There are many options out there for those looking to build a website. Over the years countless DIY services have come about promising that with a few clicks, you’ll have a site up and running that will make your business wildly successful. And not to mention how easy it is to customize your own site to give it that personal touch. Well as someone who has worked for the big box hosting brands and provided tech support for those unfortunate souls who bought into the pipe dream, let me tell you that when it comes to your business, you can bet you’ll always get what you pay for.
Now don’t get me wrong, DYI services have their place in the digital world. But if you’re a legitimate business owner who is looking to build or enhance your online presence, you should really evaluate the pros and cons of using prebuilt templates or custom designs.
Benefits of Templates
Pre-Built - lower development time - This is good for those who need a website fast. In fact Anneli Werner from the Jake Group gives the perfect situation for template use. For start-ups that need only a simple online brochure, or small businesses that just want a modest online presence, a pre-built or template-based site is a great choice. They’re also ideal for clients with tight launch deadlines, limited content, and/or a smaller project scope and budget.
Cost - Cheaper than a custom design. One of the primary deterrents of custom design is the cost. People think a custom design will be tens of thousands of dollars. Although there are some situations where this is accurate, there are a lot of other options out there to minimize the cost. Working with a designer/developer that is familiar with Growth Driven Design (GDD) provides a great opportunity to get that custom design service without breaking the bank.
Offered with almost every hosting service – The other good thing about templates is that they are readily available with almost every hosting provider. DIY services have exploded on the scene so it’s almost a given that any hosting provider you choose will have some sort of website templates available.
Benefits of Custom Design
Unique – With a custom design, you have endless possibilities. A good designer is worth their weight in gold when it comes to your brand. Bringing your brand identity through your website is paramount for any legitimate business. You want to be able to convey the personality of your company and provide an experience that resonates with your users. Working with a designer to customize a layout, structure, strategy and implementation of your site will benefit you in the long run because the finished product will be something that has considerable thought put behind it and built to serve your business for years to come .
Scalable – Speaking of years to come, your business probably won’t stay stagnant for very long. Growing ones business, expanding their offers, breaking into new territory is all part of the market we live in today. Because of the impact your website can have on your business, it’s important that your site can grow and adapt along with that business. Templated designs may provide options to add pages, but unless your new developments lend themselves perfectly to the options available, you’ll be forced to settle for something less than ideal. Having a custom design allows you to plan for the future. You can structure your site in a way that can grow with predicted forecasts as well as bolt on additional functionalities like a calculator, resources section, interactive map or more. Not being confined to a template allows you to grow the website in any direction you need as your business grows.
Flexibility – With a custom design, you have the flexibility of choosing which hosting provider you want to use as well as what CMS will benefit you most if you expect to update your site yourself after it’s done. Some content management systems (CMS) provide more flexibility than others. Thus, the design must be coded to work within that framework. For instance the HubSpot COS allows for considerable integration that a custom design would work well in while others may not be as “open source” and limit the scope of your website. That’s why it’s important to find a HubSpot Developer that is familiar with industry standards and best practices. Regardless of which service you choose, building a custom design will allow you far more freedom than starting with a template.
Built to best practice – The W3C is the organization that determines proper website code syntax. These guidelines are also considered in Goggle’s search algorithm. Unfortunately, templates have a lot of “bloat code” to make them standardized and work within their given CMS. However, this code can have a negative SEO impact on your site and potentially cost you valuable rankings. By using a custom designer/developer, you can ensure your code is clean and built to best practice.
Targeted – you have full capability to customize your website so there is a lot of opportunity to tailor your website directly toward your personas. Maybe your target demographic is over 50 years old. Using a template that has small fonts and intricate details might not be as effective as using a minimalist layout with larger fonts and images. With a custom design, you have the ability to really hone in on your users and tailor the site to their habits.
Cons of Templates
Very limited – structure, flexibility, customization. When using a template, you can typically change colors and swap out images, but anything beyond that is a luxury. Templates are very ridged and if you need a page that doesn’t fall within the available options, you’re forced to tailor your content to the template rather than the other way around. You also lose some ability to customize the site. There are a variety of plugins and third party software available that provide some really cool functionality. But if your template doesn’t allow for these types of integrations, then you’re missing out on a lot of modern features.
Generic – not unique, other people using same template. Even if they update the template considerably, users can still see that the layout is cookie cutter and familiar to other sites they’ve seen. Because major hosting companies offer templates for the DIY customer using their service, there’s a considerable chance that another company will be using the same template as you. For the hobbyist or stay at home blogger, this may not be a big deal. But if your company needs to present a polished image of professionalism and credibility, templated design can undermine that goal and present a less favorable image toward your potential leads. As Winston the blog dog from GoUp UK shows in his infographic: Templates can make you look cheap. It is very easy to identify a template website. No matter how hard you try, a template design will always look like a template design.
Cons of Custom Design
Time – There is a lot more that goes into custom design. There is strategy, planning, design and development. All of this takes time that is not necessary with templates. However, the final product is much more robust and effective because of the time and energy put into it on the front end. Slow is fast and a little forethought can have wonderful consequences for your business.
Cost – As mentioned before, the cost of custom design can be considerably higher than templates. However there are ways to mitigate that cost. In addition, to be blunt, when it comes to your business, don’t short change yourself. Invest in your business and the image you want to portray. According to ASSA Multimedia, Studies have shown, 94% of users mention poor design as the primary reason they do not trust certain websites. Settling for a generic template may end up costing your business more than you save by going with a templated design.
When you take a step back and look at it, there are many choices business owners face when they are looking to design or redesign their website. It’s important to consider what the ultimate goals of the site are. Is it to simply get some sort of presence on the web? Is it for a hobby or a business? What timeframe are you working with? What’s your budget? What is the potential impact of an effective website on your business? Depending on your answers, you may decide to go one way or the other, but to reaffirm a previous point, when it comes to your business you get what you pay for. Invest in yourself early on, and it most definitely will come back around in exponential returns over time.