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Template or Custom: Which Website Design Approach Is Best for You?

| By Jay McLain

Websites have become a critical component of business development and particularly marketing. Your website is probably the first place people go to when they want to learn about your products or services. With a range of options currently available, from do-it-yourself self-starter websites to custom designed and developed website solutions, what’s best for your business and budget?

My role at Reuben Rink as Digital Art Director is primarily as a designer and front-end developer for custom website design and development. However, I’ve also built a number of websites using templated solutions. I can tell you that regardless of your final choice, each option has its pros and cons. Consider approaching your decision based on your business plan and projected growth.

templates versus custom website designTemplated Website Solution

There are a myriad of affordable pre-built, templated website solutions on the market today, such as Weebly, Wix and Squarespace. Some of them are easier to set up than others, but each solution has a proprietary aspect built into it. With these providers, you’re essentially licensing their service and software. For the small business owner or entrepreneur, these options can be a great starting point to get your new website off the ground. Just be aware that at some point, you will likely outgrow their platform, particularly if you need a website built to meet specific marketing goals or unique functionality.

Pros:

  • Short Development Timeframes: Using a template gives you the ability to launch a website quickly with minimal setup.
  • Simplicity: Templates offer a user-friendly interface for setup and content integration using an established design and fixed layout.
  • Affordability: Template providers typically charge a monthly license/usage fee that is all inclusive of hosting, platform, etc.

Cons:

  • Limited Functionality: Templates are proprietary solutions or designs that offer very limited customization.
  • Limited Choices: You will be limited to their templates and formatting. Personally, I have never had a website where the off-the-shelf solution was a perfect fit.
  • Similarity To Other Websites: If you’re using a template or pre-built design, it’s likely that thousands of other websites are using the same template, and some of them may be your competition. That can make it difficult for your website to stand out.
  • Content May Be Difficult Or Impossible To Export: Should you ever choose to leave the provider, you will not be able to export all your existing website content and assets, and certainly not the website resources. Some content can be exported, but it varies based on the provider and nature of the content. And there is no guarantee that the exported content will be compatible with your new website platform.
  • You Have To Do It Yourself: This may seem obvious, but it’s something a lot of people forget – having a DIY website means you must take the time to enter the content, written and visual, and then constantly monitor and update it as needed. That often results in a website that goes up and then never changes, quickly becoming dated in terms of both messaging and technology.

Custom Website Solution

There are many different Content Management Systems (CMS) on the market today that offer a wide variety of options. Some are more complicated than others and it’s important to consult with a reputable web developer prior to choosing the system for your new website. But the biggest benefit is that they are built for flexibility and scalability. Allow me to address a few pros and cons to this option.

Pros:

  • Scalability and Long-Term Viability: Your website can grow with your business needs. If, for example, you decide to run a digital marketing campaign and need a unique landing page for conversions, or perhaps a customer portal that integrates seamlessly with the website, it can be done.
  • Unique Branding Presentation: Your website is an extension of your business. Much like your business card, your website conveys a message about your brand visually and verbally. With a custom website, you’re not locked into a limited range of choices, so your website can better reflect your company’s brand.
  • Flexibility and Performance: Using a custom website means that you have control over the website assets, files and entire website. This also means flexibility for customization to better fit your business needs. And with a custom website, you have better control of the website performance and the freedom to change hosting providers if necessary.
  • More Robust Content Development Opportunities: Working with a web developer offers much more leeway in terms of customizing the content of your site. Not being locked into a set format, you can content as needed to expand or explain a point. Also, while you may choose to create the content yourself and provide it to the site developer, agencies like ours can provide professionals with experience in content development, utilizing best practices and incorporating knowledge of things like search engine optimization (SEO) to make it easier for potential customers to find your site.

Cons:

  • Cost: Custom website solutions require the skills of a developer to build the website to your specifications. And a CMS system will also be necessary so that the website can be easily maintained in the future. Many good CMS systems are open-source and available to the public. However, understanding how to work with CMS systems requires someone with experience and technical knowledge.
  • Timing: Designing and developing a custom website to fit your current and future needs will take longer than simply adding content to a pre-packaged solution. But in the long term, you will have a website that can grow with the needs of your business.

Determining the appropriate website solution for your business will depend on your business objectives and budget. If you would like to know more about the different options available for developing your new website, you should consult with a professional resource like Reuben Rink. Take the time to discuss the various options available and decide which option will work best for you to help your business grow.

Our team at Reuben Rink creates customized websites to help our clients deliver a well-rounded, professional brand experience. Contact us today to find out what we can do for you!

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