Custom built websites vs web templates

Here at Spigot Design, we plug ourselves as a ‘custom’ web design studio, with heavy emphasis on the custom (and design) parts. But occasionally we’ll build a site that is based on a template for a client who’s needs fit the criteria. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each, and why we ultimately suggest to clients that custom is the route to go.

This isn’t a showdown

Make no mistake, this isn’t a shootout between templates and custom design. There are very few instances where I’d recommend using a template. Custom design wins every time. This is about why you should ultimately choose to have your site custom built, and the instances where you might want to think otherwise.

Custom website design

Most business owners realize that a custom website is the way to go, as long as the budget calls for it. For posterity, here are a few advantages a custom site has over a template:

  1. It’s custom – It’s created just for your business and will not look like anyone else’s. It will help maintain and enhance your brand.
  2. Search Engine Friendly – By hiring the right designer, you ensure the site is encoded to enhance your success with search engines
  3. Built for your needs – A custom site contains the features that you and your clients are looking for.
  4. Scalability – A custom site is built with the future in mind, and can grow with your business.
  5. Maintainability – If you are planning on updating the site yourself, a CMS will be a must.

A custom built website provides you with more value for your money over the long haul. It’s an investment into your business that takes seriously the intricacies of the internet and your customers perceptions.

Template based websites

Website templates do have some advantages over custom design. They are very specific however:

  1. Lower Initial Costs –  If budget constraints are keeping your business from getting online, then templates should be considered.
  2. Faster Development Process – If you need it up tomorrow, a template can help speed the process.

It’s important to note that both these points are easily trumped in many circumstances. A website template may be cheaper in the short run, but long term costs in both maintaining the site, as well as losing customers due to a potentially less than professional perception must be considered.

If you need your site up quickly, remember that the most time consuming portion of web development is the content of a website. If you don’t have your site structure and content laid out in advance, a template based site won’t save you much time.

Custom or Template?

I recommend hiring a professional to build a custom site in all but a few circumstances. The value you get far outweighs the initial costs. That said, if you have a budget of $500 for a website, a template would be a better option. There are some decent looking templates out there that, while not unique, will present your business with a professional web presence.

If you are tempted to try and find someone to build a custom site for $500 or less, be aware of the ‘You Get What You Pay For’ rule. This article about avoiding hiring someone who is less than professional outlines a few issues if you choose this route.

Remember, which ever route you choose to go, owning and maintaining a website is an investment. What you don’t spend out of your pocket will be spent in time and effort. And vice versa.

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