Most businesses today realise that having a website is a basic business need, especially with consumers increasingly using the internet for everything from researching their next holiday, getting design inspiration for their home’s interior, and online shopping. The next step is deciding whether you want a custom website design or to use a template design – and that can be a slightly more difficult decision, especially when your expertise isn’t digital marketing. So, here’s some insight into the pros and cons of each option, what to consider, and more, from our London-based web design team.
What is a Website Template?
A website template is a basic website structure that’s one-size-fits-all. A good quality template will be functional, but fairly basic, which can create a cookie-cutter effect. For this reason, these websites are usually very affordable, but bland at the same time, giving your business a generic ‘sameness’ that results from any other mass-produced, mass-sold item. You’ve probably experienced this yourself as an internet user – visiting a website that has nothing much wrong with it, but feels a little every day, familiar and – dare we say – boring.
There’s nothing wrong with using a website template, but this mass-produced route where your logo is the only thing different from every other business that’s used that template isn’t a great recipe for showcasing your offering – and it certainly makes it much more challenging for your business to stand out online amongst hundreds of competitors.
What is a Custom Website Design?
A custom website is made to order for a specific client. It’s the difference between buying an off-the-rack suit or going to a tailor for a bespoke fit or getting a kitchen designed for your home by an interior designer or going to Ikea and buying an off-the-shelf system. Essentially, it is a website that is designed from top to bottom with your business in mind – your design, your vision, and your customers. As a result, it becomes a seamless extension to your business, taking your brand online in a way that is true to your values and supports the customer experience you want to achieve by taking it online.
A custom website can start with a template that is then modified to meet your unique specifications, aesthetics, and functionality, or it can be built from the ground up without using a platform, template, or theme. Either method helps create a unique online presence for your business, creating an impact on each visitor that tells them they’ve come to the right place, showcases your offering, and makes you stand out. Typically, these websites are more expensive because of the amount of work and talent that needs to go into the design, and they may take a little longer to deliver too.
Choosing Between a DIY Template and Customised Website Design
Each type of website has its pros and cons, that much is clear. But choosing between them is not as easy. Here are some questions that can help clarify which website option is more suited to your business goals.
What are the limits of my budget?
DIY template websites are more affordable than custom websites, and if you have basic web design knowledge, you can probably complete and launch the website yourself without any professional help, making it even cheaper.
Keep in mind, however, that the costs of getting a custom website or a customised template website are not as high as you may think! It’s worth it to get a quote or two from a leading web design agency to see what the costs really are and work with them to see if you can fit this into your budget.
How soon do I need my website?
Because they are essentially copy-and-paste, a website template design can be completed pretty quickly – although it will take a bit longer if you want the template modified. A fully customised website will take the longest to produce because the process is more intensive and involves multiple specialists, including coding and graphic design teams. The more customisation you need, the longer it will take to deliver the completed website.
When speaking to a web design agency, talk to them about the deadline for your website, if it’s achievable to deliver a custom website in that window, and what they can do to help smooth this process.
What are my goals for my website?
Before committing to the website design process for either type of website, it’s essential to understand exactly what your website should aim to achieve for your business and how it will fit into your overall marketing strategy. Website templates are understandably much more basic in their aesthetics and functionality, while a modified template website or fully customised website can be developed to be fully in line with any goals you want to achieve.
If you want a couple of pages to sit on your domain while you grow your startup just in case anyone looks for you online, maybe a template is the way to go. But if you want to be able to deliver a really unique consumer experience, showcase what you do in line with your values and achievements, and turn your website into a sales machine for your digital marketing strategy, a modified template website or custom website will have what it takes.
What is my competition doing?
Although the online space is a much more equal playing field than traditional avenues for growing your business, the reality is that all of your competitors will be online vying for the same target audience. That means it’s essential to see what they are doing online (whether they are doing it right or wrong), and make sure your website design will blow them out of the water.
If you’re in a competitive online space, for example, as an e-commerce retailer, IT services provider, plumber, or hotel, then it probably makes sense to go with a customised website or modified template website to ensure you stand out and offer plenty of functionality. If you are in a very uncompetitive online environment, perhaps a basic template may be enough.
Who do I want to visit my website?
At the foundation of any successful digital marketing strategy is understanding who your customers are. This is fundamental towards determining how your content will best reach these customers and whether it will motivate them to use your business. Knowing if your customers are using the internet to research products and services like yours if they want to be able to access the website on mobile, and if they want to book or buy directly off a website is important to determine how your website should look and feel.
It’s also important to understand what your customers will expect when they visit your website. For example, if all your competitors have custom websites with social media integration, beautiful aesthetics, and innovative functionality, then they’ll expect yours to be similar. The last thing any business wants to do is let an interested customer down!
Are Template Websites Secure?
Vulnerabilities in website design make it easy for hackers and cybercriminals to attack your business, skimming data, locking your online operations down, and causing extensive disruption. The cost of a website breach can be much more severe than you might think, not only incurring costs to repair the issue alongside the cost of downtime but damaging your reputation in the eyes of customers. And these attacks are not rare – in fact, 46% of businesses and charities in the UK reported a cyber-attack in 2019, a 22% increase from 2018.
Generally, the more basic the website template is, the more vulnerable it is to attack. These risks can be reduced in two important ways:
- Security modifications – You can secure a template-based website by having it designed on a modified template that includes effective IT security measures such as a strong content management system, multifactor authentication (MFA) and user permissions, and uses Secure Socket Layer technology (SSL).
- Professional website maintenance – Website security and performance are key components of website maintenance, and every business should have a team dedicated to monitoring, updating, and running the website to ensure it stays secure. This can be challenging if you are not a web specialist or don’t have the resources to hire an in-house specialist, but the best web design companies offer website maintenance services that can provide this assistance affordably.
The Best Template Website Platforms
Certain platforms have risen above the competition to offer organisations a way of achieving an affordable yet highly effective middle ground between basic template websites and fully-custom websites. These platforms offer:
Modifiable website templates
While they deliver the same basic structure through the template, the platform allows you to manipulate and modify the website to create something very similar to a custom design. In the right hands, two websites using the same template will result in two very unique websites at the end of the process.
Because you are using a template that is then customised by web design specialists, businesses can achieve something unique while keeping their budget in check. This makes them the best value-for-money option for start-ups, growing businesses, and SMBs, giving you effective access to that valuable online consumer base without pushing spending out of control.
The best website platforms are continually innovating to offer clients and web designers more functionality, more options, and more third-party tools. It’s a bit like having an app store for your website at your fingertips! This will help customise the aesthetics as well as the functionality of the website, adding ways to monitor KPIs for website performance, e-commerce and secure payment functions, SEO tools, contact forms, and CRM software compatibility.
A good website platform helps make web security a lot easier to achieve and maintain, using plugins and software apps not only to make a breach more difficult, but to alert your team when an attack or suspicious activity is occurring, and back up your website so that it can be easily restored with minimal downtime.
For these and many other reasons, our website design company recommends WordPress to any client looking for a customised but affordable business website design. Our team is highly experienced in using the platform and our graphic design and web design teams work to ensure that every website we develop is bespoke to our client’s needs, affordable, and delivered on time.
For more information on custom website designs, website maintenance, or digital marketing, get in touch with our award-winning London-based team and see what we can deliver!