Custom Web Design vs. Template Websites: What’s the Difference?

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If you’re considering building a new website for your business, you may be wondering whether custom web design or a template website is right for you. While both of these options will enable you to modernize your website, the results achieved are very different. Due to the limitations associated with template websites, they rarely allow you to leverage your website to its fullest potential as a marketing tool. That being said, the right solution for your business will depend on your unique needs and goals.

In order to make the best decision regarding your new website, it’s important to first understand the difference between custom web design and template websites. By understanding what is capable with each option, you can determine which solution is right for you.

What Is a Custom Website?

web deisgner building a custom website As the name implies, a custom website is tailored to address the unique needs and goals of your business. Your website will be built completely from scratch in order to ensure it meets your specifications and possesses the functionality necessary for your business to grow and thrive. Because it is completely customized, your website will have a unique look and feel that stands apart from all other websites – both in your industry and other industries.

While custom web design provides a truly unique look and feel, it accomplishes much more than this. It also involves creating specific back-end coding that will deliver the advanced functionality, navigation architecture, features and integrations necessary to achieve your goals. Due to the intensive planning, extensive design and development work, and increased complexities associated with these websites, it’s crucial to work with an experienced custom web design company if you choose this option.

What Is a Template Website?

Template websites use a pre-designed layout that dictates how the website will be constructed. These templates make designing a website much faster, easier and cheaper, but they also create significant limitations regarding your website’s look and feel, advanced functionality, and the ability to truly cater your website to the specific needs of your business.

For businesses trying to build their website on their own, template website options provide the DIY capabilities you need. However, you will also lose out on the support and technical expertise provided by an experienced custom web design agency. These limitations in support and customization make it much more challenging to maximize your website’s ability to function optimally as a marketing tool.

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Which Option Is Right for Me?

Due to the significant limitations associated with template websites, they typically underperform compared with custom websites. If your business is looking to achieve the best ROI on your website marketing efforts, you are almost always better off going with a custom website. However, there may be certain instances when a template website may be the right solution for your needs. When deciding between the two, make sure to evaluate how important each of the following criteria are to your business:

Conveying Your Brand

building your brand with custom web design Your brand is essential to the identity of your business. It provides a memory bank of positive associations between your company and the moments of happiness it creates in people’s lives based on what it stands for. A strong brand makes it easier for your audience to identify with your business and understand what they can expect when they purchase your products and services. Effective branding creates an emotional connection that strengthens your ability to obtain new customers and retain existing ones.

Your website is one of the most important tools at your disposal to convey your brand messaging to your audience. Since growing your brand is crucial to the success of your business, a website that more effectively conveys your branding will perform much better than one that limits your ability to grow your brand.

Template websites are extremely limited in their ability to convey your branding and differentiate your business from your competitors. You are constrained in your ability to change color schemes, typography, layout, and many other items which are critical to conveying your brand. Instead, you will have a generic looking website that will make it more challenging to stand out from your competitors.

Custom websites, on the other hand, give you a blank slate. You can choose a color scheme that incorporates your brand colors, typography that matches your branding, and custom imagery that promotes your brand story. You can create a unique layout for your website that is appealing to your target audience and feels completely different from other websites. This will not only more effectively convey your brand, but it will also help you stand out from your competitors.

Advantage: Custom websites


Just as website templates limit your ability to achieve a unique look and feel which conveys your brand, they also possess significant limitations in the functionality they offer. If you only need a very simple website, this may not be a problem. However, most businesses typically need a website that possesses greater functionality than can be achieved with a template.

There are a variety of ways in which a template website may potentially restrict the specific functionality requirements your business may have:

  • Mobile-friendly design – The vast majority of people view websites on their phones, and a mobile-friendly website has become essential both for user experience and improved SEO Unfortunately, many website templates do not offer responsive design capabilities, limiting your ability to provide a good user experience on mobile devices.
  • Ecommerce – Custom websites are essential for businesses looking for ecommerce capabilities. While many website template platforms offer effective ecommerce solutions, they are often very confusing and challenging to get to work properly. For example, most template ecommerce websites do a very poor job reconciling taxes associated with sales generated on your website. For seamless ecommerce website functionality that provides your team with an excellent user experience, custom websites provide far superior results.
  • Security – Website hackers are more sophisticated than ever, making website security an essential for all businesses. Template websites are much more susceptible to hackers because a breach to the template provider’s system puts every website using their templates at risk. Custom websites provide significantly more advanced security, making it much harder for cyber attacks to bring down your website.
  • User experience – Your website’s user experience must be created strategically in order to not only ensure that it’s easy for your audience to find what they need, but that they are also guided towards interacting with the specific conversion elements you’ve added to drive business. Custom websites allow you to set up a user experience focused on the specific needs of both your business and your audience. Template websites lack the customization necessary to deliver a user experience that will drive conversions.

Advantage: Custom websites


business success requires a custom website with scalability If you think back to the early days of your business, it most likely looked a lot different than it does now. Growth creates change. As your business continues to grow and evolve over the next few years, it may look completely different than it does now:

  • You may offer new products and services
  • You may be targeting a new audience
  • You may have different business goals
  • You may have grown substantially in size and scope

It should come as no surprise that in order to meet the evolving needs of your business over time, your website must be easily scalable. Custom websites provide the scalability you need. There are no limitations on what can be created with custom web design, and this allows you to make any additions or alterations to the functionality of your website that you may need as your business grows.

Template websites, on the other hand, lack the flexibility necessary to make your website scalable over time. You are largely limited by the features provided by the template you choose. While these features may meet your needs now, they may no longer meet your needs in several years. If this occurs, you won’t have the ability to add the new functionality required by the growth of your business.

Advantage: Custom websites

SEO Results

In recent years, it has become increasingly challenging to rank well on search engines. As a result, it’s crucial that your website be constructed using SEO best practices. Custom websites provide much greater ability to achieve the SEO results you need. These websites are built using the latest coding best practices, providing cleaner back-end programming. This will significantly reduce page load times and site speed compared to template websites, which often contain older, bloated coding practices that slow down the website’s performance.

Faster site speed is one of the primary criteria driving Google’s search algorithms and as a result, custom websites will help your SEO performance. In addition, the ability to implement a mobile-friendly responsive design on a custom website will further improve your search rankings compared with template websites.

Custom websites also provide the ability to tailor your navigation architecture to the unique needs of your audience, making it easier for them to find the information they need. This improves user experience, which will boost your SEO rankings.

Advantage: Custom websites

Time to Build

web designer building a custom website It should come as no surprise that the increased complexity and customization associated with custom websites will require more time to build. Custom web design requires a longer planning phase to ensure your website is built in a way that addresses the specific needs and goals of your business. This planning phase will involve extensive collaboration between your team and your custom web design company, and it includes:

  • A detailed discussion of your business goals, marketing goals, and goals for the website development project
  • Establishing the relevant KPIs necessary to measure the success of your website over time
  • The development of a wireframe (a blueprint of the website architecture) and detailed website mockups (static images displaying the design of the different pages on your website) to ensure alignment between your team and your web design agency.

In addition, the steps involved in building the website – front-end design, back-end development, copywriting, testing, on-page SEO – all take a significant amount of time to complete. If you require specific advanced functionality that creates additional layers of complexity to your website, it will extend the timeline for the buildout process even longer. The good news is that many of these steps can be performed concurrently, which will speed up the process significantly.

Template websites take a lot of this work out of the process. Using a pre-built template significantly reduces the development time. In addition, you’re limited by the color schemes, layouts and other design elements associated with the template, so this eliminates the need for wireframes, mockups and many of the other planning items that go into a custom website. You can simply create new pages and add the content and images you need for each page. As a result, template websites can be built much faster than a custom website.

Keep in mind that faster doesn’t mean better. The additional time for planning, building and testing also helps you achieve better website performance and superior marketing results. If your goal is to maximize the performance of your website (and it should be), then the longer development time for a custom website will pay dividends for years to come. But if you’re in a time crunch and really need to launch a website as fast as possible, a template website will help you complete the project in the least amount of time.

Advantage: Template websites


Custom websites aren’t cheap. They are very labor intensive and time-consuming to build. The additional custom functionality adds to the complexity of the project as well. For this reason, you’ll need the assistance of a custom web design company that assigns a team of specialists to build the high performing website your business needs. But with additional cost comes improved performance and superior marketing results. Ultimately, this will benefit your business immensely and deliver much better ROI for the life of your website.

Unfortunately, not every company has the financial resources to afford a custom website. If your budget is limited, it may not be practical to enlist the services of a custom web design and development agency. In these situations, a template website may help you stay within your budget. Just keep in mind that the tradeoffs associated with this lower cost – pre-packaged design layouts, limited functionality, poorer SEO performance, etc.

If you can afford the cost of a custom website, this is always the best solution. The benefits you’ll achieve make the additional cost well worth it in the long run. But if you simply can’t afford a custom website, a template solution will allow you to build a web presence while your company continues to grow. As your company experiences greater success and your marketing budget grows, you can then replace your template website with a custom website.

Advantage: Template websites

Webolutions Offers Custom Web Design Services that Help Your Business Thrive

If your primary goal for building a new website is to maximize the ROI on your marketing efforts, there is no substitute for custom web design. A template website is simply unable to match the levels of performance you’ll experience from a custom website. At Webolutions, we can create a custom website that will address your specific goals in order to help your business grow and thrive.

Our unique Websites Right Methodology™ has been developed over nearly three decades, and it leverages the knowledge and experience we’ve gained from building thousands of websites since our inception in 1994. This process provides a fully integrated, strategic approach to custom web design and development which delivers increased marketing performance that will help your business become more successful.

With our exclusive Websites Right Methodology™, you’ll benefit from a truly collaborative process that engages your team at every stage to ensure we are all aligned on achieving your specific goals. This starts with an extensive planning phase which includes:

  • Thorough discovery sessions where we develop your website goals, allowing us to design with these goals in mind and measure success over time
  • Outlining the home page key elements to define your story, convey your brand messaging, and help your audience more easily navigate to the areas of the website which will provide them with the information they need
  • Creating detailed website mockups to ensure you love your design before we begin building your website
  • Outlining of all functional requirements to ensure your website provides the optimal user experience your audience desires and drives the conversions you expect

During the website design and development process, our team will perform all custom programming and development required to achieve the advanced functionality you need. When necessary, we will incorporate third-party tools to enhance this functionality. We’ll also work with your team to develop and implement a tactical content strategy that establishes your business as a thought leader, builds trust with your audience and effectively communicates your story. Our proven SEO best practices will be used to provide the best possible search engine rankings.

Prior to launch, we will conduct comprehensive website testing for different browsers and devices to ensure your website works properly and is delivering the desired experience. After launch, we will conduct ongoing analysis to monitor your website’s success, and we’ll provide recommendations as needed for improvements that will drive better results.

Contact us today to schedule a free website development consultation. Webolutions serves clients nationwide from our offices in Denver, Colorado.

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