Website development: template or custom?

Depending on your website needs, you have two options when it comes to design: you can do it yourself by using an existing template, or you can hire someone to develop a custom site. Which you choose depends on needs and budget.

Whether you choose to use a template for your website or have a designer create a custom website design will depend on your budget. Through a search, you can find many free or inexpensive website templates. The cost for a custom-designed website will depend on the complexity of the site.

What Is a Website Template?

A website template is a premade design. The template design forms the framework of the site. Without a template, a website would appear as line after line of text with no rules, graphic elements, or color. The template allows for the placement of text, page layout, and graphic elements in a pleasing manner. The framework of a site, includes the following design features:

  • page layout -- one, two, or three columns
  • margins or white space -- the distance between the outer edge of blog page and edge of outermost column
  • depth of page -- distance from bottom of column to bottom edge of blog page
  • position for header or masthead -- most templates do not have a header. A header is where you put the name of your business with the logo. A website header is placed on the top of a blog page, similar to the masthead of a newspaper. A designer can create a header, which can be inserted in to a website template or custom design site.
  • graphic elements -- links to new pages, blog buttons linking to other parts of the site, photos, ads, widgets

Templates are often free, but some may be purchased for a low price. You can find many free design templates in the free blogging platforms, Blogger or WordPress. For a Top 10 of web hosting providers, see Web Hostiing Geeks.

The main advantage to using a website template aside from the low or no cost is usability. Choose a simple template or even one that is more complex from a lists of available templates. If the design doesn’t work perfectly, tweak it. For example, a 3-column template, can be adjusted so that the columns are varying widths. Graphic elements can be added by selecting widgets. While a custom design requires that the person designing the site be proficient in coding and design, a website template can be used by an inexperienced person.

What Is a Custom Web Design?

Do all elements on the site need to match? For instance, a business website will have a header, which needs to match a graphic element in the sidebar. The buttons on the navigation bar may need to complement the header, and so on. With complex design elements, a custom website design is the only option.

If you want to stand out with your website, you may need a custom design. The last thing a business needs is to find a competitor or any other business for that matter using the same free or low-priced template. A custom website lends uniqueness to a site. Once created by a custom web designer, the design will be the face of the business.

Website designers are fluent in a variety of development styles. Rather than sending an in-house staff member to be trained, use an experienced team of designers. An off-site design team will have a depth of experience from working with other clients. Another plus stems from the continuity of services. If you need to make a change or do an overhaul, the designer will be ready to help you.

A design team will request meetings with you and your team prior to construction of the website. You may have an old website to use as a guide, or you could sketch out the design. A talented design team will create the site to your specifications.

Pros v. Cons

When considering using a website template versus commissioning a custom design, look at the purpose of the site. A straightforward site with a link to sales pages, various graphic elements could be created using a standard template. But, add in complex graphics and specialized fonts to match labeling of products, and a custom design is the most appropriate option.

With a small startup business, using a website template will allow for a snazzy design for modest outlay of funds. When the business grows, the website can undergo an overhaul by switching to a custom design.

Since the website represents your business, the site design should be unique in style and appearance. With colors and fonts matching both product packaging and the site header, a custom design will give the business a unique identity. Often the creation of a custom site design will lead to a revamping of packaging and other manifestations of the company identity.

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