No matter what type of business you have, you likely understand the importance of an online presence and an effective website. If you’ve been living under a rock, understand this: Over 75% of people are shopping online at least once a month. Whether you’re building your brand or replacing a cringe-worthy outdated website, you want to make the right design and development choice that will wow your current clients and attracts droves of new customers. Still, deciding if you want to take the plunge and invest in a custom website or find the perfect template or theme design that is customizable and make it your own can create some serious confusion.
Your website is a vital part of your business and you can’t afford to skimp on the details. While there’s no one-size-fits-all choice when it comes to business websites, comparing your choices can help you decide which type of website build best fits your unique business. Begin by taking a moment to get a clear understanding of the difference between custom websites and templates/themes. Then compare the pros and cons of each website type before making a final decision.
Custom vs. Templates/Themes: The Basics
There’s a stark difference when you compare the idea of a custom-coded website a developer/designer builds from scratch to one a developer/designer crafts when using themes or templates. After all, a custom website tends to look, feel, and function smoother and a template or theme tends to look and feel more generic.
Here are some distinguishing traits of both custom-coded and template/theme built websites.
A custom website is designed and developed entirely with your brand, products, and business in mind. No pre-designed layouts are used at all and the appearance and functionality are designed specifically to meet your needs, much like a custom-tailored suit.
Website templates and themes are pre-designed layouts. Templates provide designers with accessible designs that allow your brand and products to be plugged into a completed theme.
So, with that basic information, you’re probably ready to make your decision. Or, more likely, you’re more undecided than ever. We understand. There’s a lot more than a single option under both umbrellas, and it’s time to dig deeper to decide what you really need.
Custom-Coded Website Design: The Pros and the Cons
A custom-coded website built especially for your business has a variety of advantages, but will those perks be enough to offset the cost? Paying for a mansion doesn’t make sense if you only intend to use one room. Still, it could be argued that a cheaper website isn’t living up to the potential it could provide for your business. Examining the benefits and drawbacks of a custom website will help you determine if it’s right for your business.
- Unique Design: Instead of plugging your logo into some of the same template/theme designs many businesses are already using, a custom website is crafted especially for your business.
- Flexibility: If you need a website that does more than just providing information, custom is your best bet. An experienced designer/developer can make your website capable of almost anything you can imagine.
- User Friendly: Your site will be designed with you and your users/visitors in mind. Therefore, the UX (user experience) can be made to be flawlessly aligned with your vision and brand culture.
- Advanced Function Options: If you’re running an online store with hundreds or even thousands of products, you need powerful functionalities you can count on since 28% of U.S. shoppers abandon carts due to complicated check-out processes.
- Attractive: Looks aren’t everything, but they’re pretty important in the digital world.
- Less Bloat: Unlike templates or themes, custom cuts through all the fat. Your website won’t have many unnecessary resources weighing down your server.
- Security: A custom web developer understands the importance of security and will build your site accordingly.
- Support: The same developers who build your site will be available for support if you run into problems in the future.
- Adaptable: Businesses occasionally need to change directions. A custom website will allow you to update, make major changes, and modernize your site easily instead of starting over.
- Long Lifespan: Custom websites are designed for longevity. Your website will be built with the most up-to-date code and designed with potential updates in mind.
- Cost: If you’re working on a tight budget, the simple truth is you may not be able to afford a custom-coded website. Any edit or tweak outside of the agreed scope of work will cost you more than a themed/ templated website because custom calls for more demanding work (and don’t get us started on testing).
- Time: Building a quality website from the ground up takes more time. The development of a beautiful, functional site could take weeks or even months.
Templated or Themed Website Design Can Have Pros and Cons, Too
There’s no doubt that templates can be used to create a successful website. Millions of business websites prove that fact every day. Your goal as a business owner isn’t to distinguish what’s possible, it’s to determine what is best for your business.
- Affordable: If you’re working on a shoestring budget, or not profitable yet, a template might be definitely the way to go.
- Customizable: Today’s templates aren’t like the early website builders of the past. With minimal effort, your website won’t look exactly like every business out there that began with the same theme (but not even close to fully custom-coded).
- Fast Build: If you need your website to exist immediately, you can actually have it up and running in less than 3-4 weeks.
- DIY/Creativity: If you’re an avid DIYer and have some technical knowledge and a lot of time on your hands, there is a lot you can do to transform some templates and make them (almost) your own.
- Limited function: Templates exist to provide users with a basic to intermediate website. You likely won’t be able to create features unique to your business or advanced functions.
- Lower security: Unfortunately, templates can be a magnet for hackers because they can effectively target multiple sites at once.
- Bloat: Templates and themes almost always have features, resources, and code you just don’t need. Even if you don’t use them they can detrimentally slow down your website, upset your visitors, and lead your potential customers to seek out your competitors with faster loading websites. Pages that take longer than 3 seconds to load lose about 53% of mobile users.
- Bland design: Unless you have an eye for design and a lot of time, your templated website has little chance of standing out in the very crowded internet space.
- Update issues: Themes are almost considered disposable as newer ones come in. When your template service updates, your website might suddenly become dysfunctional because your theme doesn’t have the capability to keep up with the update.
Isn’t There Anything In Between?
While your website will technically either be customized by a designer or created from a template, there are a couple of options that feel like something in between the two.
- You can have a custom-coded website built using a CMS (Content Management System) like WordPress. In this case, your web designer/developer uses a common CMS to develop and customize your website. This is especially helpful if you’re familiar with the interface and how the program works.
- A web designer can create the custom elements of your website that you want to add to an already composed template.
There’s no doubt that a custom website can provide many things you just won’t be able to accomplish with limiting templates or themes. Still, there are factors about your unique business that determine exactly the right choice for your website. Often, deciding whether you need a custom website means getting a deeper understanding of why you think you may not need one.
Some of your doubtful thoughts could look something like these.
- You can’t afford it. If you don’t have the funds to purchase a custom website, it’s probably not an investment to acquire a great amount of debt over.
- You plan to evolve in the future. Getting a “for now” templated website might not be in your best interest. Templates have limited scalability and postponing the custom build decision could mean limiting your business potential.
- You’re pretty sure all websites function the same. This simply isn’t true. Functionality and personalized usability are some of the biggest perks of a customized website.
- You’re as successful as you want to be. If you aren’t seeking more customers or a bigger income and your current customers are happy with your service then (Congratulations!) you probably don’t need to make any changes to your business website. However, imagine positioning yourself for even more success and even risk exciting your website customers/users with a stunning interface.
Your website is the biggest part of your online personality and should be treated as a digital asset. It’s how your customers learn about your products, find your location, and interact with your brand. Hiring a trusted web design agency to help you build your perfect business website can provide you with a clear picture of the options that are best for your unique situation.