision on what route to take.

While custom-built websites are our option of choice here at ZOO Media Group, we also launch visually stunning and well-performing template websites for our clients. We do this by assessing our clients’ needs and by suggesting the best template design for their particular business. Then we build it out by incorporating all the company branding elements and images, including icons and high resolution stock photos, and we can provide logo design and copywriting services if required. If you choose the template approach, we can also remove any redundant code that could potentially hurt your SEO efforts. So whether you decide to go with a template design or a custom built website, our experienced team at ZOO can help take your new web presence to the next level.

ABOUT ZOO Media Group

ZOO Media Group is a website design and development company based in London, Ontario. We build beautiful, responsive, SEO and user-friendly websites that not only meet but exceed our client’s expectations. Our web skills run deep and we speak all languages including HTML5, jQuery, and Bootstrap to name just a few. Whatever your business needs, we can build it. Whether you already know exactly what you want out of your website or need a hand creating the perfect web solution for your company, our talented web development team can help. Contact us to learn more.