Whether to Use a Website Template or a Custom Design Whether to Use a Website Template or a Custom Design

cms-vs-custom-designCustom design or web template?  When starting a website, this can be a vital decision that affects the internet presence of a company for years to come.  These days there are many “cookie-cutter” templates usable through systems such as WordPress, which offer hundreds of existing designs on which to build your site.

Many companies are tempted to go in that direction rather than hire a designer to build their site from scratch.  Let’s explore these two approaches and look at some of the advantages or disadvantages of each.

Custom Design = Custom Investment

The benefits of a custom web design are mostly obvious… if you build a site from scratch, you can conceive it, shape it, control it, and make sure that it includes anything you can dream of that is technically possible on the web.

With a talented developer, you can have a site look exactly as you imagined it, and can craft a user experience that maximizes the potential for customer interest, attention, and transactional intent.  Naturally, as with any business investment, custom work means custom costs, and you will have to allocate dollars upfront to have your site custom-designed and created.

Templates are Tempting

The most obvious advantage of building your site from a existing template or “DIY” content management system is that you are starting with something that is already built… many templates are inexpensive, or even free (although some sure look like it).  For a business on a tight budget, this can be a great option, because there may be no “design” costs at all– you can pay a web-savvy company or individual to setup your site from a template, using words, images, or artwork that you provide them.

This process can also be fast, and if you really need a site quickly, you can be up and running in a day or two, if you are willing to compromise customization in favor of an easy-to-start template for your site.

The “Cons” of Templates

There are some limiting factors to using web templates, which can cause a business to regret the investment in the long run:

    1. Flexibility:  Web templates are, by definition, setup with a fixed array of features and a design that has already been done.  While many systems offer a good degree of customization, many companies find they become “stuck” with a template that was setup for one purpose, and can’t easily adapt to the needs of a changing business.  They may also find that the cost of ongoing customizations adds up to a huge investment over time, and produces a “patchwork” site that still falls short of ideal.  Also, if a business evolves and adds products or categories, they may find themselves spending a lot of resource trying to re-fit their template to suit their new business needs, and may have to start over with a brand new site.  With a custom design, you can much more easily predict what options you may need for the future and plan for them in advance, saving development hassles down the line.
    1. Branding:  Many business place a premium on being seen as unique, and their website is often the first opportunity to brand the company in the mind of a customer.  Using a template design that other companies may also be using carries the risk that your business will be seen as either generic, uncreative, or just plain cheap, and most businesses do not desire these characteristics.  An average web user can visit hundreds of sites per month, so there is always a chance they will encounter your template on another site, which can impact their long-term view of your brand.  A custom design allows you to create a full-fledged, unique brand experience, enhancing the strengths of your company through a unique look and feel.
  1. SEO Limitations:  Depending on the template and the service providers you choose, you may find yourself lacking in your ability to optimize the site for search engines.  Many templates do not offer options to control all of the key SEO factors that let you maximize your placement of keywords, such as the Title tag, Meta Description tag, and the use of <H1> tags, etc.

About Inna Lyulicheva

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