Custom Designed Websites vs. Templates


Websites used to be a badge of honor. The more bells and whistles you had, the more powerful and relevant you were. What’s that? You have a flash website? Wow! That’s bitchin’! These days, it’s a different ballgame. Having a website is no longer a privilege, it’s a necessity. You’re nobody unless you have a complete online presence: website, Facebook page, Twitter handle, LinkedIn profile, Apple ID… you name it! And those flash websites? A thing of the past.

Websites have become much more attainable. With the advent of the CMS (content management system), the era of do-it-yourself websites has emerged. Businesses now have the option of going with a custom website (designed and coded from scratch) or a template website (a website already designed and coded, but with the ability to change certain styles, add your own content and images, and make it your own). So which is right for you?

Custom Website

If you are a major brand, large corporation, or are highly competitive in your marketplace, you would definitely go with a custom website. But what if you are a small business? A custom site still may be right for you. A custom site is designed and coded specifically for your marketing needs. It will be like no other. A custom site is designed with your specific audience engagement in mind.

Price tag: Custom designed website prices will vary greatly. It will depend on what your needs are, what special functions you might need, and who you are using to design and develop the site. If you work with Katy Dwyer Design, a custom website will generally start around $6,000 for a basic custom website. Websites that need to include databases, blogs, galleries, e-commerce, and more add to the base cost.

Template Website

I admit that as a designer, the idea of building a website from a template (if you are a WordPress or other CMS user, you know these as themes) isn’t desirable. Why would you want a website that looks like someone else’s? There’s also the issue of bugs that more often than not will exist in the backend of the template you purchase. Some money usually has to be spent correcting the bugs. But starting with a pre-designed and coded template does have it’s advantages. When you purchase a template from a reputable company (I’ve had some success with themeforest), you are buying a backbone for your website. Then you can make certain design changes (many of which are built into the framework so all it requires is the changing of some options: color changes, font changes, adding your logo, etc.). In some cases, you can wind up with a website that does reflect you, and has some bells and whistles that you might not have gotten otherwise due to the cost of development. The downfall can be when you purchase a template that has many problems under the hood, so to speak. In situations like those, you could wind up paying a developer to fix the problems more than you would have had to pay to develop something from scratch.

Price tag: First you must buy a template (or theme). Decent premium templates start at around $40 and can be as much as $100, or, depending on their use, can continue to increase in price. Then, you still need to pay a designer, developer, or both to make the necessary changes you’d like to see. If you work with Katy Dwyer Design, a website built using a pre-designed template will start at around $2,000. If the estimate for building a site using a template approached $5,000, I would then suggest going with a custom site instead. You’ll wind up getting exactly what you want, rather than be locked into certain aspects of the template you’ve purchased.

Free Website

Before you get too excited, no site is actually free. At least not if you plan to have a unique URL and host it somewhere (like Bluehost, HostMonster, or the more well-known GoDaddy). But there are free themes out there. And if you have the confidence and knowledge to install a platform like WordPress and work within its framework to add content to your site, you could wind up with a price tag of $0 for the design/development (aside from factoring in the man hours you have spent on it).

But if you even have a small budget to work with, I recommend contacting your local designer and speaking with them about your options. Someone with training and expertise will better be able to position your business and brand in the marketplace, and you’ll wind up with a superior end product that works harder for your bottom line.