Should You Choose Custom Web Design or a Template?

You know that your business needs a website, but what you might not know is whether you should hire a professional web designer or take a DIY approach with an existing website template. There are obvious pros and cons for both: website templates are inexpensive and easy to use but limit your choices when it comes to appearance and functionality, while professional web design is more expensive but allows you to tailor your site to your business.

There’s obviously a lot more to this decision than just price, so I talked with Leverage Marketing’s COO, Matt Hooks, to get his take on cases when a business should use a site template and when they should choose a custom web design.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

When does it make sense for a company to opt for services like Squarespace or Wix, which provide site templates and don’t require coding knowledge?

Building your website through a service like Squarespace is a good option when the budget you have for a new website is less than about $5000, all you need is, say, 5 or fewer pages, and you already have graphics you want to use for your site. Templated sites can be great for the person or company that just wants a relatively simple website, has the time to bang around and figure things out for themselves, and either has a website that they’re going to mimic or has an eye for design.

When does it make more sense for a company to opt for a custom website design?

It makes more sense when the site is more than merely informational. Extending a templated site requires third party plugins. This leads to security vulnerabilities, relying on plugin creators to update the plugin, potential compatibility issues, and more maintenance. Creating a custom website gets rid of these issues.

How long does it usually take to build a custom site vs. a template site?

The most accurate answer is: it depends. People that choose a template site generally do so because their website is going to be fairly basic and not feature-filled, thus this type of website should be fairly quick. It’s when they try to add additional functionality or features that their timeline can really get away from them.

The amount of time it takes to complete a custom website generally depends on a few factors, including the desired design, integrated tools, and quality assurance. The actual amount of time can be from weeks to months.

What are some of the limitations of website templates?

If you’re starting from a template, you’ll likely find that you cannot get your website to look just how you want it. You’ll end up spending more time than you’d hoped looking for workarounds to accomplish certain looks that you’re after.

We don’t sell “template” sites because, invariably, there are alteration requests, and before long the cost of a “template” site is more than a custom site. There are other reasons we avoid templates, including update issues, feature bloat, viruses, and the possibility of the theme creator going out of business.

What is included in a typical custom website design?

We offer graphics (some or all depending on what is needed and budgeted), layout mockups (often designed in Photoshop first to nail down the look), iterative changes, custom code, page templates that we create based on your specific needs, keyword research, content (we use your content or have an amazing team of writers available), redirects from old pages to new pages (if applicable), integrations with your CRM, quality assurance review, and more.

What content management system (CMS) platforms are best for a new website?

We love WordPress for most websites, but at some price and customization levels, other platforms are better options. For example, a small ecommerce store will do fine on a Woocommerce/Wordpress website, but a large website with many thousands of products and constantly changing prices and inventory would be better-suited to a different platform, perhaps one that is natively integrated with other services the business uses. A reputable company will be able to walk you through many options and their pros/cons to help you decide what platform is best for your specific situation. 

What are the pros and cons of an open source CMS platform like WordPress?

Pros are that this type of platform is highly extendable, reasonably priced, can accommodate many looks and feels, and are easy to update without any coding experience, in most cases. Cons are that it can be vulnerable to security breaches if precautions aren’t taken and will require updates.

After a custom website design is completed, who hosts and owns the final product?

We offer many options based on what is desired by our clients. We can host your website ourselves or we can provide recommendations for a host. Regardless of whether we host or not, we backup, transfer the website, add security features, and offer continued maintenance packages. You own your website and all your information.

To learn more about custom web design services, contact Leverage Marketing.

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