When planning to build a website in 2019, we have two main options: using website templates from various platforms, or build a custom website from the ground up.
Both options have their own advantages and disadvantages, and ultimately the decision will depend on your needs and goals in building a website.
Here, we will discuss the differences between the two options, their pros and cons, and how they might suit your current needs.
After this guide, you can make a better informed decision to maximize your website building budget.
Custom Web Design VS Website Templates: The Core Difference
There are three main factors in considering between implementing a custom web design and using a website template:
- Cost: using templates is significantly more affordable, while building a custom web design will require a team of web designers and developers—or at least, working with freelancers.
- Time: using premade templates will—most of the time— results in a shorter development time where you can get a running website in just a day. Building a custom website typically require 6 to 8 weeks.
- Versatility: premade templates do offer some customizations, but will be limited. A custom web design will allow absolute freedom to get a site according to your exact needs, as long as you have the necessary budget and time frame.
However, if we look deeper, there are more differences and consideration factors to discuss between the two options. Below, we will have more in-depth looks on both.
Building a Website Using Templates
Nowadays, it’s more common to build a website using premade templates and website builders thanks to various popular platforms like WordPress and Wix.
It’s important, however, to understand that we can further group these website builder platforms into two categories:
- ‘Technical’ website builders: for example, WordPress and Joomla. While they are still relatively easy to use compared to building a website from scratch, they will require a bit of programming and technical skills. However, they offer more flexibility in customizations.
- ‘Visual’ website builders: for example, Wix and SquareSpace. Here, we can build a functional website with just a drag and drop approach, so little to no programming knowledge is required. However, the versatility for customization is usually very limited.
With both options, we are usually offered with a lot of different templates with varying prices. We can put our website’s elements (images, videos, texts) onto the template and arrange them according to our needs. However, there will be limitations, especially for more complex elements like forms, shopping carts, and so on.
It’s also worth noting that these templates typically have their own built-in resources, so adding our own customizations on top of it can increase the load of our website, slowing it down and might also interfere with performances (including SEO).
Pros and Cons of Website Templates
- Cheaper initial costs, so a great option for businesses with limited budget
- Shorter development time. If you are already familiar with the platform, you can get a website running in just a few hours
- Especially on platforms with monthly subscription fees (i.e. Wix), you get a dedicated customer service and technical support that will handle your website maintenance
- Less requirement of programming and design skills, less headache for things like website databases
- Various plugins and additional applications to choose from to enhance your site’s performance and functionalities.
- Other websites can use the same templates/themes as yours, so less unique value.
- Limited versatility in customizations, so if you have a specific need, you might not be able to get it from the template
- Not all templates are mobile-responsive, and some might not be compatible with all devices
- Limited freedom to add more software/technologies (depending on the integration of the website platform with the software).
Building a Custom Built Websites
There are two different approaches in building a fully-custom website from the ground up:
- Build your own team consisting of designers and programmers. The cost can vary depending on your location as the quality of the talents, but building your team can take some time.
- Working with freelancers. You bypass the time requirement to build a proper team, but if you are not careful the cost can be very expensive.
The main benefit of building a custom website from scratch is freedom. You can build the site according to your specific needs—provided you have the budget and time—. This benefit of versatility is not only about aesthetics, but will also extend to other functional aspects like SEO performance, specific content marketing needs, e-commerce features, and so on.
Custom website design is obviously more expensive than using templates, and will typically need longer time to finish. However, when done correctly, a custom website can be a good long-term investment that will end up saving more money and time. Since the site is built from scratch, it’s a lot easier to further update and customize the site according to your future needs or when a change is necessary.
Pros and Cons of Custom Website
- Absolute freedom in customization, you can get a website exactly according to your specific needs
- More reliable and secure if built properly
- You can optimize various factors according to your goals, for example SEO optimizations and mobile-responsiveness
- The team that build your website is there for ongoing maintenance and troubleshooting
- If you have a long-term plan, a custom website will be a better investment so you can easily implement new technologies and implement future updates
- Significantly more expensive than using a website template
- Will take at least 6 to 8 weeks before you have a running website
- No customer service (beside the team), so you are the one accountable
While both using website templates and building a custom website from scratch have their own benefits and disadvantages, the choice should depend on your needs, goals, and the available budget.
In general, however, unless you have a very specific need for your website, using a website template is a more cost-efficient approach nowadays with the availability of various platforms and website builders.