January 7, 2016 Category:

An 8-Point Comparison: Custom Website vs. Template-Based

With companies always trying to stretch their marketing dollars, while maneuvering good business decisions, how does one determine which solution is most favorable: a custom website or a template-based website?

Even if you already have a full-fledge website, read on. This could open your eyes to the benefits and specific uses that are ideal for template-based websites. Beyond their cost-saving advantages, template-based sites are great for launching individual products and services through a temporary independent website, or event announcements. And if you are trying to decide whether to invest in a custom website at this time, this could help you find your answers.

As a designer I problem-solve everyday. The client base I work with is varied: different size companies within different industries. Each problem has its own unique set of problems and therefore unique, custom solutions. But there are times when the custom approach that I offer on a daily basis does not match with a customers’ budget, or solve the design problem in the most efficient manner. Though I tend to focus on custom solutions, there is most definitely a need and a time to opt for a template-based website over a custom website build.

So, how does one choose? A custom build is going to offer full flexibility to create a truly unique customer experience. If most of your business is done on the web, then it might be worth your company finding those marketing dollars to go for a custom website. In actuality, your business might miss-out on the profits that the custom build is capable of delivering. But if you find that your website is not a top component driving your sales, and doesn’t require as much brand presence or special functions, then a template-based solution could be the perfect answer for your budget at this time.

With pro’s and con’s to both, we’ll compare the two different approaches by using eight key components associated with building a website. Using a 1-10 scale, with “1” being very poor, and a “10” being excellent, we can see how these two options stack-up face-to-face.


An Eight-Component Comparison:

1. Time – How quickly do you need to move through all stages of development: the planning stage, the design stage, and the build stage? With the structure, form, and features are already decided for you, the template-based site is the winner here, allowing for a much shorter development time. Because there still is some planning and content creation to be done, I give the template-based a score of 9.
Score: Custom: 1 / Template: 9

2. Cost – Your budget. During the developmental stages you are going to save a lot with a template-based site. Most of the design decisions have been made for you and the design is set. The one cost that creeps in for a template-based site will be the monthly or annual fee associated with the template provider, but this is usually not a big enough fee to kick the template-based site out of getting a score of 10.
Score: Custom: 1 / Template: 10

3. Branding – Being able to completely reflect your brand and have your website be an extension of your brand is the liberation that a custom build will allow for over a template-based design. If your expectations for brand delivery are high, a custom build wins hands down. Though, because we can still add a bit of branding to our template-based site, I give it a 3 out of 10.
Score: Custom: 10 / Template: 3

4. Originality & Flexibility –
Going beyond the elements of your brand, this component includes the creation of a unique experience in both technical features as well as the visual design. When choosing a template-based site, you risk your site looking like other companies. A custom build can allow for the development of fully original visual design while integrating features that suits your industry, your marketing goals, and your demographic base.
Score: Custom: 10 / Template: 1

5. Functionality / Built to Suit – With the ability to construct and provide the functions and usability specific for your consumer base, a custom build is going to heighten your customer experience. Being able to target your demographic is going to increase repeat visits and customer satisfaction. Templates are going to be very limited in functionality features.
Score: Custom: 10 / Template: 1

6. SEO – Search Engine Optimization.
Some templates are not search engine friendly. A custom build will allow for quality SEO, as well as allowing for future modifications as needed.
Score: Custom: 10 / Template: 3

7. Freedom – This involves your freedom to own the end product, as well as move and manipulate it in the future. With a template you are locked into a certain vendor. By doing a custom build, you can change hosting and/or design agencies for future development.
Score: Custom: 10 / Template: 2

8. Need for Knowledge of HTML / CSS – You don’t need to know any HTML or CSS if you are using a template-based site. But, the more you want to have any control over any kind of customization within the template, it is good to have some knowledge of HTML / CSS. Hiring a design agency to do a custom site for you, they will take on that responsibility.
Score: Custom: 1 / Template: 7

If we grade these two options using our point system:

Custom: 54 points out of 80
Template: 36 points out of 80

So, for a truly unique customer experience that incorporates your branding and company essence, a custom site is the way to go. A custom site will allow for unlimited innovation in the design solution, from both a visual solution and the technical capabilities. No restrictions, full support, with a high brand presence.

If your budget is tight and you want the site live within a short amount of time — and you think going with a template-based site will not have a limiting impact on your brand or restrict your customer experience — then a Template-based site could be the right choice for a swift online solution. Examples of the ideal use of a template-based site would be: a one-page “scrolling” website, a one-page Event Announcement site, or any site that will have a short life-span.

My first role as a designer is to satisfy a company’s immediate goals within budget. It is clear that a Custom website meets more objectives than a Template-based site. Though the Template-based site could be the answer and may even initiate future marketing aspirations to be on target. Cross Design offers both custom as well as building sites using templates, whichever is more advantageous for the circumstance, and to best solve the design problem.