Digital Transformation

Building a Custom Website Design vs. Using a Template

This blog takes you through the entire website design process as well as the advantages and disadvantages of pursuing a custom build vs. using a template.

Blog Post

10 minute read

Jun 17, 2024

Having a good website is crucial for the modern business. According to Semrush and Forbes, the average user forms their opinion about a website in 0.05 seconds, showing how little time a brand has to win over a user who is visiting their website for the first time. But before you even launch your website, you need to decide if you want a custom-built website or if you want to use a template.  

With nearly 1.09 billion websites on the internet, there is plenty of competition for user attention, so having a unique, engaging, and user-friendly website can be a major advantage in gaining traffic and standing out among your competitors.  

Read through the following sections for a comprehensive overview of custom website design, its advantages and disadvantages, and when it might be right to use a simple template instead.  

Looking at your website as a piece of business technology reframes your perspective and allows you to consider user experience, data flow, and security features. To learn more about the role of modern technology in business, watch Impact’s webinar, How Managed Digital Transformation Solves Real Challenges: An Inside Look.  

What Goes into Building a Custom Website

Understanding the stages involved in the development of a custom website will help you decide if this is a type of project that’s right for your brand. Furthermore, knowing what’s included in each of these stages sheds light on whether or not you have the internal capacity to build a custom website or if you’d need external assistance, should you choose to pursue a custom site.  

Read through the following for a brief overview of the seven stages of custom website development:

  1. Discovery and Planning: The discovery and planning stage involves gathering and analyzing the client's requirements, goals, and target audience to understand what the website needs to achieve.  

    This phase also includes market research to identify industry trends and competitors, define the project scope, and create a sitemap and wireframes to organize content and visualize the website's structure. 
     
  2. Design: In the design stage, conceptual design involves creating initial design concepts aligned with the client's brand and preferences. Mockups are then developed for key pages to showcase layout, color schemes, and visual elements for client feedback.  

    User experience (UX) design focuses on ensuring the website offers a seamless and intuitive user experience, while user interface (UI) design involves designing visual components, like typography and imagery, to create an appealing and cohesive look. 
     
  3. Content Creation: Content creation involves developing a strategy for creating and organizing content that aligns with the website's goals and audience needs. This includes writing compelling, SEO-friendly copy for the website and creating or sourcing high-quality images, videos, and other multimedia elements to enhance its visual appeal and engagement. 
     
  4. Development: The development stage includes front-end development, where design mockups are converted into HTML, CSS, and JavaScript code for the website's front end. Back-end development involves building the server-side logic, databases, and APIs necessary for the website's functionality.  

    Additionally, integrating a content management system (CMS) allows for easy content updates and management by the client. 
     
  5. Testing: Testing is crucial to ensure the website functions correctly and provides a positive user experience.  
    This includes functional testing to ensure all features work as intended, usability testing with real users to gather feedback, performance testing to optimize speed and efficiency, cross-browser testing to ensure compatibility, and security testing to identify and fix vulnerabilities. 
     
  6. Launch: The launch stage involves performing a final review and completing a checklist to ensure everything is ready for deployment. Once approved, the website is deployed to the live server, and DNS settings are configured to point the domain to the new website, making it accessible to the public. 
     
  7. Post Launch: After the website is launched, ongoing maintenance is required to keep it running smoothly and effectively. This includes monitoring for any issues or bugs that need attention, setting up analytics to track user behavior and performance, optimizing for search engines to improve visibility, regularly updating content and features, and implementing backups and recovery plans to protect against data loss.

Now that we've overviewed the custom website design process, let’s take a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages associated with a custom build.  

Custom designs vs templates

Advantages and Disadvantages of Custom Website Design

No matter the problem, there will never be a perfect solution. While custom websites offer a wide variety of benefits to both brands and users alike, they might not be the right choice in every situation. I detail the major advantages and disadvantages of custom site design below to help you make a more informed decision with confidence.  

Custom Design Advantages

As mentioned above, custom websites do offer brands several advantages including:  

  1. Unique Brand Identity: A custom website allows businesses to create a distinctive online presence that reflects their brand identity accurately. Tailored design elements, color schemes, and typography ensure that the website stands out from competitors. 
     
  2. Scalability: Custom websites can be built with scalability in mind, allowing businesses to grow and adapt their online presence as their needs evolve. The website architecture and functionality can be customized to accommodate future expansions and enhancements. 
     
  3. Optimized User Experience: Custom websites are designed with the specific needs and preferences of the target audience in mind, resulting in a more intuitive and user-friendly experience. Customized navigation, layout, and functionality enhance user engagement and satisfaction. 
     
  4. Enhanced Performance: Custom websites are built with clean, efficient code optimized for speed and performance. This ensures fast loading times, smooth navigation, and seamless functionality, contributing to a positive user experience and improved search engine rankings. 
     
  5. Tailored Functionality: Custom websites can be equipped with unique features and functionalities tailored to the specific requirements of the business. Whether it's an ecommerce platform, booking system, or interactive tool, custom development allows for the integration of bespoke solutions that meet the business's needs precisely. 
     
  6. SEO Benefits: Custom websites offer greater flexibility and control over search engine optimization (SEO) efforts. Customized meta tags, URL structures, and content organization can be optimized to improve search engine visibility and rankings, driving more organic traffic to the website. 
     
  7. Ownership and Control: With a custom website, businesses have full ownership and control over their online presence. Unlike templated solutions, there are no limitations imposed by third-party platforms, allowing businesses to make changes and updates as needed without restrictions. 
     
  8. Security: Custom websites can be built with robust security measures to protect against cyber threats and vulnerabilities. By implementing industry best practices and security protocols, businesses can safeguard sensitive data and ensure the integrity of their online operations.

Disadvantages of Custom Web Design

While custom websites bring a lot to the table, there are also some potential drawbacks to pursuing a custom site build such as:  

  1. Higher Cost: Custom website development typically requires more time, effort, and resources compared to using pre-made templates or website builders. The initial investment for a custom website can be higher, especially for complex projects with advanced features. 
     
  2. Longer Development Time: Building a custom website from scratch involves a longer development timeline compared to using templates or pre-built solutions. The process of designing, developing, and testing custom functionalities can extend the project duration, delaying the website's launch. 
     
  3. Technical Expertise Required: Custom website development requires specialized technical skills and expertise in programming languages, web development frameworks, and software tools. Businesses may need to hire experienced developers or agencies to ensure the project's success, adding to the overall cost.
     
  4. Maintenance and Updates: Custom websites require ongoing maintenance and updates to ensure optimal performance, security, and compatibility with evolving web standards. This may involve regular software updates, security patches, and bug fixes, which can require additional time and resources. 
     
  5. Dependency on Developers: Businesses may become dependent on developers or development agencies for ongoing support and updates, especially if they lack in-house technical expertise. This dependency can lead to delays or disruptions due to developer unavailability or turnover. 
     
  6. Risk of Over-Engineering: Custom websites may risk over-engineering, where unnecessary features or functionalities are added, leading to complexity and bloated code. This can result in higher maintenance costs and slower performance without providing significant value to users. 
     
  7. Limited Support and Documentation: Compared to popular CMS platforms or website builders, custom website solutions may have limited support resources and documentation available. Businesses may encounter challenges in finding solutions to technical issues or implementing new features without comprehensive documentation or community support. 
     
  8. Compatibility and Browser Issues: Custom websites may face compatibility issues across different web browsers and devices, requiring additional testing and optimization efforts to ensure consistent performance and user experience. This can be particularly challenging for complex or interactive websites with custom functionalities.

When it Makes Sense to Use a Template

Building a website using a template is a practical choice when you're working within a limited budget or time frame. Templates offer pre-designed layouts and functionalities that can be quickly customized to meet your needs, significantly reducing development costs and speeding up the website launch process. 

This option is particularly beneficial for businesses with straightforward requirements or those looking for a hassle-free solution without the complexities of custom development. 

Moreover, templates are suitable for individuals and small businesses lacking technical expertise or resources for custom website development. Many website builders and CMS platforms offer user-friendly interfaces that allow users with minimal coding experience to create professional-looking websites effortlessly. 

All-in-all, building a website using a template is ideal when you have budget or time constraints, simple website needs, limited technical skills, or the need for a responsive and professional-looking website without the intricacies of custom development.  

Pros and Cons of Website Templates

Just as there are advantages and disadvantages to building a custom website, there are also pros and cons to using a template for your site.  

Pros of Using a Template

  1. Cost-Effectiveness: Templates are often more affordable than custom design solutions, making them a cost-effective option for businesses with limited budgets. Many templates are available for free or at a low cost, reducing upfront expenses associated with website development. 
     
  2. Time-Saving: Templates provide pre-designed layouts and functionalities that can be easily customized to fit your needs. This saves time compared to custom development, allowing for quicker website deployment and launch. 
     
  3. Ease of Use: Templates are designed with user-friendliness in mind, making them accessible to individuals with little to no coding experience. Many website builders and CMS platforms offer intuitive drag-and-drop interfaces, allowing users to create professional-looking websites without technical expertise. 
     
  4. Wide Variety of Options: There is a vast selection of templates available for different industries, purposes, and design styles. Whether you need a portfolio, e-commerce, or blog website, you can find a template that suits your specific needs and preferences. 
     
  5. Responsive Design: Many templates come with built-in responsive design, ensuring that your website looks and functions well across various devices and screen sizes. This is crucial for providing a seamless user experience and reaching a broader audience. 
     
  6. Community Support and Updates: Templates often come with community support forums and regular updates from developers, providing resources and assistance for users. This can be valuable for troubleshooting issues, staying up-to-date with design trends, and ensuring compatibility with the latest web technologies.

The Drawbacks of the Template

Even if you do choose to build your website using a template, it’s important to know some of the challenges you might run into, which include:  

  1. Limited Customization: Templates may have limitations in terms of customization options. While they provide pre-designed layouts and functionalities, making extensive changes or implementing unique features beyond the template's capabilities can be challenging or impractical. 

    Plus, since templates are available to multiple users, there is a risk of having a website that looks similar to others with the same template. This lack of uniqueness can undermine branding efforts and make it harder for businesses to stand out from competitors. 
     
  2. Overhead Code: Templates often come with pre-written code that includes features and functionalities not necessarily needed for your specific website. This can result in unnecessary overhead code, which may affect website performance and loading times. 
     
  3. Potential for Bloat: Some templates may include unnecessary design elements or features that add bloat to the website. This can negatively impact website speed, user experience, and search engine optimization (SEO) rankings. 
     
  4. Dependency on Template Providers: Users of templates may become dependent on the template provider for ongoing support, updates, and maintenance. If the template provider discontinues support or updates for the template, users may face challenges in maintaining their websites and ensuring compatibility with evolving web standards. 
     
  5. Limited Control: Using a template means relinquishing some degree of control over the website design and functionality. Users may encounter limitations or restrictions imposed by the template provider, affecting their ability to implement specific design elements or features. 
     
  6. Risk of Compatibility Issues: Templates may not always be compatible with all web browsers, devices, or screen sizes. Users may need to invest additional time and effort in testing and optimizing the website for cross-browser compatibility and responsiveness. 
     
  7. Difficulty in Finding the Right Template: With the abundance of templates available, finding the right one that meets your specific needs and preferences can be challenging. It may require extensive searching and evaluation to find a template that aligns with your vision for the website.

Final Thoughts on Custom Website Design vs. Templates  

A brand’s website often acts as its digital homebase, providing a place for its audience to engage with content, make buying actions, and get updates on new products, release dates, or any other brand news.  

By understanding the advantages and challenges associated with custom website designs and template builds, you can make a more informed decision about which is right for your brand with more confidence.

When integrated properly, technology can act as a springboard that launches brands into the future. To learn more about how businesses can successfully use technology for their betterment, watch Impact’s webinar, How Manage Digital Transformation Solves Real Challenges: An Inside Look.  

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