Custom Vs.Template

Custom websites can be complex, expensive, time consuming and difficult to create. So, why shouldn’t you go with a pre-built web template right?

If you want to create a website for your business, you have 2 basic choices - Custom or a pre-built Template.
In this article, we’ll look at the various options, first from the client’s perspective and then the designer’s point of view.


Lets be honest, most people outside the web design community don’t really know about or care for all the elements involved in creating websites. Start talking about typographical hierarchy, image compression or that latest JS library and you’ll quickly see people’s eyes glaze over. In fact most people don’t even know the difference between a Custom site, a Template and Rental Service like Squarespace.

For the uninitiated, Templates are like pre-built websites which work on CMS platforms like WordPress. You just swap out your company’s logo, pictures and content and lo and behold! You have your new website. Its quick, easy and sure to work. Rental services are quite similar, except that in their case, the site will be created, hosted and maintained with one company like Wix or Squarespace. Custom websites on the other hand are where you hire a web designer to create your graphical layout and then code it with HTML, CSS and Javascript to work in a browser.

Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying that we should all turn to custom designed websites. The fact of the matter is that many businesses just want a simple online presence with their basic description and contact details. The online equivalent of a business card or brochure. Template websites are a viable option for these organisations. They provide a cheap and quick alternative to get their company online. I mean, there’s a reason why a large part of the web is built using templates (WordPress alone now powers 25% all websites on the internet).

And that is exactly why you should avoid taking the quick and easy Template route.
Think about it. Do you really want the face of your company to look like every other website out there?

Every single company or Individual I’ve worked with over the last 8 years has insisted that their product or service is somehow better and different than their competitors. So, then I gently inquire, ‘why would you want to create an online public image that looks just like every other organisation claiming exactly the same thing?’

With so many businesses online, the logical thing to do would be to create a presence that helps you stand out and attract the right customers to your brand.

Just as you don’t need to be a tailor to know the difference between a bespoke and readymade suit; you don’t need to be a web designer to spot the difference between a well designed custom website and a pre-built template. Crucially though, even if business owners can’t tell the difference, their customers definitely can.


At this point I’m sure there is an angry WordPress developer out there getting ready to compose a strongly worded email on the subject. Before you hit Send though, let me remind you that I’m talking about pre-built themes here, not the custom themes that we build to work with a CMS platform like WordPress. Maybe you’re thinking, ‘aah, but pre-built themes offer easy functionality and reliability’. I’m not so sure they do.

Pre-built templates are typically designed for a variety of businesses and come bundled with lots of unnecessary functionality that you’re never going to need. This forces the theme’s creators to include a ton of unnecessary code and makes your site heavier, increasing loading times. Its like buying a t-shirt, vest, formal shirt, sweater, jacket and overcoat all rolled into one.

Then there’s the troubling question of what happens when the platform itself gets updated. For example when WordPress updates its system, you have to then make sure you update your theme, widgets and plug-ins and pray to god they still work fine. Suppose you lose some functionality or the entire site stops working. What do you do? You better hope the theme’s author replies soon or at all.

But lets take a step back and look at the big picture for a second. I can’t speak for most of my designer brethren but I for one, got into this field because of a genuine passion for my craft. Lets be realistic here, there are easier ways to make more money.
So if you’re in this field, I’m going to assume you have at least a modicum of passion for the work that you do.

Which brings me back to my original point. Why would you want to create a website that looks like 70% of the other sites out there?

Wouldn’t you want to create something that truly delights people and helps transform brands from something customers visit to something they love. And isn’t that what we designers live for anyway…