The difference between templated and custom web design

By Michael, 13/02/20

When it comes to web design there are two camps - there is the off-the-shelf-template camp and the custom design camp. Each option has its benefits and drawbacks, and not everyone understands the differences, so I thought I'd write this post to highlight some key points.

Using Templates

In my mind this isn't really "web design" because you're using a layout that someone else has designed and adding your logo, images and content to it. I lean towards calling this "web customisation" as that's really what you're doing.

Benefits of templates:

Drawbacks of templates:

  • Your website will look like a bunch of other peoples' websites. After many years of designing and building websites I can pick a template a mile away.
  • You need to "shoehorn" your branding into a look that wasn't designed for your brand, with the result often being disappointing.
  • Because of their flexibility they can be bloated with code and can slow down your site.
  • They often break when the content management system you're using is updated.

Some time ago I was reading an article about using off-the-shelf templates and one quote has stuck with me, and that is:

"Templates are designed to sell themselves, not your business or brand."

I thought this was the perfect quote because it's true. Template shops spend a lot of time designing their templates to look good. They design a "brand" to go with it and select the perfect images that will grab your attention, BUT how is it going to look when you add your logo, change the colours to your branding and add your own images? Most of the time the result is not what you are expecting and can sometimes damage your brand in the eyes of your customers.

Custom Design

The other side of the fence is custom design, and this is where you work with a professional web designer (often different to a graphic designer) who understands the web and how websites need to be structured and work to make your business look the best it can online, and be easy to use by your site's visitors.

Benefits of custom design:

  • Your site is designed to showcase your brand, products and services.
  • You're not trying to shoehorn your business into a look that wasn't designed for it - the design and layout are made to excel your brand
  • Starting with a blank sheet gives you a lot of flexibility in design, style and layout choices.
  • No one else is going to have a site that looks the same.
  • You have the opportunity to collaborate with the designer and share ideas and ensure the end result is exactly what you want for your business and your customers.

Drawbacks of custom design:

  • Custom design is more expensive because of the design process required.
  • Typically, the customer can't modify the design themselves, which actually can also be a benefit.
  • Definitely not a DIY project (is this really a bad thing?).

I'm sure you've already gathered but I'm firmly in the Custom Design camp, and it's one of our core values at Mity Digital. We love to work with our clients to understand their business, products and services as well as their target market so that we can design the best site possible for them.

So, when you're looking to get yourself a new website consider the points above and work out what's important to you and your business, and what is going to give you the best online presence.