In a world where we’ve grown accustomed to instant gratification, pre-made website templates and drag-and-drop website builders can be appealing. Popular sites like Squarespace and Wix make it so easy that you could have a website up in a day. But it’s important to understand the difference between website templates and custom website design.

What is a Website Template?

Essentially, templates allow you to squeeze your company’s essential information into an established theme with colors, fonts and organizational elements. Sounds simple, but utilizing templates come with a fair amount of challenges and limitations that can affect your website’s ability to convert visitors to customers.

Why Custom Website Design Matters

Your website is the foundation of your entire digital marketing strategy. It’s your company’s most important sales and marketing tool. The bottom line is that custom website design matters. Here’s why: 

One size does not fit all

Templates are marketed as a simple and affordable way to set up a website. In some ways, this is true. You can change your font color and some other simple aesthetic features, but that is generally where the ease of customization stops. Changing the functionality of elements is virtually impossible for someone without website design knowledge and experience. 

Pre-made templates are advertised as a one-size-fits-all kind of solution, but in reality, they are not optimally suited for any one specific company. Your business is unique, so why would you want the same template that is being utilized by countless other companies. 

Not only could this make your website appear less unique or professional, but no matter what template you choose, it has not been specifically designed to suit your company’s needs in terms of look and function. 

Custom websites are customer focused

When we first meet with prospective clients one of the first things we emphasize is that websites are not built for business owners, they are built for users. 

As we mentioned, pre-made website templates were designed to help individuals and businesses save time and money. Custom-built websites are built to intentionally reach your customers.

With a custom website, there is no theme. The architecture of your website is built to your specifications and does not carry any limitations or restrictions on how the site will look or function. 

This uniqueness will also set your site apart from your competitors, allowing you to build your site around the customer journey and focusing the design and development on the narrative that your customers are most likely to follow.

Websites must be built with SEO in mind

The ins and outs of web design can be difficult to understand if you’re not familiar with how it all works, but to put it simply, your code needs to be SEO-friendly. 

The way your site is coded can affect how search engines crawl and index your website, which will determine where you show up in search results. If your on-page SEO fundamentals are not up to snuff, you’ll be fighting an uphill battle for visibility from the start. 

Additionally, templates are notorious for having extra files and elements hidden in their code to help them run which can greatly slow down the speed of your website. 

Scalability and Flexibility

The goal is to grow your business, so you should have a website that can easily grow as you do. Your website should be built with a system that is both scalable to accept larger flows of traffic and flexible so that it is easy to add new functionality as needed.

Website builders are neither scalable nor flexible, meaning that their lifespan for any serious business is greatly limited. Once the lifespan of a website built using a website builder is reached, you’ll have no choice but to switch to a custom-built website.

Custom-built websites are more reliable 

Any time you’re relying on a pre-made template for your website, there is an inherent level of risk involved. 

For example, WordPress has thousands of templates (or themes) to choose from that were created by third-party developers  In July, WordPress suspended one of these themes for having hidden affiliate links within its code–a violation of the company’s rules. 

The suspension meant that the theme would no longer be available for download and that more than 1 million users that were currently using the theme at the time would not be able to update their theme via WordPress for five weeks.

Squarespace, another popular template provider, frequently updates their code and changes how its user interface works. These changes can affect the design and functionality of your website and leave you scrambling to fix it. 

With a custom-built website, you are eliminating the risk of things like these happening to you. 

Is a Custom Website Right for Your Business?

Despite the challenges and limitations, there are some cases where using a premade template is the best option for your business. But it’s important to understand that opting to use a template doesn’t necessarily mean you have to build the website yourself. In fact, you shouldn’t. 

An experienced website developer can help ensure your template doesn’t have any extra files or hidden elements that could negatively impact your site’s performance. They can also make changes to the look and functionality beyond the average website builder options that you see. 

For most businesses, however, custom website design will result in a greater return on investment compared to “off-the-shelf” solutions. 

Ultimately, the best way to ensure proper web design practices and subsequent search engine visibility is to partner with a web design agency that knows what they are doing. Let us help you determine the best solution for your business. Click the get started button below to schedule a free consultation. 

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