Once in awhile, our clients will ask us something like this: “why should I go custom, when my friend got their website for $60 online using a template or WIX do-it-yourself site.” Our answer? It depends on your business goals and what you want your website to achieve.
Template websites are definitely great tools, used by thousands of businesses worldwide. They’re quick to set up, and many have modern, fresh designs that, in some cases, can resemble the custom sites we make for our clients.
Because some templates look so good in demo-form, it’s hard to pinpoint the benefits of going custom. Purchasing a rough-and-ready, inexpensive template might be the best option for your business; or that choice might end up costing you a lot more money in the long run.
So, should you buy a pre-made website, or hire a web design agency to build one for you? Let’s breakdown the benefits of each option.
OPTION 1: BUILDING A HIGH-FUNCTIONING, CUSTOM WEBSITE
Tailored to fit your needs
Custom websites are perfectly catered to your business’s unique communication needs. Web design agencies and developers will take into account your business goals and help you integrate stunning, innovative features that you might not have considered before. Some agencies (like us!) will also start the creative process by conducting market research. This helps us understand your buyer personas. Then, we tailor the site navigation, calls-to-action, and content strategy around the rich insights this research provides.
Fast and easily searchable
Templates may look great, but unless you have the help of a high-quality web developer, your template site will have a tendency to load more slowly than a custom website. The slower your website is, the worse your Google ranking will be. As a result, a slow site not only undermines the strength of your digital marketing strategy, but can also reduce the likelihood of your customers organically finding your business online. By using a seasoned developer, instead of buying a template, you’re guaranteeing that the background coding of your site will influence your business’s success in search engines. At 434 Marketing, we also submit our customers’ sitemaps to Google, allowing their site to be more easily found by Google search bot crawlers.
Mobile and fluid-responsive
Good web developers will also make your website responsive, which means it will fit perfectly on every device (tablet, iPhone, Android, etc.) and browser. Although many modern template designs are responsive, most are not fluid responsive. This means, template sites tend to jump sizes as you resize your browser instead of a fluid resizing process. Template websites also restrict your ability to customize how your website will render on a phone or tablet.
When creating a custom design from scratch, you have the flexibility to work with your budget and add features as you need them. Rather than having to rework code to accommodate a new API or robust feature down the road, your developer will do all of the technical planning required to support that vision from the get-go. This will save you lots of time and money in the long run. Template websites offer many widget options, but customizing these pieces is often a time-consuming process.
Easy to edit
Most web developers will also offer maintenance contracts, allowing you to edit the site as needed. At 434 Marketing, we offer maintenance, but we also offer opportunities to update with custom components in the back-end. Because your website developer built your code from scratch, it’s easy to make edits as needed. This customizability isn’t always as easily available with a custom site. We also teach all of our clients how to use WordPress: our preferred Content Management System. In case you’re wondering, this is why we love to use WordPress and highly recommend it to our clients. Once our clients are trained on WordPress, they can easily take ownership over their content and make changes as needed. Little to no technical expertise is required!
When working with a web developer, trust is an important factor. They will work hard to make sure your website is secure and coded optimally. And, if you have questions down the road, those same people will be there to support you. Template makers, on the other hand, don’t always offer the same impeccable maintenance and support.
Vulnerability and Security
It is predicted that by 2018 the Cyber Security Industry will top $155 billion by 2019. Most Themes create significant threats. WordPress is a highly threatened platform because its readily used. At 434 Marketing, we conduct vulnerability scans and maintain our clients websites to ensure the risk of being hacked is reduced significantly. This is especially important when you’re making an e-commerce site. There are e-commerce templates, but when you’re dealing with your customer’s payment information, you want to make sure that your website is high-quality, secure, and robust on the back-end. All it takes is one mistake and a good hacker for your business to lose its reliability and potentially face legal issues.
OPTION 2: USING A PRE-MADE TEMPLATE
Perfect for tight budgets
Most templates cost between $0 and $100, with the majority falling in the $60 – $70 range. If you have the coding knowledge needed to configure the site, all you need to pay for on top of the website template is your time. Unless, of course, you need to hire somebody else to configure your template for you. In which case, the cost of their time will be added to your project.
Shorter development time (usually!)
Whereas non-rush custom website projects typically take 30 to 90 days to turnaround, a template can be configured quickly – depending on your coding capabilities!
How long will it actually take?
While some templates can be easy to use; others are nightmarish and confusing. Even some seasoned web developers struggle to quickly configure a poorly designed template site. It can take hours just to get acquainted with the back-end code, learn WordPress, read the documentation, and learn where you need to place your content.
Although a template may look like the quickest option, it is easy to get roadblocked by technical errors, bugs and a lack of clear navigation on the CMS. Even with coding experience, fixing these errors can take hours of research and hard work to fix. In many cases, you either need to spend time and money learning how to code your website and fix these bugs, or hire a web developer to do it for you.
SO, WHICH SHOULD YOU CHOOSE?
If you have a small budget and have the technical knowledge you need in-house, you should probably go with a template website to get your brand off the ground. Something is usually better than nothing. It might not be the best option in the long run, but for now a template website will certainly get the job done.
On the other hand, if you have:
Capital to invest in a high-functioning, custom-made website
Limited code knowledge or time to learn how to build out your own template website
Then you should definitely go custom!
GOING CUSTOM? MAKE SURE YOU PICK THE RIGHT WEB DEVELOPER!
To be blunt, there are many inexperienced web developers out there. They will overcharge you for a basic, non-responsive website, and often don’t care about your business or take the time to research what will resonate with your customers.
When you’re picking the right web developer, make sure they have an impressive portfolio and excellent customer reviews. Then, make sure they’re not overcharging you for something that is low quality. You wouldn’t believe how many of our clients ask us to refurbish older websites that they overpaid for ($25k – $50k for a simple website). Once we get onto the back-end, we discover that it was a poorly configured template job from the start that they should have paid a lot less for. When you pay for a custom design; make sure you’re getting a high-quality custom website by finding a developer you can trust.