Should you use a template or custom design for your website?
Website templates have become ubiquitous over the past several years. Dozens of free website builder platforms are available to entrepreneurs, bloggers, and other professionals, and each of them offers hundreds, or even thousands of templates to choose from. After selecting a basic template, you can make a handful of tweaks and have a site that’s ready to go after a relatively short period of time.
However, there are some drawbacks to templates that make them less than ideal for many business owners. Instead, it may be better to develop a custom website design. According to Fuel Web Marketing, “custom designs often make a better impression, since they’re developed specifically for your brand—and they’re not like anything else on the market.”
The question is, are templates worth using for your website?
Advantages of Templates
Templates do have several advantages, which are worth considering:
• The most common reason people choose a template for building their site is to save money. Free website builders are plentiful these days, and with them, it’s possible to build out a basic website without paying a cent (though most people end up paying a little for the right template, for hosting, or for other expenses). Compared to a custom web design job, this is much more budget friendly.
• Ease of use/time to create. Templates are also user friendly. Most template-based website builders and web editors utilize WYSIWYG and drag and drop mechanics, making them accessible to even non-tech-savvy people. Additionally, because the templates are already predesigned, they can be modified quickly, enabling you to launch your website in days, if not hours.
• Many templates offer some degree of customizability. You can change colors, fonts, and web element placements to tweak it to your liking. You’ll still be limited in what you create, but you should be able to make enough changes to make your template fit your brand, or make it seem more original.
• Accessibility and variety. Most prominent website builders offer free and cheap templates to their users, so you won’t have a problem finding templates for your site. You also won’t have a problem finding a good template for your brand; there are thousands, if not millions of templates to choose from, and more are added every day. Eventually, you should be able to find a decent fit for your brand.
Disadvantages of Templates
However, there are some disadvantages of templates, spurring many to seek out custom designs:
• No custom fit. While it’s possible to tweak your template to make it fit your brand better, a custom design will be created with your brand in mind from the start. It’s nearly impossible to replicate or rival this feature with a template. When seeking out a custom design, your designers will work with you to get to know your brand on a fundamental level, including what makes it unique, what makes customers love it, and what kind of values you want to present to the world. Your website design should reflect these qualities.
• Finite options. No matter how many new templates get added to the available mix, you’re still going to be working with finite options. There’s a firm upper limit to the number of templates available to you, which means you may not end up finding something that works for your brand. On top of that, you’ll spend countless hours searching for a perfect fit, which can interfere with your website launch timeline.
• Less room to scale. Most webmasters end up tweaking their web design over time. They find that there are certain elements they don’t like, and ones that need tweaking. They want to change the site to accomplish a new goal, like increasing conversions or appealing to a different demographic. And if you’re locked into a single template, your options will be limited; there are only so many changes you can make. But working with a professional designer, you’ll have much more room to grow and change over time.
• No unique factor. Perhaps most importantly, if you use a template, you’ll be putting yourself in competition with millions of websites that have already used them. Sharp-eyed customers will be able to spot the features that your website has in common with other templated sites. At best, this makes you look uninspired. At worst, it makes you look unprofessional.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that while templates have a lot of advantages, and can be good for many new webmasters, their shortcomings make them inferior to custom web designs in many cases. Spend some time considering your competition, your market size, and your budget—and consider talking to a professional web designer to help you make the right decision.